The winter is slipping by and spring will be here before we know it. Area boatshops are reporting a winter season that feels more “normal” than the frantic recovery from the pandemic of the last two years. Some supply issues remain and manpower shortages are ongoing, recession talk waxes and wanes like the weather, but the overall mood is optimistic.
Jake Glover from Ferry Point Marina in Trappe, MD, starts us off this month. “We currently have two smaller boats in the paint shop. A 25-foot Hunt is going to receive new hull paint and stripes along with a fresh varnish application. Next to her is a late 1970s, 23-foot Mako. There is an extensive work list on this that includes all over paint work, new hardware, and more. The mechanics have moved on to winter projects. They have a Black Fin receiving new gas inboards as well as a number of Yamaha repowers. Several boats including a Sabre, Wellcraft, and a few customs are getting new PYI shaft seals and cutless bearings. As spring approaches, keep us in mind for all of your bottom painting and detailing needs. We also have certified diesel and Suzuki techs onsite and a Yamaha maser tech!”
Eric Detweiler from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in St Michaels, MD, shared the following report with us. “Jenn Kuhn, shipyard education programs manager, reports that CBMM’s shipwrights are busily working on a variety of restoration, refit, and new construction projects. Shipwrights are completing spar maintenance on the 1889 Bugeye Edna E. Lockwood and the 1955 Skipjack Rosie Parks, which are part of CBMM’s historic floating fleet. Work continues on constructing a hollow bird’s mouth spar for the Calvert Marine Museum’s 1899 Buyboat Wm. B. Tennison.
“The 1920 Buyboat Winnie Estelle has been hauled for a power refit, new keel, chines, and bottom. White oak for the keel and chines and sinker cypress for the new bottom boards have been secured, and all the interior has been cleared out, with temporary molds, support beams, and cribbage in the process of being installed to enable the shipwrights to fully support the vessel while removing and replacing the 102-year-old keel. In the meantime, work continues on Mr. Dickey, a new 36-foot buyboat being constructed inside the boat shop. The keel, stem, and molds have been constructed, and the boat has been flipped upside down for installation of the chines, chine plank, and bottom boards. This work in the boat shop is happening alongside the Apprentice for A Day Shipyard Programs restoration project of a Pete Culler designed 17-foot, eight-inch Concordia sloop. For more information on work being done or to register for a Shipyard program, visit cbmm.org.”
Scott Anderson, general manager of the Chesapeake Boating Club in Annapolis, MD, reports that he and his crew are hard at work getting the club’s facility and fleet ready for the upcoming season.
“We are painting the offices and club house inside and out. We’re having a new bulkhead installed. We have a fleet of 18 sailboats and eight powerboats, and all of them need something, from running rigging replacement to fiberglass repairs.” He pointed to a small tent in the parking lot covering the front half of a Sea Hunt 23. “That’s one of our club’s powerboats. One of our members was a bit too enthusiastic in his docking, so we need to do some glass work on the bow pulpit; always a challenge outside in winter weather.” Scott took me over to show me the newly refurbished outdoor lounging area with all new furniture and a fire pit. “We want our members to feel welcome and comfortable, like a home away from home, as part of their boating experience. We have a lot to do, but we’ll be ready.”
Jim Weaver at Weaver Boatworks in Deale, MD, reports that he has three boats in various stages of production. “We’re building a 64 Sportfish; it’s about six weeks away from being finished. We have a 70-footer about to go from one shop to the next shop. It’s about a third of the way done. We have a 45-footer; an outboard boat that we’re building,” he explained. “We’ve got an 80-footer on the books, a sportfish, that we’ll start on as soon as we move the 70-footer. That’s about two months away,” he continued. I asked Jim about his view of supply issues.
“Prices seem to be stabilizing a little bit. Availability is not getting any better. We still have extremely long lead times on certain items. It’s just a lot more difficult now than it used to be. As always, we need to hire people but we can’t find anybody.” I also asked Jim if he saw any effects from the recession talk. “In our market the demand is still there. I don’t think much has changed. After all, we’re in a different market than most people. We stay busy during a recession because our clients are just not affected much by economic changes. When you get to the smaller boats, I think their demand has fallen off some, but the big stuff is still there.”
Spencer Mathews from Mathews Brothers Boatworks in Denton, MD, sends us this newsy update.
“The 2022/23 winter marks a busy time in Mathews Brothers history. With six new boats in production (four of which are new models), the close-knit boatbuilding team is hard at work. Finishing touches are being made on the Mathews 40 Fly, the first flybridge yacht to come out of the Mathews shop, with another already in production slated for 2024 delivery. A redesigned Blackwater 29 II is entering the assembly stage with sights set on summer delivery. Amid these inboard diesels being built, the crew is preparing the new Nereus 24 for its debut (the first of these is going to Pete and Annie Mathews). The Nereus is a 24-foot twin outboard center console designed with the classic Chincoteague scow in mind and the father to the Nereid 18 center console that Mathews has built for years (with two currently in production). Last but not least, Mathews Brothers has also recently become a Mercury outboard dealer, with which they will be powering their own and other outboard boats. An exciting time to say the least. The shop door is always open for new and old boat-lovers alike.”
Hank Reiser from Pocahontas Marine Services LLC in Edgewater, MD, has also had a busy winter. “It has been an extremely busy and productive winter so far. People are interested in having work done. Our launching frenzy starts around mid-March and we’ll be right up against that to have all our winter work done,” Hank said. “In the shop now we have a 1966 Century Coronado in for a gas tank replacement and some electrical work. We have a 1955 Chris-Craft U22 in for some custom seat fabrication work and upholstery work. And we have our 34 Commander in the shed for its final winter. We have a punch list of things we’re finishing up on her: some plank replacement, wiring, and interior cabinetry to finish. We plan to have it complete by April first and we’ll have her in this summer’s Antique and Classic Boat Show.”
On a closing note, I came across the following story in The Maritime Executive newsletter. The US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) has an annual grant program for small shipyards (1200 employees or less) and awarded grants to 24 shipyards in the US for modernization. One of those grants was to Chesapeake Shipbuilding Corp. in Salisbury, MD. The one-million-dollar grant is for the purchase of a plasma table, a 30-ton mobile travelift crane, a 250-ton automated tooling computer numerical control, and a 14-foot CNC press brake.
Chesapeake Shipbuilding specializes in the design and construction of commercial vessels up to 450 feet in length. They have built tugs, ferries, passenger vessels, riverboats, small cruise ships, etc. We recently reported the award to Chesapeake of a contract with American Cruise Lines to build 12 241-foot, 109 passenger luxury cruising catamarans for coastal cruising in the US. According to MARAD, “… this segment of the industry directly employs more than 100,000 people. Many small shipyards are family-run businesses providing important services to the American maritime sector.”
By Capt. Rick Franke