Port of Friday Harbor commissioners approve Jensen shipyard purchase

A nearly century-old island business will be turned over to the Port of Friday Harbor. Port commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of Jensen Boat Yard and Marina at the Wednesday, April 11 meeting.

“We thank the port for seeing [the shipyard] as something that’s special in this community,” said current owner Mike Ahrenius. “We’ll miss it, but we know that you guys will take good care of it.”

Ahrenius, a former port commissioner, owns the boatyard with his wife Jeri, and it has been in Jeri’s family for about 100 years. Ahrenius resigned from the port’s board before the remaining commissioners and staff discussed the potential deal. The Ahreniuses, who were looking to retire, presented the idea last September.

The purchase by a public entity, said the port’s Executive Director Todd Nicholson, will guarantee the shipyard remains intact for years to come, as well as produce “family-wage, marine tech jobs,” which supports the port’s mission.

Nicholson noted at the April 11 meeting that the negotiating price for the property is $2.21 million and is expected to be finalized by May.

At the meeting, commissioners also approved the shipyard’s master plan, created by a citizen advisory group, which was formed to oversee the purchase. Nicholson said the plan was created “without the benefit of paid consultants who do this for a living,” and will be “revist[ed]” in the future. View the plan at www.portfridayharbor.org/jensen-sons-boatyard-and-marina-draft-master-plan.

The North Island Boat Company was selected by port commissioners on April 4 as the operator for the boat yard and marina, which is located off Turn Point Road, about five minutes south of the port’s current marina near the ferry landing in town. Staff from the port and the Anacortes-based company will start negotiations on a lease agreement, said Nicholson.

According to Michael Roff, owner and CEO of North Island Boat Company, as well as KJ Roff, the president, North Island Boat Company is a boat maintenance and repair business that has served the greater Puget Sound area since 1986. The Roffs hired local Dennis Foote of Foote Mobile Marine to manage the shipyard and plan to hire about three more employees in Friday Harbor while maintaining the current crew and the Jensen name. If negotiations are finalized, as soon as they take over, the Roffs said they will offer all the services their crew performs in Anacortes at the Friday Harbor shipyard, which is more than Jensen’s offers today.

Ahrenius explained that, in the past, if Jensen’s lacked the staff to perform certain boat work, they recommended other businesses, such as North Island Boat Company, to customers.

Switching ownership of the shipyard will likely include a “long transition period,” said Ahrenius, but soon there’ll be time for motorcycling and traveling in retirement for him and Jeri.

“[We] definitely want to see more of the United States, especially the national parks,” he said.