“I wanted to put Cabrillo Boat Yard back on the map,” said Chris Messano, who recently purchased the historic full service boat yard in Long Beach and will be re-opening it this month.
An avid sailboat racer, Messano races his hull number 408 wooden Mercury sloop, and his hull Cal 20, hull number 6. His successful Harbor City woodworking business is known for pristine custom work as well as restoration of woodwork on vintage automobiles.
A passionate third generation boater, he takes pride in his 1968 40-foot Chris Craft and although the yard will continue to work on wooden boats, he forecasts most of the haul outs will be vessels made of fiberglass.
The yard will maintain, on a smaller scale, the tradition of allowing DIY-Do Your Own work on boats, something rare in California today. On line reviews document over the years how the crew at Cabrillo would help set up scaffolding for boaters to work on their own boats.
Messano has made some major capital improvements, expanded the footprint, and will increase the types of services offered. He and his crew have been busy sprucing the yard up, purchasing new equipment, and negotiating waterway access.
Last week, they painted the new 75-ton capacity crane in a retro mint green color.
Cabrillo Boat Shop had been owned and operated by the Holland family for 40 years. Third generation past owner Don Holland has been working with the new owners for a smooth transition.
Messano said that he wanted to have a local yard that served the boating community and he wanted to preserve the history of small repair yards. That is why he opted to keep the name and give the crane and some of the small buildings on the property a retro look, he said.
According to Holland family records, the yard was originally established in 1958 as Hanchette Boat Shop in Berth 41, and became Cabrillo Boat Shop in 1962. The business shared space with Harbor Sailmakers, and in later years, Fleitz Brothers developed the nearby marina, with San Pedro Boat Works located nearby at Berth 44.
Forty years ago, owner Donald Holland’s grandfather had a thriving marine hardware business that he sold to a large corporate entity. He invested the proceeds from the 1978 sale to purchase Cabrillo Boat Shop.
It was about that same time that a 10-year-old Chris Messano, would cruise in his small dingy from the west basin and around California Yacht Anchorage near the Cabrillo Yard and admire the work taking place.
For almost 20 years, until 1997, Cabrillo Boat Shop was located on Berth 41 in San Pedro. The evolving plans, mixing leisure with industry uses, for the current San Pedro waterfront initially included a boat yard. There were numerous iterations. Some even included grandiose ideas for an outer harbor cruise terminal for Disney cruise ships.
When a boatyard was not part of the final redevelopment plan, Cabrillo moved to its current location in Long Beach at 1500 Pier C St. By land, Pier C is, “as the crow flies,” the continuation of Seventh Street, just on the other side of the Los Angeles River and adjacent to the Matson trucking terminal on Pier C.
The yard will be up and running by Feb. 15.