Boat maintenance a year-round job
For many in Tahoe, winter equals powder days, great skiing and sketchy driving conditions. But for marina employees, winter means boat restoration, rebuilding engines and general building maintenance and office upkeep.
“We actually have to go to work in the winter and get [the boats] ready for the next season,” said Pat Bagan, vice president and general manger for Sierra Boat Company.
Sierra Boat Company in Carnelian Bay employs nearly 30 employees in the winter and focuses on major boat restoration projects. The marina currently has two wooden boats that are receiving a major overhaul that will take five to six months, said Restoration Foreman Chris Brogna.
“Large scale work gets done in the winter. In the summer, we do a lot of little things,” Brogna said. “Every winter is this busy.”
Obexer’s Boat Company in Homewood also refurbishes and renovates wooden boats in the winter. Owner Sarah Obexer said her company takes on two to 10 boats a winter, depending on the size of the job.
“We do maintenance that people don’t want to do in the summer,” Obexer said.
Brogna said most owners using Sierra Boat Company want all their major maintenance done in the winter so their boats can be used in the summer.
“This is our busy period. It’s what we like doing,” Brogna said of the restoration department. “It’s gratifying. Everything happens at once. The mechanics department is busiest from Labor Day to Memorial Day, constantly going out on the lake for quick fixes.”
Every once in a while, Sierra Boat Company will test-drive boats on the lake in the winter. Michael Boone, foreman of the mechanic department, is currently building an airplane engine for a boat and will test it on the water to make sure it works.
“It’s a little chilly,” Boone said of the winter ride. “You only last about 60 seconds on a day like today.”
Winter is also the time of year when marinas focus on keeping their house in order.
Obexer said it is the only time of year when employees can focus on building maintenance, updating manuals, focusing on safety issues, book keeping and other office upkeep.
A spokesperson for Tahoe City Marina said they clean up the property, do snow removal and maintenance.
The marinas also store boats in the winter, which Sierra Boat Company’s Braga says is a full-time job. Sierra Boat Company stores 640 boats in the winter, according to Bagan.
“It’s a big filing system,” Braga said. “Over the course of the winter they make sure the boats are covered and nothing is freezing. It is a big job. As soon as the owner is done [with the boat], we winterize them.”