2014-11-06 / News

Boatyard has fruitful first season

By Ken Shane

When Joe McGrady took over operations at Dutch Harbor Boat Yard in January, he was stepping into big shoes. Over the previous four years, Alison Eichler had turned the moribund marina into one of the finest facilities in the Northeast, drawing attention from Yachting Magazine and other publications.

With his first season now complete, McGrady is pleased with the way things went this summer.

Soon after taking over operations, McGrady learned that he was blessed with a knowledgeable staff that made the transition earlier. Under the previous owners, business was conducted from a house just up Narragansett Avenue. One of McGrady’s priorities was to conduct business from the yard itself.

According to McGrady, the yard already had a beautiful mooring field and docking facilities. So he invested time and money in building an office, along with new shower facilities for the yard’s clients. A deck that overlooks the West Passage was built, and a pad for power washing served as a patio for the boaters. Next season, McGrady said, more custom landscaping, and perhaps even furniture and a pergola for the pad patio, will be added.

“My goal is to make Dutch Harbor the most pristine full-service boat yard in New England,” he said.

Along with the amenities, a second mechanic has been added to address another of McGrady’s priorities: growing the service sector, which he calls the most important part of his business. In the summer, working on boats is no problem, but it becomes more difficult in the off-season. McGrady intends to leave the boathouse open this winter so boats can be serviced.

Another part of McGrady’s plan was to renovate the house on the property so his family could move in. It’s currently being renovated, but he hopes to move his wife and five children into the house full time. In the summer, McGrady lived there during the week, with his family visiting several days a week.

As for the community, McGrady had nothing but good things to say about the cooperation he’s received.

“The town has been amazing to us,” McGrady said. “Everyone in the Town Hall has been very gracious and easy to work with. It’s been a positive experience.”

McGrady is also pleased with the cooperation he’s received from the other boatyard owners in town, citing Bill Munger and Gary Clark in particular. Clark helped with advice on the power-washing pad, since Clark had installed one in his own yard.

McGrady’s crew started putting boats in the water in late April and early May. He described the spring as difficult in terms of the weather, which resulted in a late start. He is in the process of taking boats out of the water, and said it’s a more difficult process than putting them in. Battling the wind, waves and tides of the bay, using the yard’s rail system can be challenging, he said.

Dutch Harbor has 108 moorings and McGrady kept 93 for seasonal renters. He said the field was full all summer, and some boats had to be turned away. McGrady described the transient business as “robust,” with visitors coming from as far away as Virginia and Florida.

More than 600 transient vessels visited the yard during the summer. McGrady was able to accommodate more short-term stays because seasonal customers let the marina know when they planned on cruising, opening up moorings for transients while the regulars were gone.

“There were plenty of weekends that we had 25 transients,” he said.

When McGrady bought the yard, he was able to look at past business records. He said his financial results this year were better than the best year under the former ownership.

“We have a lot of repeat business, and I give (Eichler) a lot of credit for building that part of the business,” McGrady said.

Returning this summer was the popular Tallulah’s Tacos. Mc- Grady said the restaurant provided a wonderful staff and they were busy all the time. An attendant was hired to direct traffic in the lot, and as a result there were no parking complaints. Mc- Grady fully expects Tallulah’s to be back again next summer.

During the off-season there will be about 60 boats stored on the property. McGrady leases extra land from the town to provide storage space. There will be a lot of work done on the boats by Mc- Grady’s crew, he said, and some of them will be shrink-wrapped. Mc- Grady expects the yard to be busy through December. The yard has been closed in January and February in the past, but McGrady hopes to stay open depending on what work needs to be done.

“I took something over that (Eichler) worked really hard to get to a good spot,” McGrady said. “My goal is to improve on that.”

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