No one particularly likes going to the boatyard, but it’s a necessary evil if you expect to maintain a multimillion-dollar investment properly. It’s time-consuming, messy and a downright pain, and you probably have better things to do with your time. However, boatyard visits come with the territory of boat ownership, and it’s much easier to face repairs head-on than to chase gremlins all season long.
Maintaining a fish-chasing battlewagon is a huge responsibility, and the sooner you come to terms with that obligation, the easier your job will be. And the sooner you find a trusted service center, the better your rapport with it will also be. Developing a solid relationship will net you plenty of gains, including good communication, a fair price and a timely turnaround. Your loyalty to a particular yard definitively allows both you and your vessel to perform at the highest level. The days of dropping off your boat with a punch list and then expecting to pick it up after hunting season simply isn’t the case anymore. While modern boatyards do provide project managers and service writers to consult and assist in the scheduling of projects, no one knows your boat like you do.
For captains, the amount of knowledge when it comes to boat-maintenance intervals and problem awareness is wide-reaching, and the more experience he has, the more likely a yard trip will come off without a hitch. However, for new boaters or even owner-operators, finding an independent project manager who is experienced in the inner workings of the boatyard, in general, will help to ensure that your project, no matter big or small, is being looked after in your best interest, especially when it comes to being on time and on budget.
So, if you’re in a new ride, have recently relocated, or find yourself in need of a new full-service yard, rest easy, because we’ve done the preliminary legwork for you. Here’s a list of some of the finest boatyards in the US to help get your search started.
Bayliss Boatyard, Wanchese, North Carolina
At Bayliss Boatworks, continual improvement is a way of life. Over the past 20 years, the Bayliss team has grown to 115 dedicated craftsmen, and the facility has grown to a 7-acre campus with the purpose of meeting the needs of modern sport-fishing vessels. Bayliss insists on delivering the highest-quality experience to the owner for every new build, and it’s with this same philosophy that every yard project is undertaken.
Located on that same campus, Bayliss Boatyard shares access to the design team, the craftsmen and the facilities responsible for Bayliss’ new builds. With all trades in-house—design and engineering, hull and exterior-carpentry crews, ABYC-certified electrical and mechanical technicians, a full interior cabinetry shop, metalworks, digital-fabrication shop, an experienced paint crew, and a brand-new state-of-the-art paint facility—Bayliss Boatyard can take on any yard project, specializing in those that require advanced design, coordination, and attention to detail such as repowers, Seakeeper and sonar installs, interior remodels, and full paint jobs.
Safe Harbor Bluewater Yacht Yards, Multiple Locations
Whether you’re prepping for a busy tournament season or just getting set for a summer of family fun, you need reliable service options with expert support and quick turnaround times. With multiple locations along the East Coast, Safe Harbor Bluewater Yacht Yards takes that commitment to quality service as seriously as anyone. The service centers began as a support arm for their founding yacht-sales business but now has grown to become one of the largest yacht-service operations in the industry.
Safe Harbor Bluewater in Hampton, Virginia, sits just off the Chesapeake Bay, adjacent to the 200-plus-slip Bluewater Yachting Center, which opened in 2002. The Bluewater main yard opened in 1977 and now includes two modern, state-of-the-art full-service yacht yards. In 2005, Bluewater expanded with Safe Harbor Outer Banks in Wanchese, North Carolina. Then, in 2020, they opened a third location to serve the Upper Chesapeake in the historic Eastport area of Annapolis, Maryland. This newest facility, located at the South Annapolis Yacht Centre, offers service access via a deepwater haulout well and a 75-ton travel lift, along with easy-access service bays and the company’s signature concierge Bluewater services.
Since its inception, marine service has been a primary focus and function for Safe Harbor Bluewater. Initially focused on rigging, repairing, and maintaining the recreational yachts that comprised their initial dealership support, solid diversification and steady growth over the years ensured expansion into all aspects of marine services. Safe Harbor Bluewater’s extensive facilities maintain full capabilities across the board, including engines, welding, machinist, metalwork, woodwork, composite-work, mechanical, electrical, electronic, and complete rigging up to and including total custom construction.
