Old Boatyard Gets New Look

Cape Yachts has revitalized the 175-year-old South Wharf in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

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Cape Yachts South Wharf opened for business in AugustCharlie Morse

If you sail the New England coast, you've probably cruised on Buzzards Bay, and if so, you've more than likely dropped the hook or grabbed a mooring in Padanaram. The harbor off this village in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, is well known to sailors, and about 600 or so boats fill the water every season. Padanaram's also home to South Wharf, a yacht yard and marina in operation since 1832, which the renowned Concordia Company leased for 75 years.

Well, nothing lasts forever, and things got a bit interesting around town last year when word got out that the property was up for sale. As one local put it, "This is Padanaram. We don't like change."

The scuttlebutt was that the boatyard and marina would close, expensive condos would go up, and whatever dock space was salvaged would be private. But then Dave Nolan showed up. Owner, along with his wife, Jane, of Cape Yachts, Nolan saw not just a business opportunity, but a chance to preserve a piece of ever-decreasing waterfront property, which these days is becoming exclusively residential at an alarming rate.

Nolan had his work cut out for him. In addition to the hefty price tag-a reported $6.7 million-he also did extensive and costly environmental work to get a Clean Marina certificate from NOAA. (See "It Takes a Village for Boatyards, Too," Cruising World, August 2007.) But perhaps Nolan's biggest obstacle was convincing the local residents and mariners of his good intentions.

Cape Yachts South Wharf opened officially for business August 1, (Concordia has since moved all of its operations up the street to its Gulf Hill location) and a party was held August 25 to celebrate all of Nolan's hard work. He was all smiles as he worked the crowd of family, friends, customers, marine professionals, and yes, even some locals. "At the start of the renovation," Nolan said, one older gentleman came by and asked me, 'What are you going to do with this?' I said to him, 'it's a boatyard, sir. I intend to keep it that way.' He came by often, and just the other day, he said to me, 'I'm starting to believe you.'"

Cape Yachts is the Northeast's largest dealer of Beneteau, Sabre, and Wauquiez boats, and will also market Alerions at its new location. A number of boats were available to party guests to board and tour, and many took advantage of the opportunity. After stepping off an Alerion Express 33, South Dartmouth resident Tom Swift said, "I just found my next boat."

South Wharf will operate year-round as a yacht brokerage and full-service working marina. It has a new 50-ton Travelift, dockage for up to 160 feet, a 12-foot draft, and no commercial traffic. What more can it offer? "We have 21 years of commitment to the industry and our customers," said Nolan. "Therefore, we can offer an extremely high level of service. Besides, I just love boats."

It looks like even the locals are convinced.

For more information about Cape Yachts South Wharf, visit its website (www.southwharf.com).