It wasn’t the best moment to buy a boatyard or a boat — right before the 1938 hurricane — but Stanley and Anna Ginalski did both.
The boatyard, located on ‘between the bridges’ land where the Barrington and Palmer rivers divide, took a beating but survived. Storm surge hoisted the boat, named Egbert, high atop pilings at the end of the dock — a photo of that moment is one of the enduring images of the Great New England Hurricane. The already elderly Egbert (built in 1885) suffered damage but survived.
From that rough start, the Ginalskis built Stanley’s Boat Yard. Seventy-five years later, both boatyard and Egbert are still in the family and doing better than ever.
Much has changed over the decades, say owners Kevin and Stephen Terhune, but Stanley Ginalski’s determination to build a yard that could handle any boat challenge or project remains the same.
“It is a highly competitive business,” Kevin Terhune said, “but it comes down to providing outstanding
service at prices that we believe are better than what people are finding elsewhere.” That’s why, both say, so many boaters make the trip to Barrington from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey — “all over the place.” They are lured primarily for the quality of work, both believe; reasonable labor rates and Rhode Island’s tax exemption for boat sales, service and storage are also a big draw.
Often, when customers list their boats for sale, “They ask us, can we say ‘serviced at Stanley’s’ in the ad?” said Stephen Terhune.
The property that Stanley and Anna bought from George Covo had long been involved in marine work. Merchant vessels and whalers were built and repaired there, then fishing boats ferries and eventually pleasure boats.
When the Ginalski’s took over they used as many as seven sets of railroad tracks to haul boats up into the sheds for service and storage.
The rails are gone now, replaced by a 35 ton travel-lift (the only one on the Barrington and Warren rivers), but Stanley Ginalski would still recognize parts of the place he built.
The woodworking shop, many of whose whose magnificent tools are driven by belts from a single motor, is full of sights and smells he would recall.
“That planer must have been here with Stanley from the beginning,” Stephen Terhune said. “Still works perfectly.”
But this is no maritime museum.
Today’s Stanley’s features a temperature controlled (94 degrees) and dust-free paint room complete with heated floors, a hydraulic trailer to move boats about, a parts shop that draws customers from far and wide, a marine engine repair shop overseen by Steve Carter, “who is as good as they get,” welding and hull repair facilities, a crane room in which big engines can be pulled from boats, a boat brokerage and more. They replace a dock or two each year, the electric service, showers and heads have been updated, and the main storage sheds recently received new floors (which required 36 cement trucks to complete). Those sheds are so nice now that they’ve hosted parties there — weddings, graduations and more; the industrial ceilings are hidden by hanging sails.
These days the marina employs a dozen people, has slips for 140 boats and the yard has winter storage space for about 210 boats, 60 of them indoors.
That work, overseen by both owners, is ramping up for the season. Kevin Terhune takes his ‘office,” a blue work skiff, out to retrieve the boats and deliver them to the hoist. Stephen then deftly guides them into their storage places.
That process was put to the test last fall as tropical storm Sandy bore down. “We really got it into gear,” Kevin Terhune said, hauling and storing 64 boats as anxious owners kept calling.
Sandy brought anxious hours as the water rose to levels neither remembered seeing at the yard. Parking lots, even shed floors, were covered by the rising tide but “all the boats stayed where they belonged.”
Egbert: Going strong at 128
Like the boatyard, old Egbert has changed with the times.
Designed by C.C. Hanley Egbert was built in the town of Buzzards Bay as a two masted commercial scallop fishing boat in 1885. Circa 1920 she was converted into a powerboat and used as a service tow boat. In the late 1920’s George Covo brought Egbert to Barrington and included her in the sale of his property.
In 1983 Egbert underwent a thorough restoration. Planks, ribs, and the keel were replaced. Egbert was transformed into a showpiece and won the prize for best yacht restoration at the Mystic Seaport’s Antique and Classic Boat Rendezvous in 1996.
Despite winning a boatload of such prizes, Egbert is no museum piece either. Again this summer, Egbert cruised out to the old Martha’s Vineyard scalloping grounds. Beamy and open outside and in — “not cut up into lots of small spaces” — Egbert is a relaxed and comfortable cruiser, said Sue Terhune, Steve’s wife and the boatyard’s business manager. “And Egbert “certainly makes a nice entrance” into coastal harbors.
The Stanley’s family tree
• Stanley and Anna Ginalski bought the boatyard in 1938 and lived in the house there until their deaths, Stanley at age 88, Anna at 104.
• They had two daughters, Sophie Devoy who lived at the boatyard until her death at age 80; and Bonnie Elson, retired owner who lives next door to the yard. Both women worked at the yard and helped their parents with its expansion.
• Bonnie’s two sons, Kevin and Stephen Terhune, grew up at the boatyard and worked side by side with their grandfather and yard foreman Raymond Jensen, learning every facet of the job. Today they are the yard’s co-owners. Steve’s wife Susan is the company’s business manager, and her son Ted is the office manager — and the fourth generation to be involved in Stanley’s Boat Yard.