Rockland Harbor mid-winter in 2018. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine — A company that owns more than 100 marinas across the country has purchased a locally-owned marina on Rockland Harbor to stake out the city’s growing reputation as a boating destination, according to industry experts.

Rockland-based Yachting Solutions — a multifaceted boating and marine services company — has been sold to Safe Harbor Marinas, of Dallas, Texas. The deal includes the company’s boatyard property and 5 acres of Rockland waterfront. The sale price was undisclosed. Yachting Solutions has leased for about a decade to operate its marina.

Given that the city has grown into a tourism hotspot over the last 20 years, folks in the marine and tourism industries say this investment from a national company further signals that Rockland’s reputation as a destination is growing.

“The reality of the fact that someone is willing to make that kind of an investment just shows that they believe in the area,” Greg Dugal, HospitalityMaine Government Affairs Officer, said. “It’s a tremendous place to make an investment.”

The Rockland purchase is Safe Harbor’s second in Maine. Last year, the company purchased Great Island Marina in Harpswell. The company operates about 110 marinas across the country, according to its website, the bulk of which are on the east coast.

Yachting Solutions’ employees have retained their jobs through the sale, according to Yachting Solutions owner Bill Morong. The company’s name will be changing to Safe Harbor Rockland.

The sale to Safe Harbors doesn’t come with any “big changes or a big master plan” that stray from what Yachting Solutions has already been pursuing, Morong said, which includes expansion plans that have been in the works for several years.

The expansion project, which would triple the dockage capacity at the marina, is still in the request for proposals phase, according to Morong.

However, becoming a part of a larger cooperation will help propel expansion plans. If all permits are granted, Morong hopes construction will begin next winter.

“There is a tremendous amount of benefits to joining a group of this size as compared to being out there on your own,” Morong said. “[Safe Harbors] brings a tremendous amount of horsepower to all the expansion projects and things that we want to do with the business.”

Most of Maine’s oceanfront marina’s are locally-owned, according to Maine Marine Trades Association Executive Director Stacey Keefer, and a majority of them have less than 25 employees.

Staffing is a big concern in the boating industry, Keefer said. Other hurdles include the steep costs of running a waterfront business. Being a part of a larger company could help financially bolster the marina.

“The waterfront infrastructure is costly. Insurance is costly. So if they have buying power through a larger corporate name, that could certainly be a benefit,” Keefer said.

There also has been a trend in the marina industry to have multiple locations, Keefer said.

With its existing location in Harpswell, Safe Harbor now has two marinas in Maine where its boaters can navigate between.

“This property in Rockland provided us the opportunity to acquire a well-established yacht service operation with a talented team of marine service professionals, which, along with our recently acquired Great Island location in Harpswell, will allow us to better serve our boating network as they transient greater New England and the coast of Maine,” Jason Hogg, Safe Harbor Marinas Chief Investment Officer said.

While there used to be a “stigma” about coming to Maine for recreational boating because of navigating the “fog and rocks and lobster pots,” Keefer said GPS systems have largely relieved some of those fears. She isn’t surprised to see a national company purchasing marina locations in Maine.

“We have some of the most world-class cruising grounds anywhere. You can cruise the Maine coast all summer long and not get bored. It’s probably some of the best cruising in the world,” Keefer said.

With most of Rockland’s tourism generators — like restaurants and hotels — being locally owned, Dugal, of HospitalityMaine, and Morong feel this national investment at the harbor level is a sign that recognition of the city as a worthwhile destination is growing.

“I think it’s a tremendous nod to the city of Rockland that we have a company at this level with this much interest in this area,” Morong said. “It’s exciting that a national company is willing to invest in our little corner of Maine.”