Heavy Lifting

Calling it a “small business at heart,” Seaview’s father-and-son owners oversee one of the busiest yards in the Pacific Northwest
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Phil Riise joined Seaview Boatyard and Yacht Service as a partner in 1973, six months after it was founded and seven years before his son, Tiel, was born. At age 14, Tiel started working summer jobs at the Seattle yard. Now they are partners — Phil as CEO, Tiel as president — and Seaview has grown from a single haulout facility to three locations in greater Seattle with multiple services.

“The business has been an ever-changing evolution,” Phil says, adding that hauling capabilities remain its calling card. “I don’t know of any yards in the Pacific Northwest that handle boats similar to us.” The three yards do more than 4,000 service inspections each year.

Since the 1980s, Seaview has purchased 15 Travelifts and, most recently, acquired an all-wheel drive vehicle. “It’s absolutely the most maneuverable machine we’ve ever owned in 46 years of business,” Phil says. “I’d say we’re as sophisticated as it gets as far as handling boats.”

Seaview also takes pride in being an industry leader for environmental compliance. Washington is among the most environmentally stringent states, and innovation has been necessary for the yard to be compliant and efficient. “One of the biggest waste trends we have to handle is our bottom paint sandings and pressure wash tailings,” Tiel says. “Sanding creates a lot of airborne dust, which lands on the ground. If it’s not caught properly, it goes to the stormwater.”

The three yards do more than 4,000 service inspections each year. 

The three yards do more than 4,000 service inspections each year. 

Tiel and Phil developed a closed-loop pressure washing system more than 10 years ago. After a boat is pressure-washed, they perform a wet prep before the boat dries. The process creates no airborne dust, and the sandings fall on the pressure wash pad in a wet form, which cannot run into stormwater.

“It certainly isn’t a patented process, but it is proprietary in nature because we’re the ones that innovated it,” Phil says. “We went to all the paint manufacturers and got approval from them that this type of wet prep process was acceptable and a good process to develop in our bottom-cleaning application.”

Seaview also has a building with a down-draft spray booth for painting boats, further mitigating the yard’s environmental impact. “Not only is it air quality compliant, but it produces a superior paint job, and it is heat controlled so the dust factor is significantly, if not totally, removed,” Phil says.

Seaview’s North Yard in Bellingham offers outdoor storage during the off-season, and Seaview Fairhaven on Bellingham’s south bay offers year-round outdoor dry storage along with heated indoor storage for boats to 50 feet. “These boats pay an annual contract to store, and for all the boats we’re storing, we have an opportunity to offer a 10-point inspection, which allows us to work on them in the off-season,” Phil says. “It’s another income stream.”

Over the next five years, the company plans to add a larger indoor facility at its Fairhaven location. 

Over the next five years, the company plans to add a larger indoor facility at its Fairhaven location. 

Tiel says Seaview is no longer looking to expand to new locations but is instead focusing within the next five years on building a larger indoor facility at Fairhaven to handle bigger boats, bigger paint jobs and weather- dependent work. The plan also involves installing indoor heated stack storage.

The company is staffed with a team of close to 60 people. Seaview has not been immune to the shortage of marine technicians, but Phil and Tiel have adapted. “Even though we look for skilled guys, we say that if you have an aptitude, you’re curious, you’re driven and you show up to work, you have a job here,” Phil says. “We don’t have an official mentorship program, but we do have some young guys being mentored by the older guys, and if they have the characteristics, they can go far in this company.”

Even with dozens of employees and three facilities, Seaview remains a “small business at heart,” Tiel says. Adds Phil: “I couldn’t manage this place without having him at my side.”

Going forward, Seaview is looking to continue improving. “You cannot sit on your laurels,” Phil says. “You have to be completely evolved as a company. We are constantly looking at market opportunities and continuing to evolve the company.” 

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.


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