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Front Street Shipyard builds partnerships and yachts

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In the past few years, there’s been a buzz coming out of Belfast, Maine. Captains and customers keep talking about Front Street Shipyard.


And now the yard has announced plans to build a line of motoryachts to keep American yacht owners and their business here.


“One of our goals was to make the yard big enough to keep Americans home,” said JB Turner, president of Front Street Shipyard (FSS) and exhibiting at the show this week. “It’s discouraging to see Americans going to Europe to build their yachts. And what’s even worse is they’re doing it against the euro.”


The line of yachts was created by Setzer Yacht Architects of North Carolina as part of its New American Motoryacht series. Turner “hand-picked” the models he thought would do well with his customers, specifically four models in a range from 92 feet to 135 feet (28-40m), a range Turner said is missing among U.S. builders, save Westport.


The infused-fiberglass yachts include modern commuter (28m), a raised pilothouse design (34m), an explorer design (38m) and a tri-deck version (40m). (See all the details on the yard’s Web site under the “design” tab.)


Turner has the experience to make it happen. After 12 years as an owner with Lyman-Morse, growing the shipyard from 43 staff to more than 200, he said “I’m used to building yachts.”


FSS has all departments in house except “canvas and cushions,” Turner said, and 110 people on staff. He and his partners bought the land in January 2011 and officially opened the first day its 165-foot lift began to be used, that July 2.


In three years, all the sheds and buildings have been rebuilt to provide 72,555 square feet of yacht storage space and 10,320 square feet of shop space. The yard is building a new building this year that will take its larger 485-ton hoist and the larger yachts it can carry.


Turner and his partners have created a network of builders and craftsmen in Maine to provide an owner with options, including aluminum or steel instead of fiberglass.


“They [his partners] saw the need for a bigger yard in Maine, and they let me do my thing,” Turner said.


His relationships with these men and their companies means FSS has more power and more personnel to handle projects.


“That’s why we were able to meet our timetables and our budget right off the bat,” Turner said. “We call the other yards to send over glass guys and plumbers, and they would send them over.”


So it’s a partnership of yards, much like Feadship functions in Holland.


“It’s a pretty unique thing in the U.S.,” he said. “We should do more of it, instead of competing with each other.”


It is likely to take the rest of the year to finalize the designs and specs enough to price the New American Motoryacht series, but in the meantime, FSS keeps busy with other custom builds, refit projects, and a line of 30-foot Trefoil catamaran patrol boats that have begun production.


That buzz from Belfast continues.


Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of Triton Today, lucy@the-triton.com.

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