Joe’s Journal

W&D to buy Hodgdon Yachts yard

Posted:  Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - 8:45am
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Last Thursday, the folks at Washburn & Doughty Shipyard invited the public to their East Boothbay facility to watch the launching of a 93-foot-long tug named Judy Moran.

But, just before the tug slid down the smoking ways into the Damariscotta River, Bruce Doughty, the yard’s chairman, greeted the crowd and casually dropped a bombshell that sent a ripple through the 200 or so guests.

He announced his yard is in negotiations to buy their next-door neighbor, the Hodgdon Yachts Shipyard.

“Tim (Hodgdon) came to us first. He said he didn’t want the long tradition of building boats in East Boothbay to come to an end,” said Doughty in an interview. “We thought about it for a while and said yes.”

The yard’s chairman said they could use the additional space as they have agreed to build three ferry boats, and two more of the 93-foot-long, Z-Drive tugs.

In a phone interview, Tim Hodgdon confirmed that the two firms are in negotiations. “It is not a done deal, but we are in serious talks,” he said.

The talks are more than serious. Doughty said, admitting he has given Hodgdon a deposit. “And he will be able to keep it if we don’t close,” he laughed. Closing is expected to take place in the near future.

Hodgdon, whose family has built more than 400 boats in East Boothbay, said they are talking about his East Boothbay production yard and not his other facilities.

In the 20 years since Hodgdon purchased the former Goudy & Stevens shipyard, his yard has built some of the world’s finest sailing and power yachts.

They include Comanche, a 100-foot-long maxi sailing yacht that is the fastest monohull in the world. Nicknamed “Fat Bottom Girl, ” she holds the speed record for an Atlantic Ocean crossing. In 2016, she took just five days, 14 hours and 21 minutes to cross the ocean, averaging 21.44 knots per hour over the 2,880 nautical mile course, breaking the previous record by more than 24 hours. She was built for Netscape founder Jim Clark.

Other superstar yachts from Hodgdon include Antonesia, (1999) a 124-foot-long sailing yacht whose lavish interior included a pipe organ, Yorel (1989) (now Kitzbel), an 84-foot-long power yacht , Scheherazade (now Asolare), a 154-foot long luxury ketch built in 2003, and Windcrest, 98-foot-long luxury sailing yacht crafted in 2006.

They also built MAKO, an 83-foot-long experimental high-speed technology demonstration craft for use by the U.S. Navy SEALs.

Hodgdon said the proposed sale to Washburn will allow him to concentrate on other facets of his business that include a shipbuilding facility on East Boothbay’s Murray Hill Road, an extensive repair, marina, and boat storage facility on Southport Island and a yard in Damariscotta where he builds sleek, small crafts he calls limousine tenders for high-end superyachts.

With that kind of track record, why sell the East Boothbay yard?

“In the last 20 years, the global mega sailing yacht industry has changed, and world economic conditions have changed too,” he said.

“The deal could be great for us both. l think it will be a win-win.”

Doughty said last week’s launch of the Judy Moran marked the 40th tug they have built for Moran Towing over the previous 20 years.

During that time, they succeeded despite a major fire which destroyed much of their yard in 2008.

Katie D. Maddox, Washburn’s marketing director, said the yard is currently building two tugs similar to the one launched Thursday. They have also agreed to build three steel ferry boats.

First on that list is an $8.8 million, 154-foot-long ferry for the State of Maine. It is designed to be able to serve any of the Maine island communities other than Matinicus. Designed by Gilbert Associates, it will have three main deck lanes, for a capacity of 23 cars or a mix of cars and trucks, as well as 250 passengers. In 1992-1993, Washburn & Doughty built three ferries — known as the “sister ships” — that are still in operation for the Maine State Ferry Service.

Next up is a 56-foot-long ferry for the Chebeague Transportation Company which brings passengers from the mainland to Chebeague Island.

The last ferry on Washburn’s to do list is a 130-foot-long ferry that will take Long Island passengers and vehicles out of Shelter Island.

Hodgdon said he approached his neighbor because he wanted to continue the little cove’s tradition of boatbuilding.

“I am glad they will be able to continue the boatbuilding tradition in East Boothbay,” said Hodgdon. “It will be good for the East Boothbay economy and provide good jobs.”