Duffie Boatworks Service Center, Ocean City, Maryland
Having been born into a family of boaters and fishermen in Ocean City, Maryland, Jon Duffie has been on the water since he was 2 years old. By the time he was 16, he was completely comfortable navigating and running any vessel, from a skiff to a large sport-fisher. Always willing to learn from anyone who would offer their time, he quickly gained a reputation as a captain; as his fishing experience grew, so did his knowledge of boats. Duffie learned how the design and layout of a boat is critical to being able to perform proper maintenance, and how this goes hand in hand with better fishing performance and ease of use. In addition to building boats, he became an expert at repairing them as well. When he founded Duffie Boatworks, he knew that service would be a key component to the success of the business. Today, his service department specializes in everything from basic maintenance to complete repowers, offering comprehensive marine services that are designed to meet all the needs of their customers. Projects include teak installation and refinishing, gyro and sonar installations, repowers, refits, and electronics upgrades. The service team is highly trained and has a wealth of knowledge and experience working on a wide variety of virtually all custom and production boats.
Hinckley Yacht Services, Stuart, Florida
Most of us wouldn’t equate the name Hinckley with sportboat service, but it seems that the company has managed to take full advantage of the recreational boating and fishing sectors with its ability to service all makes and models. Fully aware that your time on the water is priceless, Hinckley’s business philosophy reflects nothing but “the right way is the only way.” Services such as its Cat 5 Storage plan, where boats are nestled in a 40,000-square-foot climate-controlled storage facility, and complete refits, paints jobs, and concierge services—including mobile services and 24-hour yacht care—are just a few of the benefits you can expect from Hinckley. Conveniently located in Stuart’s Manatee Pocket, access is easy, and Hinckley’s almost 100 years of experience with discerning picnic-boat owners and posh sailors made accommodating sport-fishing boats effortless.
Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works, Pompano Beach, Florida
The Merritt name personifies quality, just as it has for decades in the sport-fishing world. A family-owned and -operated business since it was founded in 1948, Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works is located just south of Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach, Florida. It remains a family operation today, with Roy Merritt running the service program for the yard, which was originally set up to maintain the family’s charter boats as well as the various other working vessels in the area. The boatyard soon became a very active place as the Merritt reputation of quality work and friendly customer relations grew. The personal qualities instilled by Roy and Ennis Merritt in the 1940s still exist in the values of the family, which has enabled the Merritt name to sustain its high standards for more than seven decades.
The yard accommodates all the traditional trades such as mechanical, carpentry, electrical, hydraulic and metal fabrication, while the paint department can handle everything from small paint repairs and varnish touch-ups to complete refinishing. It also offers haulouts, interior and engine upgrades, hull and bottom paint, and much more. Other services include a full-service yacht brokerage in Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works Brokerage, Merritt Marine Supply—a wholesale marine, aviation and industrial supply company—and Smith-Merritt Insurance.
Michael Rybovich & Sons Boatworks, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Hands down, it’s hard to beat the white-glove service that Michael Rybovich & Sons Boatworks offers. The premier builder of these lovely custom sport-fishers doesn’t believe that service should end on the delivery date, but rather, should continue throughout the boat’s lifetime. With everything from service and maintenance to refits and repowers, Rybovich offers only the finest industry craftsmanship, and each one of those specialties can be found at its service yard.
This 100-plus-year-old company is rooted in boat repairs and refits, employing only the finest mechanics, painters, carpenters, fabricators, welders, and fiberglass technicians available. The yard-client communication is unmatched, and its rail system assuredly moves boats around the yard, eliminating traditional jack-stand blocking to ensure that your custom chines remain noncompromised from haulout to splash.
