Photo: Stephen R Cloutier / Newport Shipyard
You’ve owned the shipyard now for 20 years, and now run the business with your family and three minority shareholders. Tell us about that progression.
The first five years were very rough. We had to really build it as we went. I had great partners, but I was the biggest believer in the yard, so I started to buy out the other guys. I got into a majority position and I took in additional partners that are still in today.
The yard also owns 11 houses in Newport, which you rent out to crew. How did that come about?
My son, Eli, is the General Manager, and he was about to be a father for the first time six years ago. He wanted his family to live across the street, close to the yard. So he brought me to look at a blue-collar type of house. I told him that I thought it’s great and… maybe we want to buy more of them? Here we are six years later with 11 houses. It’s a good move for the yard and it also puts us into the neighbourhood, which is one of the oldest in Newport. We love the neighbourhood and they love us. They put out a newsletter every quarter, and they often write nice articles about the yard.
Apart from the obvious economic benefit of a thriving Newport Shipyard, how else do you connect with the community?
Anyone can walk into the shipyard. We have security but we don’t have a gate… so if you want to come in and go to our café or just go and take a look at the boats, you can. A lot of people in the community love that. When you arrive at most boat yards, you go in through big gates and they tell you everything that you cannot do. Of course, you have to have rules, but we’re trying to say yes in every way we can.
Can you tell me a bit about the 28m Contraband you have in build at New England Boatworks?
She’s progressing really well. We’re at the same yard where we built Saint Roque. We never had any crew on her, and my wife and I have done a lot of it on our own – sometimes we’d go from Newport all the way to the Bahamas. The reason we’ve gone to a powerboat now is that we’re very independent people, and we’re getting older… This boat is set up for the two of us to handle, and we have the option to have three crew as we get older. It has a long range capacity; she’ll cruise at 13 knots and she’s got tugboat-like engines, continuous duty Mitsubishis. She will be able to cross the Atlantic and she’s pretty rough and rugged. It’s our new adventure and to be honest with you, it’s still the idea of living on the water that appeals to me most.
Will you cruise with your family onboard?
Absolutely, our kids grew up on boats and they’ve all taken to it. We have eight grandchildren. My daughter told me that she hopes that Contraband will be for the grandchildren what Saint Roque was to her and her brothers when they were growing up, which is fantastic.