The bad news is that it is still winter. Dreary, rainy, foggy periods are punctuated by bright blue, windy, crisp, clear, cold days with spectacular sunsets. The pace of life, indoors and out, seems to slow down. Winter on the Chesapeake has its own special charm, although I must admit it is an acquired taste. There is also good news. The days are getting longer, and spring gets closer with every sunrise. There is also good news from area boatshops; most are very busy and reporting the busiest winter season in years.
Buster Phipps of Phipps Boat Works in Deale, MD, shared this assessment with me: “This is the busiest winter I’ve had in at least eight years. I’ve been in business here for 30 years, and when the recession started, I thought I would have to lock the doors and walk away. Right now we’ve got more business than we can handle. I’ve got jobs scheduled right into spring, and I am starting to turn some away.” Buster’s next big project, after he finishes the current jobs in his paint shop, including an Awl Grip job on a 1980s Morris Annie 29, is a complete refinishing of a 46-foot Bay Built.
Meg Roney of Mathews Brothers in Denton, MD, shares this equally optimistic report with us. “Mathews Bros. hasn’t had much of a winter break this year; the guys are busy with winter maintenance on our 60-plus storage boats that include, but are not limited to varnish, engine repairs, fiberglass and gel coat repairs, new instrumentation installation, and some refit/new construction upgrades. In the main shop, we just finished up several upgrades to a previously brokered Patriot which included new hull paint, an electronics upgrade, and a custom teak mast. In addition to new boat construction, Dave and Pete will begin scheduling spring work shortly, as the 2015 boating season is just around the corner!”
George Hazzard of Wooden Boat Restoration in Millington, MD, also reports a busy winter season. “We are currently working on Trouper II, the 1935 39-foot Consolidated, repainting the hull and re-varnishing the cabin sides this winter, as well as some new 12-volt wiring to sort out several old repairs over the years. Chesapeake, a 1958 45-foot Bugeye yacht built by Dickerson of Dickerson Yachts, is undergoing cabin top repairs and fiberglassing the cabin tops as well as the decks. We are also attending to some unexpected rot found in the bulwarks and cabin sides. TGIF is a 1953 20-foot Chris-Craft Riviera that is getting 12 coats of varnish and new spray rails and rub rails. We are also varnishing a 2003 30-foot Hacker Craft that will get six maintenance coats by spring time. We’re working on final assembly on a 1956 23-foot Chris-Craft Holiday including new red with white piping upholstery by Oatley’s top shop, set off by the newly painted blue green floors which is how she left the factory.”
David Evans, Jr. of Evans Boats in Chrisfield, MD, sent us this brief, but newsy update. More to come in next month’s column. “We are currently building two boats! One boat is a 53-foot (power) catamaran for the City of Winthrop, MA. The other is a 35-foot Evans pleasure boat for a local owner’s use.”
Joe Reid of Mast and Mallet in Mayo, MD, is also having a busy winter. “I’ve wrapped up winterization (shrink wrap, too) and I’ve moved into the shop for the season. Presently, I have a 1970, 36-foot wood Grand Banks inside. I’m replacing the buried exhaust hoses and installing new thru hulls and backing plates. Also, she has twin engines, and the shafts are to be pulled to replace the old stuffing box hose. Props are to be reconditioned. All the mechanical is being assisted by GPS marine, next door’s machine shop. Also included will be new electronics, a swim ladder, and miscellaneous painting and varnish. The next project is on a North Pacific 43. We’ll be rearranging a stateroom that was originally built as a study. Another indoor project is on a Niagara 31 that is in need of new core material in the deck and re-fiberglassing and painting, and afterwards, reinstalling all the hardware. I also have some Thomas Point yachts in for the winter. We are looking forward to a wonderful new year.”
Dave Hannam with Classic Watercraft Restoration (CWR) celebrated the new year with a move to his new shop south of Annapolis. According to Dave “The new shop build and move is complete. The new shop is specifically designed to handle old woodies — utilizing old-school craftsmanship while staying current with technology. Restoration in the wood shop includes a 1957 Chris-Craft Sportsman in for some mechanical control upgrades to help the new owner with docking. Next step, the boat will be getting striped, re-stained and re-varnished. CWR’s shop is open by appointment, prior to a spring open house.”
Martin Hardy of Composite Yacht in Trappe, MD, is also having a busy winter. He sends us this report. “We are repowering and building a pilothouse on a Little Harbor Whisper Jet 55. The new power is a pair of 1300-hp MAN diesels including new Aqua Drive CV drive shafts to couple to the Hamilton Waterjets. The all-composite pilothouse will feature sleek, frameless, direct-glazed windows. We have four orders for Composite 26s all in different phases of construction; three will be powered by twin Yamaha F200 four-stroke outboards, and one will be powered by a 500-hp Chevy Duramax diesel marinized by Marine Diesel of Sweden. A Composite 34 is nearing completion. The boat was just pulled out of the paint booth with a Carinthia Blue Awl Grip paint job. The boat is ready for the marlin tower. The hardtop is being built in-house by the Composite Yacht team. We are nearing completion of a total rebuild of a 1985 Malibu Ski Boat, Malibu Barbie. The rebuild included new stringers, floor, engine and upholstery.”
Jim Jacobs of Osprey Composites in Tracys Landing, MD, has a crew working on removal and replacement of a broken shaft log on a Grand Banks 49. The crew is also finishing up a rotted deck core removal and replacement on an older Morgan 44. The next challenge, according to Jim, is a big Sea Ray from Baltimore with extensive damage caused by an engine fire.
An important part of our local boating scene that is rarely mentioned is commercial tour boat operations such as Watermark Cruises, whose fleet is based at Annapolis Landing Marina on Back Creek in Annapolis. On a recent blustery afternoon, I ducked out of the wind to chat with Bob Post, director of fleet operations for Watermark. “I oversee the maintenance operation of Watermark Cruises,” Bob explained. “We have a total of 12 boats in the fleet, ranging from the 26-foot water taxis to Raven, 99 feet, and Catherine Marie, our biggest, at 110 feet. Our crew of five is responsible for all the necessary maintenance to keep them running.
“Our boats, especially the water taxis, log about 1200 operating hours per season. We often have transmission issues, fuel cooler issues and impeller issues. Our Yanmar engines in the smaller seven boats are pretty reliable, and we work at standardizing all of the systems that we can so we can keep spares in stock and minimize downtime,” he says. “Every three years the big boats have to be hauled and go through a Coast Guard hull exam. We have them hauled down in Cambridge and take advantage of the haul out to do all the other stuff you might expect. This year it’s the Harbor Queen’s turn. We have a lot of work planned for her. She’s steel and over 40 years old, so her hull gets blasted and repainted as well as the upper deck,” Bob said. In the meantime, the smaller boats are rotating through the shop being refinished and having new fuel tanks installed. All should be in readiness for the start of the season in April, Bob assured me.