One month later: Mattapoisett Boatyard looks forward

Sep 19, 2022

MATTAPOISETT — Just over a month since the Mattapoisett Boatyard was destroyed in a massive fire, life is returning to the 60-year-old family business. 

In the weeks since the fire reduced buildings, boats and cars to smoldering rubble, boatyard co-owner David Kaiser never lost hope. 

“There's never been a thought of getting out of this business,” said Kaiser.  “Even with the fire hoses and the smoke and the chaos that was going on, I can say with 100% certainty that the thought never occurred to us.”

Now with a conceptual drawing from an architect and a local steel building company, Kaiser plans to rebuild. 

The old facility, which was just under 40,000 square feet, will be replaced with a new design that is “well under” 20,000 square feet, said Kaiser. 

“The goal is to really reduce the footprint of this property,” he said. “We’re going to be giving up some inside storage on this property and build much more meaningful work bays.”

The new design for the Mattapoisett Boatyard will be a longer, narrower building that runs along the southern treeline of the property. It will be outfitted with heated repair bays and a cohesive office space and stock room. 

This design will also allow the boatyard to store more tall-masted ships and provide more space for summertime parking, said Kaiser. 

“Hopefully the permit process will go through,” said Kaiser, who added that flood zone issues and Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility may complicate the permitting process. “Will it be possible to put a shovel in the ground in May or June? I don’t know.”

According to Kaiser, the boatyard’s property on Route 6 will be the new home for indoor storage areas, but that won’t be completed for a few years. 

While the exact economic damage of the fire is unknown, Kaiser estimates that it resulted in over $1 million in losses. 

“We have liability insurance of over $1 million and an umbrella policy beyond that,” said Kaiser. “And the umbrella policy holders know we’re going to dip into that.”

He added that it will be “a stretch” for insurance to cover even half of the cost of rebuilding. 

“We’re going to be taking on new debt and we’re prepared for that because the new facility is going to be more efficient,” said Kaiser. “We should pay for it.”

Almost immediately following the fire, GoFundMe campaigns were set up to raise money for the boatyard.

“The community support has been way, way more than I’ve ever expected, and my expectations are always pretty low,” said Kaiser. 

As of Sept. 19, a GoFundMe campaign organized by Mattapoisett local David Horne raised $92,590 of its $100,000 goal. 

According to Kaiser, people from as far away as the Carolinas, Florida, California and even Italy have donated to the boatyard’s cause. 

“I was raised to give of my time and other resources so to be on the receiving end is really strange,” he said.

Much of the donated money will be put toward employees, said Kaiser, four of whom lost their cars in the fire as well as four mechanics who lost over $30,000 of high-end tools. 

Kaiser counts himself lucky that money and property were the only things lost in the inferno. 

Phil Macomber, an employee of the boatyard for nearly 20 years, was injured during the fire. According to Kaiser’s son, Ned, Macomber is home and is planning to return to work when he recovers. 

“We are incredibly fortunate that not only is Phil home and recovering but that we’re not planning three or four funerals,” said Kaiser, referencing the four employees who pulled Macomber from the blaze. 

Kaiser is happy about “the fact that [Macomber] is out and he’s healthy and we can look forward together as a group.”

“All these years I’ve been thinking that all we’re really doing is working on boats,” he said. “But I’ve come to find out that we’re such a big part of the community and no one wants to lose that.”