2014-01-23 / Front Page

Sale finalized of West Ferry boatyard to Cape Cod partnership

By Ken Shane

When covers come off the sailboats at Dutch Harbor Boat Yard this spring, boaters will be dealing with different yard owners. 
Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten When covers come off the sailboats at Dutch Harbor Boat Yard this spring, boaters will be dealing with different yard owners. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten The Dutch Harbor Boat Yard has been sold. Six years after Alison and Larry Eichler took the yard out of receivership and turned it into one of the most popular boating destinations in the Northeast, the couple has sold it to a partnership led by Joe McGrady of Cape Cod.

The sale price was reportedly $3.3 million.

The Dutch Harbor Boat Yard was established more than 50 years ago by Charles Cabral of Jamestown. It had several subsequent owners.

The yard was put up for sale in August. After attracting multiple offers, the Eichlers decided Mc- Grady and his partner were the most suitable buyers. The sale closed on Jan. 17.

“We’re incredibly excited to be the new owners of the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard,” McGrady said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for me and my family and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Six years ago, the Eichlers had been running a real estate business and the original plan after purchasing the yard was to renovate it and hire a manager to run it. The couple had no experience in the field. Soon, however, Alison realized she loved the business. Since 2008, she has been the full-time leader responsible for returning the yard to prominence.

When the Eichlers took over, they saw a place in need of major renovations. “We needed to bring it back to what we had heard were the glory days of the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard,” Alison said.

The renovations to the yard’s infrastructure included upgrading the 108 moorings. The Eichlers also rebuilt all of the floating docks and restored the railway that had collapsed into the bay. A new dock shed was added, and The Shack was opened for business – the restaurant has since become a popular seasonal eatery.

In addition, a park-like setting with picnic tables, crushed shells and views of the West Passage was created, and a 23-passenger Oldport launch was purchased for the yard.

“The most important thing I did was to get an amazing staff of people,” Eichler said. “The ones that are there now stuck with me the whole time. I worked with a team that was the best staff anyone could have. They were the reason it worked.”

The business showed explosive growth over the last six years, primarily by word of mouth. Each year was better than the last, she said. Customers came from as far away as Washington state, and the yard currently has boaters from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

“These people fly to Rhode Island to get on their boats at Dutch Harbor because they know we will take good care of their boats when they’re there,” she said, “and when they’re not there.”

Under ownership of the Eichlers, Dutch Harbor established itself as a community hotspot, hosting benefits for the Jamestown Education Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed held a fundraiser last year at the boatyard.

Eichler also enabled the owners of Tallulah on Thames to try its hands running a taco stand in town. The Shack was provided to the restaurant at no charge. Dutch Harbor also become home to Latitude Yacht Brokerage.

“I gave some young people opportunities to start businesses,” Eichler said. “I gave jobs to a lot of Rhode Island people.”

Eichler said she decided to sell the yard so she could rejoin her husband in the real estate field. Dutch Harbor was never intended to be a long-term project, she said. Eichler had a set of goals she wanted to accomplish, and once the business was thriving, it was time to move on.

“We appreciated all the kindness that we got from so many people on the island,” Eichler said. “We thank Jamestown for making us feel so welcome and so appreciated. I fell in love with Dutch Harbor. I will miss it.”

McGrady grew up on Cape Cod, where he has been sailing since he was a child. After graduating from Villanova University, he joined the Air National Guard and flew F-15 fighters for 16 years. He will retire from the Guard as a lieutenant colonel this year.

McGrady took a job as a pilot for American Airlines in 1998, but the airline industry began laying people off following 9/11. He decided that it might be time to look for another job. He became a general contractor and began building spec homes on the cape. That led to a real estate portfolio that includes several apartment buildings in Rhode Island. Although he doesn’t build anymore, he continues to fly for American Airlines about eight days a month.

According to McGrady, there are no plans to change anything at Dutch Harbor. He said he will continue what Eichler has created, including retaining the present staff. He has reached out to the owners of Tallulah, hoping to bring them back to The Shack this summer. Like Eichler when she first started, McGrady has no experience running a boatyard. However, he plans to dive right in.

“I’m sure this year is going to be very challenging,” McGrady said. “The goal for the boatyard is to keep it running smoothly. We want to continue to get the nice sailboats that Alison has been able to attract.”

McGrady and his wife Maria have five children. The family plans to renovate the yard’s office and turn it into their home.

“We’re becoming part of the community,” McGrady said. “I’m bringing my family to Jamestown. We want to be good neighbors. We’ll go to church in town. We’ll go grocery shopping. My kids will get new friends. It’s a big move for us. It’s a big commitment, but it’s just such an amazing opportunity that there’s no way we could pass it up.”

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