Sprague Buys Gowen Marine (Next Month) to Expand New Yard

Joe Schmader, Current Owner of Gowen Marine, Looks Forward to Working Fewer Hours in the Near Future.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,508)

Phineas Sprague, Jr. has signed a purchase and sales agreement to buy Gowen Marine according to Sprague earlier today.  The closing is set for September 30,  2013. This agreement will permit Sprague, the former owner of Portland Yacht Services, to develop a state-of-the-art boat yard on the western end of Commercial Street near the Casco Bay Bridge.  “PYS” was recently sold to Jim Brady and his investment company for future development.

The terms of the agreement call for a negotiated lease with two five-year options and the right to purchase the property.

Sprague said customers of both Gowen Marine and Portland Yacht Services should experience virtually no change in the operation of either facility.  “This is something we have been considering for a very long time,” Sprague said. “It will give us the flexibility to move forward with our long-term plan and allow us to immediately begin servicing larger vessels that could not be serviced at our former location.” All ten employees at Gowen Marine will retain their positions, he said.

Gowen Marine has been an importnat part of Portland’s working waterfront for more than 50 years.  The company was founded in 1955 by Harold Gowen and was purchased in 1968 by Joseph Schmader, who grew the business into a two-acre complex at 400 Commercial Street that supports both commercial and recreational marine vessels. Schmader will continue to own and operate Gowen Power Systems, Inc, a separate company also located at 400 Commercial Street. Schmader, 67, told mhn.com this afternoon that he is looking forward to working fewer hours than he did previously. He once worked 60 or 70 hours a week.  “I’ll be able to enjoy other activities,” he said.  “I have a few items to cross off my bucket list.”  Schmader said he had recovered from serious cancer surgery a few years ago.

Sprague and Schmader met in 1972, when Spague refitted his schooner for a circumnativation at Schmader’s whart and became fast friends.  The two men say they are excited about the city’s future and share the same vision for reinvigorating a port that was once bustling, but was later hit hard by challenges connected to the commercial fishing industry.

“I know what Phin and his team want to do and I know they are capable of getting it done,” Schmader said.  “I am pleased to be a part of this process.”  This afternoon Schmader was overseeing the effort to bring ashore via his travel lift the tall ship Harvey Gamage. The Ocean Classroom fleet has been using Gowen Marine as a yard, because the New Yard has not been physically ready to receive them as a home port .   Four hundred Commercial Street is the home port for the highly-regarded Ocean Classroom fleet.  The news of the agreement came as joyful news to Ocean Classroom employees this afternoon who had just learned of the pending change  in ownership. They were at Gowen Marine the new home of Ocean Classroom.

Earlier this month, Sprague finalized the sale of the Porland Marine Company on Fore Street.  Tonight he will be back before the Portland Planning Board to review his plans for the New Yard facility on Commercial Street.

Meanwhile, Amistad, the famous slave ship, just arrived in Puerto Rico today accordng to Captain Greg Bailey.  She is there to begin filming a TV mini series, based on the book “Cross Bones.”

“We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us,” said Sprague.  “PYS is fortunate to have a great team and our effort has benefited from a dedicated group of stakeholders who work so hard and share the same vision for the revitalization of the city’s working waterfront.  It is appropriiae to thank them.  I am so grateful to be able to make a contribution.”