For Big Repairs, Try Bellwether Boatyards


For Big Repairs, Try Bellwether Boatyards

A few years back, we profiled a number of excellent local boatyards (PS, June 2009) that help do-it-yourselfers thrive. Here, we profile yards at the opposite side of the spectrum-facilities that specialize in keel-to-masthead care for their customers.

The resurrection of a classic yacht can be breathtaking, but its never inexpensive. The good news is that such talents inspire other shipwrights, mechanics, and electricians to mimic the process and give customers with sailboats in need of less sweeping restoration the benefit of big-league makeovers.

Take, for example, the highly skilled crew at Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine, currently operated by Steve White. White has continued to evolve the full-service boat building and repair operation begun by his father, Joel White, son of the famous writer E.B. White. He likes to balance new boat construction with a variety of repair and refit jobs. He finds the new builds to be a kind of graduate school for his most talented craftsmen, as well as a means for all his employees to understand what defines success and failure when it comes to boats built by others. Every major rebuild begins with a careful engineering autopsy of not just what went wrong, but what was the design or maintenance shortfall that caused the problem in the first place.

This inside-and-out understanding of boat building and repair has given the Brooklin Boatyard crew a leg up when it comes to quoting a new job. They have tackled most problems many times before and have a good working knowledge of the hours and materials that will come into play. This leads to more accurate upfront discussions with potential customers and satisfaction down the road.

When Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo was running a boatyard in Oyster Bay, N.Y., Jack Brewer was purchasing yards around Long Island Sound. Some said that he would turn them all into restaurants and condos, but as usual, the scuttlebutt was dead wrong. Instead, Brewer and a cadre of top-notch pros like Rives Potts and Mike Keyworth would continue to grow this chain of boatyards into whats arguably the best-run regional chain in the country. Now, with more than 20 yards in five northeastern states, the Brewer benchmark delivers full service to a sizable number of mainstream boaters.

One of the big upsides of having such a large number of clients, facilities, and employees is the opportunity to train your own staff and evolve cost-effective solutions to common problems.

For Big Repairs, Try Bellwether Boatyards

The wide-angle view gained by so many technicians at Brewer and smaller chains like Maryland-based Zimmerman Marine makes it quite likely that your sailboats maladies have been seen before. This collective wisdom yields more streamlined diagnostics and repairs that are far less experimental.

On the heels of its powerboat success, Hinckley decided to add more service yards to its portfolio, and in recent years bought the Hood operation in Portsmouth, R.I., facilities in Oxford and Annapolis, Md., the big PJ yard in Thunderbolt, Ga., the well-respected David Lowe yard in Stuart, Fla., plus a yard in Naples, Fla. This gives Hinckley sailboat and powerboat owners more localized support, but it also affords other boat owners top notch-and top-price-service.

The Bert Jabin Yacht Yard in Annapolis is a great example of a first-rate haul-launch-block and store operation with a network of onsite subcontractors. The crew at Jabins has the hauling operation down to an art and a science. With 50- and 35-ton Travelifts, a yard trailer, 30-ton hydraulic crane, and some serious fork lifts, the in-and-out process is perfectly choreographed to perfection. Whether you choose to join the growing ranks of do-it-for-me sailors or sign up as a do-it-yourselfer aficionado, youre welcome at Jabins.

If you have a yard to recommend that fits in either category, drop us a line at, and well add it to our database of reader-recommended boatyards.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.



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