Building a bigger boat: Marine firms look to replace Rockland building for joint venture

The O'Hara Corp. in Rockland is seeking to replace its 1900-era building to allow for a partnership with Back Cove Yachts and Sabre Yachts that would allow Back Cove to build larger boats.
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The O'Hara Corp. in Rockland is seeking to replace its 1900-era building to allow for a partnership with Back Cove Yachts and Sabre Yachts that would allow Back Cove to build larger boats.
Posted Feb. 14, 2014, at 12:43 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 16, 2014, at 2:32 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — One of the more successful boat builders in the country and one of Rockland’s oldest companies are planning a joint venture expected to strengthen both businesses.

The O’Hara Corp. of Rockland has filed a request for a variance with the Rockland Zoning Board of Appeals to replace an approximately 19,000-square-foot building near the end of Tillson Avenue. The variance is needed to get an exemption from a flood plain requirement.

The new building at the site would be the centerpiece of the joint venture between O’Hara and Sabre Yachts. The Sabre yachts will be built in the Rockland Industrial Park at the North End Composites facility. North End builds Back Cove Yachts at the Rockland plant and is a sister company to Sabre Yachts of Casco. The new building will allow Sabre to build larger boats that can be finished off at the O’Hara facility and then delivered to customers by sea.

Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root said that the zoning board will hear the variance request next month. The code officer said the city and O’Hara have met with state officials about the flood plain exception and it is likely to be allowed because the project is a marine-dependent use.

The variance would allow the lowest part of the building to be 3 feet lower than would be required otherwise. The lower height is needed to allow boat lifts to be used to raise and lower vessels into the water.

Steve Hart, project manager for O’Hara, said Friday that the project is an exciting one for all the companies involved.

Sabre is designing a new 70-foot-long boat to be built at the Rockland facility. Once built, however, the boats will be too large to be transported a long distance by road, Hart said. So after initial construction, the plan is to haul the boats the short distance to the O’Hara facility where finishing touches such as painting would be done.

Each boat then would undergo sea trials to test the engine and drive systems before being hauled back onshore at Tillson Avenue for the final installation of electronics and other miscellaneous things, Hart said.

The partnership will benefit all parties, he said.

“Back Cove is one of the most successful boat builders in the country. This will keep them competitive. In the marine industry, a lot of the boats that are selling seem to be bigger and bigger,” he said.

Four of the larger boats are planned to be built each year. Hart said the building will be used by O’Hara during the offseason to store boats that it can’t currently store because of their size. The building also will be used for boat repair.

The new building will be located on the same footprint as the current building, which was built in 1900. That building had been a fish processing plant until about 1980 and then had served as part of the O’Hara ice business and later part of the company’s marina business.

The O’Hara family has been part of the Rockland waterfront since the 1930s and expanded to fish processing in the 1950s. The family’s operations in Rockland include a bait facility off Front Street and boat and marina operations on Tillson Avenue.

 

CORRECTION:

The larger boats that will be built at the North End Composites facility in Rockland where Back Cove Yachts are built will be built by Sabre Yachts, a sister company of the Back Cove manufacturers, according to North End President Jason Constantine. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported they would be Back Cove Yachts.

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