By Rick Smeriglio for SCN – When a bustling, maritime business in Seward outgrows its narrow slice of waterfront, it has few places to go. David Phillips, co-owner with Tammy Anderson of Raibow Fiberglass and Boat Repair, wants to move his expanding operation east across Resurrection Bay to Seward Marine Industrial Center. A quick tour of its cramped quarters on leased ground along Alameda Street, shows why Raibow Fiberglass needs to stay in Seward, but wants to move to SMIC.
About 112 boats, packed gunwale to gunwale, crowd the yard. Phillips wends his way through organized chaos. Equipment and power tools roar. The smell of fiberglass resin hangs in the air. Workers in protective suits and breathing protection hustle by. They don’t have time to chat.
“This is a working yard,” says Phillips, “we’ve got 12 employees, make that 13, we just hired one.”
Raibow repairs, rebuilds and refits boats ranging from dinghies to anything the municipality’s 50-ton lift can deliver to Phillips’ yard just north of the small boat harbor. Last year Raibow moved almost 600 boats through the yard. He claims a yearly payroll of about 400,000 dollars. Only so many hulls can exist in the same place at the same time. Phillips will allow boats to stay in the yard for a maximum of 9 months when owners do their own work.
“I have a waiting list. Sixty more guys want in here as soon as some of these go back in the water,” says Phillips, gesturing toward the three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of boats around him.
Phillips shows off a project underway in the large, tent-like building at the edge of his yard. Workers cut a 40-footer in half at the waist. They added 7 feet to enlarge the fish hold. Raibow will do all the electrical and mechanical work. By way of contrast, Phillips mentions that he just got back from repairing a shower stall in town.
Raibow will co-locate with Communications North at 204 Nash Road at SMIC. The two marine businesses will share one large building in which Phillips plans to open a retail marine chandlery. He will become local dealer for Port Supply, a division of West Marine. Communications North will continue its usual marine electronics business on site. Phillips will maintain his boat storage and repair on Alameda Street.
Phillips wants to acquire a 70-ton travel lift by this September. He wants to use the ship lift at SMIC to get vessels out of the water and then transfer them with the lift to ground he wants to lease at SMIC. Raw ground next to the water would provide the one big thing Phillips’ operation seems to need, room. Raw ground that lacks electricity or even surface grading for drainage would need improvement before Raibow could use it. Phillips would prefer that lease terms compensate him for making permanent improvements.
SMIC, independent of individual leasers, has grown over the years. City of Seward has expansion plans that may cost as much as 95 million dollars and may attract larger vessels to Resurrection Bay.
Says David Phillips, “I look at the three of us (Seward Heavy Industrial Power, Catalyst Marine, and Raibow) as the future of boat repair in Seward …at SMIC.”