On March 12, South Bristol’s Gamage Shipyard announced new owners who are old and familiar faces.
General Manager Mike Tatro led the purchase, joined by Carol Morrison in finance and John Vinal in operations. Tatro will serve as president and general manager, Morrison as chief financial officer and treasurer, and Vinal as service manager and vice president.
Previous owner Rory Cowan said, “I grew up in Gloucester, Mass. and understand the importance of a vibrant and working waterfront. Successful, enduring waterfront businesses need solid, knowledgeable teams. Mike, Carol, and John are just such a team. They know the operations, the customers, and, most of all, they know boats.
“They all grew up in the Midcoast, so they’re familiar with all local opportunities and local customer desires. I’m delighted to be able to support their vision for the yard and its next phase of development. It’s a proven and reliable team.”
Tatro joined Gamage Shipyard in April 2015 as general manager. Under Tatro’s leadership, Gamage Shipyard has been restored to a full-service boatyard.
Yards of today need to have several lines of business to stay commercially viable and locally competitive: slips and moorings; seasonal service; refit, repower, and restoration capabilities; and the ability to build new. Utilizing his 30 years of Midcoast yard management and boat-building experience, Tatro has assembled a highly skilled crew to continue implementing his vision of bringing Gamage Shipyard to the next level.
Under his six years of management, the shipyard has seen many improvements to daily operations and expanded its services. Tatro’s eye for detail is seen in every customer project and every improvement made along the way. There is demand for more storage buildings and additional slips for the marina, as well as a coffee shop and perhaps a community workspace in the boathouse.
He also sees the yard getting back to its roots building boats. In July 2020, Gamage Shipyard launched the first boat built at the yard in nearly 40 years. Currently the yard is engaged in a second build, with a third on the horizon. Refits and new builds require many of the same activities, which allow team members to grow their individual skills.
History of the yard
Gamage Shipyard is a full-service yard with over 25,000 square feet of storage space, two rental properties, and an office and service building on a 6-acre waterfront parcel. The yard was founded in 1871 with the purchase of land, including the marina waterfront, by Albion and Menzies Gamage, who had been building large wooden sailing vessels since the early 1850s. Over the next 50 years, they built more than 88 sail and steam-powered boats.
In 1924, Harvey F. Gamage took over the business, and from 1924-1976, he oversaw the construction of more than 288 sailboats, powerboats, draggers, scallopers, and windjammers.
The construction of eight wooden military vessels occupied Gamage boat-building from 1940-1944. In 1944, the business turned to building rugged, able, and profitable wooden fishing boats. Gamage also built a few yachts, pleasure powerboats, and lobster boats during this period.
In 1959, Gamage built the first schooner designed specifically for the windjammer passenger trade, the Mary Day. The 83-foot Mary Day, launched in 1960, started a new era at the yard.
From the launching of Mary Day in 1960 to the launching of Appledore II, the last schooner built at Gamage Shipyard, in 1978, more than 40 vessels were constructed at the yard. These included the Shenandoah; the Bill of Rights; the yard’s namesake, the Harvey Gamage; the Arctic research vessel Hero; and Pete Seeger’s iconic sloop Clearwater, America’s environmental flagship. The Clearwater was built to support Seeger’s Clearwater organization’s mission to clean the Hudson River.
In 1970, the yard’s first steel-hulled boat, the fishing vessel Elizabeth, was launched. This concession to change in boat-building techniques and materials was followed by nine more steel fishing boats.
After Harvey Gamage passed in 1976, his son, Linwood Gamage, ran the yard until its sale in 2000. During that time it was mainly a storage facility, with seasonal service work.
In December 2000, Rory Cowan, of Boston, Mass., purchased the yard. A longtime resident of South Bristol, he invested heavily and brought the Gamage Shipyard into a new era. He made several infrastructure investments, removing derelict buildings and adding a new marina, a state-of-the-art shop, a new office, and heated storage facilities.
The new management would like to invite everyone to come down, see the yard and marina, meet the people, and get a tour of the yard and its history. They are looking forward to many years of service, refits, building new boats, and maintaining a beautiful yard on The Gut in South Bristol.