New boat yard seen expanding Portland's vessel services
PORTLAND — A new boat yard and marine repair facility may soon buoy a blighted area near the city's West End.
Portland Yacht Services is seeking approval to expand from its 10-acre location at 58 Fore St. to a 16-acre site at 40 West Commercial St., just west of the Casco Bay Bridge.
Phineas Sprague Jr., the company's president, recently met with city planners to discuss plans for the new site. To be dubbed Canal Landing, it is currently home to overgrown brush, idle train tracks and a fenced-in storage area for propane tanks.
Portland Yacht Services has an agreement to purchase 14 acres from Pan Am Railways, and plans to lease another two acres from the natural gas company Unitil, according to Sprague.
Canal Landing would include two boat ramps, a dry dock, a heavy-duty hydraulic boat hoist, storage areas and shops for painting and repairs.
Besides rejuvenating the area, the proposed expansion would allow Portland Yacht Services to haul vessels weighing up to 1,500 tons – compared to its present capacity of about 40 tons, Sprague said Monday.
With the additional capacity, he said he hopes to service large yachts and commercial craft, including barges and tugboats. For vessels like these, he said, Portland has offered few options.
"Portland hasn't been on the short list for (large boats) because there just aren't the facilities," Sprague said. "There is work to be done. But Portland needs a new boat yard to attract that kind of business."
Sprague said he's confident such new clientele will benefit Portland's entire marine community.
"The expansion is just going to make things better for everyone on the waterfront," he said. "It's an extremely good thing for the harbor and for Portland."
As part of the expansion, he said the company probably will add to its staff. Portland Yacht Services has 34 employees at its Fore Street space.
"The yard has been growing over the years, and so today we're bumping into each other," Sprague said.
The Fore Street property also is the home of the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum, and frequently hosts public events such as the Maine Boatbuilders Show and the Portland Flower Show.
When the expansion is complete, Portland Yacht Services would do much of its boat work at Canal Landing. The company's marina and event space would continue to operate at Fore Street.
The expansion would be completed in phases over the next three or four years, Sprague said. But first, his plans must get approvals from the city's Planning Board, the Board of Harbor Commissioners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Still, Sprague said he's optimistic about the prospects for Canal Landing. Since he began Portland Yacht Services in 1981, repairing a 13-foot Boston Whaler, the business has grown "steadily and slowly," he said.
"This expansion is just the next logical step," Sprague said.