In January 2021, Lyman-Morse is beginning a major upgrade of its boatyard in Camden’s inner harbor, converting an unfortunate fire last summer into an investment in working waterfront infrastructure that will maintain the company’s competitive edge and benefit the Camden community for generations.
33,000 square feet of state-of-the art structure will replace a hodge-podge of rambling, energy-inefficient buildings. The company’s rigging, mechanics, electronics, and carpentry workshops will be housed in the new structure. “When we bought this yard in 2015, we knew that the old buildings were hampering workforce productivity,” said Drew Lyman, president of Lyman-Morse. “We are gaining efficiency, both in terms of heating/insulation and creating a better working environment for our crew.” All buildings are being raised above the flood plain to make them resilient to climate change and sea level rise.
On-site amenities that Lyman-Morse offers to its yacht service customers and other visitors, including a top-notch restaurant and an expanded Blue Barren Distillery, will be accommodated in the new buildings. When completed in 2022, Lyman-Morse’s project will be a 21st century example of modern, viable, working waterfront. “We are proud to be the stewards of working waterfronts, both in Camden and in Thomaston,” said Lyman. “This area is steeped in maritime tradition, and Lyman-Morse is proud to continue that history.”
Camden’s working waterfront has been evolving since William McGlathery launched the first sloop here in 1792. The building of cargo schooners dominated the Lyman-Morse site throughout the 19th century before the servicing of fine yachts, as well as the construction of minesweepers and other military vessels, took place in the 20th century. At its peak in 1943, the boatyard saw 1,500 people punching in and out for work!
Today, yacht crews often set a nonstop course from Antigua to Curtis Island because of Lyman-Morse’s talented workforce and Camden’s stunning scenery, but they also come for a more basic reason: They have fun here. Camden offers crews and owners a perfect destination, with farm-to-table restaurants, waterfront bars and eateries, one-of-a kind shops, a robust cultural scene, and diverse outdoor activities. When a yacht crew (and, sometimes more importantly, the yacht’s owner) enjoys their visit, they come back year-after-year – and they tell their friends. Camden is not alone in recognizing the benefit of allowing mixed-use developments that include restaurants and shops at the harbor’s edge: Portland and Newport, RI, have flourished by appealing to all aspects of a crew’s needs, not just the marine-service ones. Boat owners and crews enjoy themselves while the boatyard team takes care of the necessary work.
“Throughout Maine’s history, our waterfront businesses have had to adapt to economic, regulatory, and consumer changes,” said Stacey Keefer, executive director of the Maine Marine Trades Association. “As our heritage industries of shipbuilding and fishing modernized, boatyards did the same and increasingly now rely on recreational boaters to subsidize the costly infrastructure and overhead related to their valuable waterfront facilities. Companies like Lyman-Morse are adapting to the latest consumer demands from recreational boaters for more shoreside amenities such as bars, restaurants, restrooms, and more.”
Lyman-Morse’s project will keep the company competitive against other boatyards but will benefit many other local businesses as well. Marine subcontractors such as surveyors and designers conduct their businesses on Lyman-Morse’s docks every day, and some even rent offices on-site. Grocery and fuel deliveries, laundry services, and cleaners pull in and out of the boatyard all day long. A 2007 study found that transient boaters spend on average $275 per day, much of it off-site, and this data appears just as accurate in Camden.
For more than 200 years, Camden’s working waterfront has been an evolving concept, one that has allowed marine businesses to continue on real estate that might otherwise have been converted to residential condominiums. Thanks to reasonable zoning regulations, a supportive local government, and a loyal customer base, Lyman-Morse is proud to support the modern working waterfront by updating the company’s facilities in a manner that benefits yachting customers as well as the Camden community.