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Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard gives boaters a lift

Travel Lift operator Mark Rybin maneuvers a 58-foot-long yacht into the Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard last week.
Travel Lift operator Mark Rybin maneuvers a 58-foot-long yacht into the Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard last week. jbessex@gateline.com

Lifting a boat out of the water for maintenance or repair is no easy feat, requiring large equipment and experience to safely bring the vessel into dry dock.

Mark Rybin, the Travel Lift operator at Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard, has more than 30 years of experience navigating boats from the water onto land.

The equipment used by Rybin is a Marine Travel Lift, capable of lifting 50 metric tons and operated by a handheld remote panel.

“It’s a good sized machine,” he said. “The machine is straightforward on how to run it. It’s where to pick boats up that’s the (tricky) thing.”

The thing I’ve always tried to do is to take care of the (lift). If you take care of them, they’ll last a long time. You just have to keep everything greased and serviced.

Mark Rybin, Travel Lift operator

This is where Rybin’s 36 years of experience in the field are valuable in getting vessels from the water to dry dock safely.

“The thing I’ve always tried to do is to take care of the (lift),” he said. “If you take care of them, they’ll last a long time. You just have to keep everything greased and serviced.”

The first travel lift at the Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard was a 25-ton lift that was installed in 1990, after the pier to support it was constructed. This lift was used along with the railway system to service boats until the railway system failed and was removed in 2007, with the current lift installed in 2008.

Managing director Ron Roark purchased the Marina & Boatyard in January 2015 and is the third owner since 1904.

“There’s a lot of history there,” Roark said. “We’re committed to keeping a boatyard in Gig Harbor. We’re the only one and the last one.”

Since purchasing the business at 3117 Harborview Drive, Roark has been working to improve services for both the Marina and the Boatyard to attract more business to Gig Harbor.

“I had some knowledge, at least of being an owner of a service business, and I knew there were many many things that needed to change,” he said about the Boatyard.

There’s a lot of history there. We’re committed to keeping a boatyard in Gig Harbor. We’re the only one and the last one.

Ron Roark, managing director and owner of Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard

Hiring a yard manager was the first step and helped grow the employee pool from four to 14 shipwrights — boosting the business’ reputation for quality and trustworthy work.

A significant challenge faced by Roark is the limits of the current facilities, specifically the Boatyard is in need of a new and modern workshop.

“I just can’t make the business competitive without a modern facility,” Roark said. “We’re still working in the same conditions they worked in in 1920.”

In addition to the Boatyard, the location is also the largest marina in Gig Harbor, with 106 slips for both permanent and transient moorage.

“Gig Harbor actually needs some larger slips,” Roark said. “There’s very few 50-foot slips in Gig Harbor.”

Other additions to the business by Roark include ventures into the hospitality industry, with the new JW Food Trolley and The Club @ the Boatyard providing more venues for Gig Harbor residents.

“We basically took the strategy that we’re in the hospitality business after 4:30 on the weekends and on holidays,” Roark said. “The club is very active most weekends and most of the week. It’s booked now through the end of the year. It’s clear that Gig Harbor really needed a venue for these types of activities.”

Roark is working to make the most use of his available space, with the Northwest Maritime Academy operating out of a classroom space above the Boatyard and a renovated Guesthouse @ the Boatyard offering a 1,700-square-foot vacation rental apartment.

I’ve been around boats my whole life. I’ve boated since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed the boating community. Gig Harbor is a great place and has a lot of boats.

Rybin

Increasing membership to the Club is another goal of Roark’s, with current membership rates between 1,400 and 1,500.

“We want everybody to be a member,” he said.

Membership to the Club costs $1 and all membership proceeds are donated between the Gig Harbor Canoe & Kayak Racing Team, the Gig Harbor Junior Sailing Team and Harbor WildWatch.

Providing a space for recreational boaters in and around Gig Harbor is part of the services offered by the Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard.

“I’ve been around boats my whole life. I’ve boated since I was a kid,” Rybin said. “I’ve always enjoyed the boating community. Gig Harbor is a great place and has a lot of boats.”

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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