Safe Harbor Jarrett Bay, Beaufort, North Carolina
One of the largest full-service yards on the East Coast, Safe Harbor Jarrett Bay offers complete repair and refit services to anyone seeking world-class work performed by only the highest-skilled craftsmen.
Occupying a marine park that encompasses some 175 acres and on-property access to dozens of major marine power, product and service providers, motoryachts and sportboats of all makes and models can be easily accommodated. Boasting a deepwater basin and travel lifts capable of hauling up to 300 tons—with many of the service personnel certified by the American Boat and Yacht Council—Jarrett Bay is a trusted source when it comes to servicing your vessel. Whether it’s a bottom job, a complete refit or repower, or even a new paint job in the climate-controlled spray booth, you can be sure that Safe Harbor Jarrett Bay is on it.
Saunders Yachtworks, Saunders Marine Center, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
The Saunders Companies have provided marine service on the Alabama Gulf Coast for more than 60 years. The full-service flagship yard, Saunders Yachtworks, sits on 14 acres along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Gulf Shores. Yachtworks accommodates vessels up to 130 feet and is home to a 165-ton travel lift, the largest recreational boat lift on the northern Gulf of Mexico. Saunders’ original location for yacht services, Saunders Marine Center, is located inside Orange Beach Marina. This facility is able to haul boats up to 70 feet with its 60-ton travel lift. Both yards feature a full-service approach, with in-house employees for all traditional boatyard services, as well as subcontractors for any specialty.
With an experienced management team, a well-rounded technical staff, and flexible workspaces, Saunders is prepared to handle projects of all levels and complexity in-house from start to finish. Master craftsmen specializing in paint, fiberglass, and custom carpentry are available for refit and damage repair, and certified technicians are available for diesel- and outboard-engine repowers, mechanical service, and vessel-systems service. Saunders technicians also operate in the field and will travel to wherever your vessel is docked.
Spencer Marine, Wanchese, North Carolina
Working with sister company Spencer Yachts in Wanchese, North Carolina, Spencer Marine is a full-service boatyard that specializes in servicing custom and production boats, from general maintenance to repowers. Their emphasis is on quality work in a timely manner. With 75- and 100-ton travel lifts and ample wet and dry dockage, as well as a highly trained staff of expert technicians, the Spencer Marine yard is capable of tackling virtually any challenge. In addition to a large paint bay, it also has a custom metal-fabrication shop that specializes in marine welding, including fuel tanks spec’d to size and specialty keyed and tapered shafts to fit each boat’s needs.
Viking Yacht Service Center, Riviera Beach, Florida
Would you take your BMW to Joe’s Brake Shop for service? Probably not, so why take your Viking anywhere but Viking? That’s just one reason this company is so successful—the ability to track, source and repair any Viking at any time, by design. Working off your hull number, the Viking Service Center can track down every single piece of equipment installed on your Viking, with many of the parts stocked on premises, keeping you from running around town trying to find that one thing that only Viking uses.
In addition to annual maintenance, retrofits, and warranty and finish work, the yard also provides much-needed convenience services such as hurricane-plan contracts and spare-prop storage. And with Palm Beach Towers and Atlantic Marine Electronics on-site, it’s a one-stop shop for Viking owners and captains alike, especially in South Florida.
Willis Custom Yachts, Stuart, Florida
Armed with a 35-acre facility in Stuart that not only includes new builds but routine maintenance and full-refit services as well, Willis meets clients where they feel most comfortable. Only the highest-quality craftsmanship can be found in each one of the company’s 90-plus skilled technicians, all of whom exhibit unparalleled and intimate knowledge of joinery, paint, electrical, welding and fabrication, engineering design, fiberglass repair, and construction.
Willis believes that clients should have a plan with “a finite scope of work” when scheduling a yard visit because loose work orders can uncover additional problems, which might change the delivery timeline, leading to both overages in time and money, as well as the yard’s workflow and scheduling. So, if you’re willing to bring a good plan, Willis will work with you to execute it in the most thorough way possible.