FLIBS 2011: Northern Marine tells its recovery story

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FORT LAUDERDALE — Andy McDonald, Northern Marine's 32-year-old president, arrived this week at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show smiling, having inked a contract to build an 85-foot, expedition-style tri-deck cruiser just two weeks earlier.

That makes four yachts — a 64-foot expedition yacht, a 95-foot motoryacht and an 80-foot long-range cruiser, in addition to the 85-footer — that are under construction at the yard in Anacortes, Wash. McDonald, who bought the builder in 2009, started with just one employee — himself. Now the yard employs 70, he says.

“We’re building a bunch of boats,” he says. “We’re busy.”

McDonald has been getting help from the Economic Development Association of Skagit County, which acts as a business adviser and promotes the business.

“They want to get people back to work,” he says.

Bud Lemieux, who founded Northern in 1990, also is lending a hand. Lemieux sold Northern to Ashton Marine in 2006, bought the assets back in 2009 after the yard closed and now is selling the assets to McDonald. “He’s bringing a company back that builds a good boat at a fair price,” Lemieux says.

McDonald says the new Northern is a fully custom yard run by “a group of young, like-minded individuals willing to change and try new things.”

Northern’s latest contract updates the look of its classic trawler with a tri-deck design, a raised pilothouse and swept-back windows.

McDonald says Northern also does repair work and is aiming for more so he can hire more employees. “We’ve got an incredible talent pool in Anacortes,” he says.

With four boats under way, “we came to the show charged with enthusiasm,” McDonald says. “We’re pretty excited.”

— Jim Flannery

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