Blake’s Boatyard: Family-owned for 70 years

Tue, 07/25/2023 - 10:00am

    At Blake’s Boatyard, the term “family business” could not be more fitting. For 70 years, it has been owned by members of the Blake family, starting with Fred Blake in 1951 through to current owners Amy – who is Fred’s granddaughter – and her husband Dusty Goodwin.

    Amy’s grandparents, great-grandparents and extended family members have all worked at Blake’s. As she told the Register, “Growing up myself, my brother Tyler and cousins Aaron and Charlinda all worked here at various times.”

    Amy and Dusty bought the business from her father and uncles in 2018. She explained they bought it because the business was what she had always done and Dusty “fit right into the marine business” after working as a lobsterman for many years and operating his own boats.

    Services include storing and maintaining about 300 boats and 300-400 floats and runways as well as providing services for 700 local moorings.  

    Blake’s also rents seasonal boat slips and moorings, and typically has a waiting list several years out. Current customers are often the second or third generation at Blake’s, making it a true family business – for customers as well as the owners.  

    “Actually a lot of our customers are families that have been doing business with us for years,” Amy said. “It's nice knowing so many of our current customers and their parents or grandparents were customers of my family for years. There's always a ‘Freddy (her grandfather) and the boys’ story to be told.”

    Staff at the boatyard are a “family” as well. “Like our customers, our employees have been with us for years, many since I was a child,” Amy said. In recent years, some of them are taking more time off or becoming semi-retired and Amy said they have been lucky to hire new workers “who fit right into the family atmosphere, with good attitudes and a multi varied skill set.”

    And providing the assistance only a family dog can is Tonka, the Goodwin’s 3-1/2 year old Great Dane.

    Work at the boatyard does not stop for the winter, which is when the year round staff of seven tackles dock construction and repair work on site at people's homes. Come spring and through fall, the size of Blake’s staff doubles to provide services for moorings and to launch floats and runs off-site. 

    A lot gets done with a very small crew. “We start working seven days per week, in late winter and early spring, and that really doesn't let up until after September,” Amy explained. “We have a very small window to prep and launch all the boats we store.” 

    Not only is the boatyard a busy place, but Amy estimates that about 150 of the floats they service are at private homes on Linekin Bay and “up rivers” on Sawyers, Hodgdon and Barters islands. There, “the floats are hauled out on a ‘skidway’ at the house in the fall on a big high tide and launched after winter on the big spring tides.”

    Asked how the work differs with the seasons, Amy told the Register, “Summer is pretty much boats, boats, boats.” Blake’s has a small marine store, with necessary items like safety equipment, life jackets and some engine-related products. 

    By fall, the cycle starts over with boats coming out of the water, followed by floats and moorings. Once everything is out and stacked up, winter dock work starts up again. Amy added, “Our build list for floats and runways has been so long of late, that has been happening year round on top of everything else.” 

    And in addition to maintaining customers’ boats, floats and moorings, the crew at Blake’s are also maintaining their own fleet of trucks, cranes, boats and equipment, as well as the boatyard’s infrastructure of piers, floats and moorings. 

    As if there was not enough to do, Amy and Dusty Goodwin also help keep boaters safe with posts to Blake’s Facebook page, like this one from August 2022:

    “Good morning, it looks like we have a rare August Nor'easter knocking on our door this morning. This storm is going to bring high winds and heavy rain, if your property is affected by this wind direction, take precautions now. Move boats off your float to a mooring if possible. Add extra lines, and check those bilge pumps. Make sure there are no leaves or debris in your bilge that will hamper effective operation. Stay safe!”

    The good news for the business is they are completely full and, for the last six to eight years, there has been a waitlist for boats over 30 feet. But with COVID, Amy said Blake’s now has to put all sizes of boat on a waitlist.

    As might be expected from a business on the water, boatyards are subject to lots of rules, regulations and laws. To make sure they are operating in an environmentally safe manner, Blake’s has installed a pump out station to remove waste from boats’ holding tanks as well as a wastewater collection system for the power wash station. The boatyard uses primarily water-based paints and biodegradable cleaning products. 

    With a beautiful location at McKown Point, it is no wonder that Blake’s customers are enthusiastic, often posting comments on nautical services websites. One customer wrote that the staff at Blake's Boatyard are terrific, always willing to help out, know what they are doing and are particularly good at dock construction and maintenance and servicing moorings.