A: No. I got into boats and marinas when I decided to settle down, get married.
Q: What were you up to before that?
A: I was a mountaineering instructor in Colorado. I worked for Outward Bound. I was a back country ski instructor, ran rafts in the Grand Canyon, anything else you can think of in terms of white water kayaking and ocean kayaking—I’ve paddled the length of Baja California in a sea kayak.
One year a friend of mine bought a 40’ wooden sailboat. He called me because he wanted to sail it from Florida to Portugal. So we did, stopping at Bermuda, the Azores, Portugal, Gibraltar, and on into the Mediterranean. Then I went back to CO and did a couple more years teaching winter mountaineering.
By then I’d had enough of the mountains. I miss the mountains immensely, but I don’t miss the 60 lb back pack.
Q: Wow. You sound like you could have had your own show on the Discovery channel. How did you get from a life of old school extreme sports to Brewer’s Yacht Yard and Stirling Harbor Marina?
A: I got married, went to Maine, and apprenticed as a wooden boat builder. From there I was hired by Rives Potts, at Pilot’s Point Marina in Westbrook, CT to work in the Brewer organization. I worked on new construction of IOR racing sailboats, America’s Cup boats. Primarily I was a sailboat repair person.
Then Jack Brewer purchased Brewer Yacht Yard in Greenport from Henry Pierce something like 31 years ago and Jack Brewer asked me come over and run the yard in Greenport.
Q: 31 years ago? After all your adventuring? You must be like 80 years old or something. [Ed.'s note: the interview was by phone so I didn't know what Mike looked like.]
A: I’m 65. Basically I retired when I got out of College, and I retired when was ﬁt, healthy, young, single and had no mortgage. I got a scholarship to college to teach to mountaineering. Talk about a sweet job. Why wait until you’re 65 to retire and try to do all the fun things? You can always go to work.
Q: So when you came here to run the marinas had you ever been to the North Fork?
A: No. I had never been to the North Fork before I got here. For all I knew Long Island was covered with skyscrapers. Never ever had I ever dreamt of living on Long Island. I mean, I’m from Colorado for Christsakes.
I moved here in January. Everything was frozen solid. That’s when we used to get ice. Everything was closed. The village was shut.
Q: Greenport’s changed a lot in the last 30 years.
A: The change has been phenomenal. My youngest daughter came here for the weekend we went to the place that used to be the Chowder Pot.
Q: It’s the Blue Canoe now.
A: Right. The Blue Canoe. Anyway, my daughter grew up in Greenport, went to high school in Greenport, and she said Saturday night at the Blue Canoe was like a night in the Hamptons or Montauk or something. I wouldn’t know about that. I’m an old geezer and don’t go out on Saturday night much.
Q: So tell me about your boat yards. They’re so near each other in Greenport, but they’re two separate businesses; it’s not like Brewer’s east or Brewer’s west. How come? Are they really different?
A: Go to www.byy.com and look at the aerial photos of the two yards. The two marinas are different in several ways. Stirling is more of a marina country club facility; it has paved entryways, bulkheads with grassy walkarounds; a very new pool; an upscale restaurant, Porto Bello, an Italian American white table cloth sit down place.
Brewer’s Yacht yard is a real working yard as well as a good place to dock. It’s larger, covered in blue stone, there’s more activity; you’ll see our 70-ton travel lift and a 25-ton travel lift running through the yards more often. We’ve got a crane to lift out masts, we’ve got a rigging shop; we build furling systems--we do all kinds of sailboat rigging work.
If you’re sitting in the restaurant you might see a 70’ sail boat, ﬁshing boat or power boat get lifted by. It might have run aground or need repairs of some sort. You can see all kinds of interesting boating activity.
The restaurant is Billy’s by the Bay, a local clam bar type of place. They have live music on the weekends, host a couple ﬁshing tournaments every year.
Q: Wow, sounds fun. I’ve got this great image of sipping a beer, listening to live music, and watching the parade of people ﬁxing big, cool boats.
A: The Yacht Yard is fun in other ways too. Twice a year Brewer Yacht Yard runs two sailboat races. The spring one is Father’s Day weekend, and the fall one varies but is always near but not on the Maritime Festival weekend. We pick an open weekend when all the other big events aren’t happening. We always have an evening barbecue after the race, and quite often the races are run for a cancer charity; we donate all the proceeds.
Q: Still, given your adventuring background surely running the marinas is a little boring, isn’t it?
A: Not at all. Every day is diferent when you’re running a marina. I ﬁnd the challenge in the problem solving. Nothing’s routine. Just today a Catalina came in with a clogged head system. Knowing that the vent on the holding tank is usually the culprit we solved the problem quickly but got some additional work thrown in so they continued their vacation with a well functioning system. You got to take care of people; running a marina is a real service job.
Q: What’s the best part?
A: I guess the most enjoyable thing for me is I’ve been able to build a nice business, I’ve met some great customers, we’ve been together for a long time. We’ve kind of grown up together; I store over 300 boats each winter in this yard. It’s an interesting place.
Q: So your extreme sport days are done?
A: Well, I sail ice boats in the winter. You can check it out on Vimeo. And back in the day I bought a 1965 Porsche which was my mode of transportation doing all my traveling. I still have it.