NEWBURYPORT – Nautical entrepreneur Mike Goodridge owns several businesses on the waterfront, and he recently added to his holdings by buying Yankee Landing Marina on outer Merrimac Street.
Goodridge also runs TowboatU.S. of Newburyport, Beverly and Boston, and his team manages Freedom Boat, a franchise service in the city that permits people to rent power boats rather than buy them. In addition, he is a diver and a salvage specialist.
"We bought the marina because the timing seemed right," said Goodridge, 63. "If the Waterfront West development does happen, we would have to relocate our Freedom Boat offices and other services.
"This marina is running and we're very busy right now," he said.
Yankee Landing Marina offers 27 moorings, 50 active slips, and room to store about 75 boats in the winter. Goodridge bought the marina from Ronald Guertin.
Goodridge's son, Jake Goodridge, 37, is president of the recently purchased marina and a key manager in everything the Goodridge team does.
William Watts, a boat owner at the marina, praised the Goodridges.
"I'm pleased with the way things are starting," Watts said. "The new team is very experienced, and warm weather means that owners want to get into their boats."
The TowBoatU.S. business has emerged as a significant asset in recent years as both the Coast Guard and the local harbormaster have stopped towing boats in nonemergency situations.
So the Goodridges' managers will take a call and respond to non-threatening situations, such as running out of gas or a disabled engine.
"Mike is an important part of the package on the waterfront," said Paul Hogg, Newburyport's harbormaster. "If it's not an emergency, we don't tow in a boat. The Coast Guard doesn't, either. He gets there right away and had helped many boaters."
Jake Goodridge said, "Boaters like to see us coming. Many of them pay for tow insurance, like AAA, so that if something happens, we can be there. It gives them peace of mind."
The company has three towing vessels in Newburyport and a year-round staff of experienced captains and divers who are on call 24 hours a day.
Its coverage from Newburyport extends from southern Maine to Gloucester and stretches 40 miles offshore. The company includes service out to Jeffrey’s Ledge and other fishing grounds in the area.
Hogg said there are about 1,500 pleasure boats registered in Newburyport, and 500 more in Salisbury, Amesbury and launching from Cashman Park.
"Boating has really increased in recent years," Hogg said. "Reasons include good fishing, a cleaner river, cheap gas and a better economy. There's definitely a market for helping boaters."
Mike Goodridge got into the nonemergency towing business more than three decades ago because agencies were not doing it.
"In about 1983, President Reagan said he didn't want government to compete with private services and the Coast Guard stopped towing. I saw this as an opportunity," said Goodridge, who has a network of about 10 captains to respond to calls along the coast.
"And it has been (an opportunity)," he said. "We've helped many boaters."
In addition to TowBoatU.S., Mike Goodridge runs Freedom Boat, an enterprise along the Newburyport waterfront that permits experienced boaters to rent a vessel that is guaranteed to be gassed up and ready to go.
There are about 15 such craft in Newburyport, most 21 to 25 feet long, and run with an outboard engine of about 250 horsepower.
The one-time fee to join is $5,000, and a customer pays $349 per month for unlimited use.
"Some of our customers walk here and take out a boat," Mike Goodridge said. "Others come from Boxford, North Andover, many nearby communities. They know they will get a boat that is reliable."
One of the few things on the waterfront that Mike Goodridge does not do is repair engines.
Below the water, though, he often dives to repair and/or salvage vessels.
With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, the Goodridges are working to help owners get their craft into the river.
"This is a good time for pleasure boating," Jake Goodridge said. "The economy is better and families want to spend quality time on the river. We're working right now to get them on the water this summer."
Dyke Hendrickson can be reached at 978-961-3149, or at email@example.com.