The town’s new maritime center is nearing completion and will be ready to open its doors in a couple of weeks.
PLYMOUTH – The coronavrus emergency has delayed the opening of the town’s new maritime center, and continuing precautions will keep some of the new $4.5 million facility closed until next spring.
But the main portion of the new building overlooking the harbor at the state boat ramp is nearing completion and will be ready to open its doors in a couple of weeks.
Painters and carpenters are putting the finishing touches on the interior of the building, and a landscaping crew is paving the outside apron and parking area. The harbormaster’s office, with a public meeting room and seasonal public restrooms, is expected to open in mid August.
Facilities for transient boaters probably will be completed about the same time, but they will likely not be available for use until next spring because of the continuing health crisis. Harbormaster Chad Hunter will not install new docks for his boats until next spring as well.
Hunter and his staff expected to move into their headquarters back in May, but the onset of the Covid-19 emergency sent work schedules into disarray. Subcontractors were able to work, but only on staggered shifts, through spring and early summer.
A major contractor’s gaffe added to the frustrations. Yellow Alaskan cedar shingles were selected for the exterior of the building because of their superior ability to withstand weather. They also weather to a silvery gray finish.
But the original contractor was not familiar with working with them and spaced them too closely when they were installed last winter. They started to buckle as they absorbed moisture.
The problem was not discovered until the entire building was sided, resulting in a new contractor coming into to remove all the shingles and install new, properly spaced ones. It added two weeks of work to the exterior of the building.
But the extra-long yellow shingles should now provide protection from the elements for half a century or longer, Hunter said during a recent tour of the building.
The harbormaster gave the newspaper a peek at the project this week because the pandemic will likely delay open house tours until next spring. But anyone with business with the harbormaster will be pleasantly surprised by the new facilities.
Funded in part with a $1.3 million state tourism grant, the maritime center is built on pilings in the back corner of the state boat ramp parking lot. The pilings protect it from flood tides, which have covered the lot in years past.
The 10-foot lift gives the harbormaster an exceptional view of the harbor from the east-facing walls of windows. The view extends from Kingston and Duxbury to the start of Plymouth Beach in the south, with views over the beach to the east.
The design incorporated several nautical features. A porthole window salvaged from a ship offers views from the enclosed reception desk out to the water. A ceiling includes a truss system similar to those found on commercial ships. A post in the middle of the conference room will be wrapped in one of the last lengths of rope to be manufactured by the Plymouth Cordage Company. Vapor-proof lighting is used inside and out. And the upper harbormaster’s office, where views are best, features a red lighting system to protect night vision.
The front of the building is a wall of windows that offers panoramic views, so Hunter and his crew can keep an eye on activity in the harbor. From the top floor, more than 30 feet up, the boats can be distinguished from one another at distant moorings, and the ocean is visible on the far side of Plymouth Beach.
“Looking out, one thing we did capture was the entire waterfront view. We opted to put windows in instead of walls,” Hunter said. “This building was designed around our purpose of being here on the water and captures that entire view so we don’t have any blind spots.”
The main office space features a meeting room that can accommodate up to 30 people comfortably in chairs and desk and bench seating. Hunter and his team will use the space to host boater safety lessons. The town’s Harbor Committee will use it as their meeting place.
The back of the office includes a galley with a small refrigerator, sink, microwave oven and lockers. The staff space also offers a novelty for the harbormaster crew – a working restroom. Until now, the harbormaster’s crew has had to use a portable toilet. And their shack on Town Wharf only had seasonal running water.
Public restrooms are located on the back portion of the building, which is separated from the offices by a breezeway. Hunter expects to open the restrooms during daylight hours for about six months of the year. That should start next month.
In addition to the public restrooms, there are facilities for transient boaters. The building includes restrooms, showers and laundry machines for boaters mooring in the harbor overnight. But the state’s current protocols for reopening from the pandemic will probably keep the transient services closed until next year.
The town has been charging transient boaters a premium this year in anticipation of offering the facilities. Hunter said there have been some complaints about the rise in mooring costs from $35 to $65, but the harbormaster is providing free launch service that partially makes up for the difference in costs.
Hunter plans to move his boats from the Town Wharf docks to new floats on the south side of the maritime center. The floats will be built this winter and put in place next spring in a channel that was recently dredged by the building.
The existing harbormaster’s shack will be remain in use through the summer, to ensure that people don’t get confused about where to find help and to protect against the coronavirus, should some of the staff have exposure to the disease.
Hunter said it will be up to the town to decide what to do with the building, but he knows many want to keep it. Hunter said he could use it for storage and maintaining it would ensure its longevity. If the town tears it down, a replacement could never be built.
Author: ” — plymouth.wickedlocal.com ”