Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway opened its doors Saturday for some shop talk, giving experienced boatbuilders and curious neighbors a glimpse of the historic boatyard on Vineyard Haven’s working waterfront.

Restoring old wooden boats is a mainstay of the business. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“We thought it would be a good idea to invite the community inside the shop because the community has done so much for us,” said co-founder Nat Benjamin from his post behind a turn-of-the century cast-iron planer. “We feel a part of it and wanted to share with the public what we are up to.”

Mr. Benjamin and his partners Ross Gannon and Brad Abbott led the tour and conversation.

Founded in 1980, Gannon and Benjamin is celebrating its 40th year. In that time they have built 75 wooden vessels, from eight-foot dinghies to 65-foot schooners, and rebuilt many more, gaining an international reputation for quality craftsmanship. Every step of the process is done in-house or in collaboration with local shipwrights, riggers, cabinetmakers, painters, sail makers and mechanics. The boatyard currently employs a full-time crew of 20.

“Between us, the shipyard and prime marina, we keep a lot of people working through the off-season. This is when we attack the big projects,” Mr. Benjamin said.

At the outset Mr. Benjamin and co-founder Ross Gannon stood beneath the hull of Annie, a 34-foot yawl. A few weeks earlier the boat had been hauled on the railway and sidetracked into the building using what was described as ancient Egyptian technology. Mr. Benjamin said her framing, stern post and horn timber have rotted and will be replaced with new Angelique hardwood — one of the boatyard’s more common overhauls.

Workers also guided the crowd through their unique tools and machinery, such as the 10-foot ship saw used to carve bevels from heavy timber.

Others interested in the history of the boatyard flipped through a photo album that depicted the early years at G and B.

Shop talk at the boat yard on a Saturday in January. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Mr. Gannon led a group across Beach Road for a tour of the lesser known shops. In a tall, tin roofed building adjacent to the former Hinckley’s hardware store was the paint shop. Lead painter Michael Grant explained the exacting task of varnishing and coating a boat’s hull with bottom paint. Gannon and Benjamin acquired the building last year, and can now paint through the winter months.

The tour continued to a sprawling compound behind Rocco’s Pizzeria called Mugwump. The group climbed wooden scaffolding inside the shop for a bird’s eye view of another longterm refurbishing project — Lark, a 45-foot Alden gaff cutter built in 1932 as a racing vessel for the Forbes family of Naushon.

“It came to us as a basket case, a leaky mess,” said Mr. Gannon, pointing down at the skeletal structure of the vessel that had been stripped down to the keel. “We’re just now beginning the planking.”

“It gives you a real understanding of how the boat moves, the aerodynamics, when it’s [stripped] like this,” added Mr. Gannon’s son Olin, who has been working on the boat.

The Lark will launch this summer.

“The working waterfront is a pretty unusual thing in this day and age,” Mr. Benjamin reflected.

He concluded: “Most harbors on the East Coast have very little commercial activity, except the big shipping ports. So many have just lost their vitality.

“We have a lot of young people coming up through the ranks. . . Traditional boat building is a rare thing, and we feel there is a real value in preserving the working waterfront.”