Valet service for your boat: Water access just a phone call away

Sean O’Rourke works on a Cobalt boat for sale at Goodhue Hawkins Navy Yard in Wolfeboro on Thursday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

General Manager Stephen Durgan smiles after saying hello to customers at Goodhue Hawkins Navy Yard in Wolfeboro on Thursday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

WOLFEBORO - Not everybody in the Lakes Region can afford waterfront property.

So 75 boat owners have signed up for valet service at Goodhue Hawkins Navy Yard – and are only a phone call away from zipping around Lake Winnipesaukee.

“They don’t own any access to the lake at all, so they rent a space in our building from us, and they call us two hours in advance,” marina General Manager Steve Durgan said last week. Durgan, who turned away another 20 interested valet customers, charges $2,600 for the service between May 1 and Columbus Day. A $350,000 forklift moves the boat from storage to the water.

Founded in 1903, the marina that once built boats today not only fuels boats but sells, repairs, rents and repairs them.

“A quarter of our business is in service, a quarter of our business is in sales, a quarter of our business in rentals and a quarter of our business is in storage,” Durgan said.

Customers on a pleasant Wednesday morning included Rocky Cleborne, who moved to Wolfeboro last February.

“They’re great people,” Cleborne said while fueling up his 17-1/2 footer. “They do a wonderful job, take good care of their customers all the time.”

Why has the marina, a several-minutes drive from downtown, lived on for more than a century?

“Location, location, location,” Durgan said. “We’re in a cove in Wolfeboro Bay. It’s the most protected spot yet it has the access to The Broads (open water) right away, and we have a large population base in the Wolfeboro area: Wolfeboro, Tuftonboro, Alton.”

Docked for service was a 21-foot ski boat owned by former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who owns a large waterfront home in town.

The marina employs 20 people full-time year-round and another 16 part-timers during the boating season.

“We basically have 10 weeks to make our money and 42 weeks to spend it,” Durgan said.

The marina stores 700 boats during the off-season, some at two off-site storage buildings. Winter storage averages $1,200 per boat.

Durgan said the business got a boost around six years ago when it became the New Hampshire distributor for popular Cobalt boats.

Asked about the trend in company revenues, he said, “For us, the trend has been, because of Cobalt, that sales have gone up remarkably.”

In 2010, it sold 20 to 25 new boats. It now sells 80 to 100 new boats, mainly Cobalts.

At the end of each season, Goodhue sells off the rentals.

A 25-foot Bow Rider, for example, sells for $91,500 new or $75,000 for a used rental. Renting one for the week runs $4,350.

“Some rentals are already sold” this year, he said.

About 60 percent of the summer rentals are booked by June 1. People renting homes in the area make up the bulk of the boat rentals, which start at $395 a day.

The marina also is benefiting from people building bigger homes and multiple docks on property where small cottages once stood.

“The more docks you have, the more boats you can have,” he said.

John Murray, manager of the West Alton Marina, said his valet service is popular with occasional boaters. He has about 40 people signed up for valet to keep it small. People there show up and can get their boats in the water within 15 minutes.

Valet service starts at $2,340, including winter storage, Murray said, noting that in-water boat slips make up “the bulk of my business.”

“Goodhue Hawkins is a name on the lake that is just wonderful,” Murray said. “People talking about it, especially old timers reminiscing about their wooden boats and the boat building that used to be going on.”

Goodhue, which stopped making wooden boats by 1964, has “history not many people have,” he said.

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