May 26, 2019

Yacht building makes splash on East Boston waterfront

BOSTON — Yacht building has returned to Boston’s inner harbor after a hiatus of more than 80 years.

Boston BoatWorks opened about 18 months ago in East Boston and its current projects include a Taylor 40 racing sloop, a Chuck Paine 47 high-performance cruising boat, and a classic powerboat.

“To me, this all says vitality, the harbor is alive and very well,” said Vivian Li, who directs the Boston Harbor Association, which promotes affordable access to the waterfront and its diverse use.

“It’s incredible,” she told The Boston Globe. “We’re finally getting yacht building back, which fits so well with what this harbor is about.”

In the late 1890s, a city business directory listed a half-dozen yacht builders in East Boston and companies in other parts of the city that specialized in fittings for yachts, such as “water closets,” rigging, cushions, lamps and upholstery.

But a decade later, the entry “yacht builders” disappears from the directory.

The final holdout appears to have been George Lawley, the Globe reported.

Lawley, whose boat yard was tucked behind horse car stables on First Street in South Boston, built two yachts that successfully defended the America’s Cup — Puritan in 1885 and Mayflower in 1886.

But in 1911, Lawley’s address changed to Ericsson Street in the Neponset neighborhood of Dorchester, apparently ending the yacht building era in the inner harbor, which ends at an imaginary line drawn from Castle Island to the airport.

Boston BoatWorks, which plans to launch a 40-foot-long yacht on Sunday, is the brainchild of Geoffrey Berger and Scott Smith, two sailors and former professional money managers.

“To be honest, this is an absolute blast,” said Smith, 38.

Smith and Berger have a third partner, Mark Lindsay of Gloucester, who is their boat construction expert.

During the past year, the company has grown from seven to 23 employees.

And the company has drawn the interest of Capt. Arthur Knight, 75, who works at the Boston Marine Society.

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