The Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway has signed a purchase and sale agreement to buy the property it rents on the Vineyard Haven waterfront, owners confirmed Wednesday, marking a major step toward a long-held dream for the legendary wooden boatbuilding company.

“We’ve signed a P and S,” co-owner Nat Benjamin told the Gazette by phone Wednesday. “Our goal is to secure the boatyard on the waterfront. And this should do it.”

Property includes 185 feet of beachfront on the Vineyard Haven Harbor. — Mark Alan Lovewell

He declined to disclose the amount of the offer for the .37-acre parcel — the asking price is $3 million — but said an effort has begun to find investors to help with the purchase. The property is owned by an LLC registered to Leo P. DeSorcy 2nd, according to land records. Peter Cronig is the listing agent.

Mr. Cronig did not immediately return a telephone call from the Gazette seeking comment.

Established in 1980 by Mr. Benjamin and his partner Ross Gannon, the Gannon and Benjamin boatyard has grown into a world-renowned operation and iconic time capsule on the Vineyard Haven working waterfront. A living symbol of the Island’s maritime heritage, since its founding Gannon and Benjamin has launched more than 70 original wooden boat designs and countless more restorations from its sawdust-speckled workshop.

The boat yard at 30 Beach Road also has 185 feet of frontage on the Vineyard Haven harbor.

The entire 1.18-acre DeSorcy property went on the market in 2018 with an asking price of $8 million. At the time a group formed that included Mr. Benjamin to buy the property and preserve its traditional waterfront uses.

After that effort fell short, in 2020 the DeSorcy family listed the property in four separate parcels, hoping to court buyers. The parcel at 30 Beach Road that houses Gannon & Benjamin, as well as a 3,000-square-foot office building leased to the Martha’s Vineyard Times weekly newspaper, was listed for $3 million. The other parcels at 34, 42 and 46 Beach Road are all listed between $1 and $2 million, and include two art galleries, the former DeSorcy paint shop and a commercial warehouse.

According to LINK, the Island multiple listing service, an offer was made on the 30 Beach Road property in early January. Mr. Benjamin confirmed that offer came from Gannon & Benjamin.

With the purchase and sale agreement, he said the dream is to not just make the property a permanent home for Gannon & Benjamin — but a permanent bastion of working waterfront that has all but disappeared in other port communities throughout the Northeast. He said little would change regarding the property or its use.

“We’re hoping to keep the boatyard pretty much as it is. We want to maintain what we’re doing, and keep the same kind of work, and design and build, and restore custom wooden boats,” Mr. Benjamin said.

Martha's Vineyard Times
Building that houses the Martha’s Vineyard Times also sits on the property at 30 Beach Road. — Mark Alan Lovewell

But the sale process is far from complete and Mr. Benjamin said the group still needs to raise substantial funds, with a closing date fast approaching in the next few months.

“We are looking to several significant investors who will help us purchase the property,” Mr. Benjamin said. “And looking for people that are interested in . . . preserving the future of the wooden boatbuilding and maritime heritage that is involved with it.”

The Beach Road waterfront area is covered by a strict set of zoning regulations that include a 20-year-old district of critical planning concern (DCPC) and working waterfront zoning bylaw. Commercial uses on the waterfront are restricted to aquaculture facilities, boatyards and marine terminals.

A secondary goal of the boatyard ownership group has long been to establish a nonprofit, education-based arm of the company in order for younger generations to carry on the boat-building tradition. Mr. Benjamin said that remains a mission for the boat yard — albeit slightly downstream.

“We are hoping to have a nonprofit arm to this organization, which will include our internship program and trying to bring young people into the fold and train them,” he said. “That’s still our hope . . . and our vision for further on.”

For now, he simply expressed hope that the sale can be realized.

“We’re just trying to put together a group to keep boatyards alive, and waterfronts working,” Mr. Benjamin said. “We’re enthusiastic about this, and we look forward to carrying on the maritime heritage of Vineyard Haven.”