Dear Customers & Friends,
We hope you are well and looking forward to launching your boats as we slide into the second year of learning to live with a pandemic. The good news is that Pecks’ Boats, Inc. made it through the crazy uncertainties of the past year. The better news is that the trials and challenges have bolstered my belief that there are better ways of getting work done than “business as usual.” We need to recalibrate for ourselves, and for the next generations. In addition to preparing for launching and servicing your boats this spring, this letter is an invitation for you to act locally to be part of a change that is happening globally. But first, let me catch you up on the shape of things at the boatyard.
It became clear in June of 2020, after the PPP funding ran out, that the crew members I had assembled to build the business and buy me out of Pecks’ Boats, Inc. were in trouble: they lacked the experience and expertise to survive the downturn and would not make payroll through the summer. Nobody was in a position to go without a paycheck, so I paid off their sweat equity loans to the company, wished them well, and started considering my options.
Although at a loss for an immediate solution, I was far from defeated: I had invested in significant upgrades to grow John Peck’s marine transport and services business; I have no mortgage and retained enough of John’s life insurance to pay the property taxes and overhead for years; the zoning laws that permit us to provide non-conforming marine services allow a hiatus of up to three years without losing the “grandfathering.” I decided that if I could not pull together a crew for the 2020 haul-out season, I would reorganize Pecks’ Boats, Inc. into what I really believe it should be: a consumer owned cooperative. I was leaning toward shutting down and organizing a comeback for the launching season, or even post pandemic. Then one of my customers, James Ormonde Staveley-O’Carroll, stepped forward and declared that he and his son, Mike, could handle the fall haul-outs and winter service work. They would work on speculation and trust that we could make it work for everyone in the end.
Ormonde had proven himself invaluable in early 2020 by repairing and maintaining our heavy equipment. I was amazed to learn that he had a Class-A CDL truck driver’s license. He had not only hauled, but also built big sailboats. You can find a more detailed profile on our website, but suffice to say that Ormonde’s skill set is very similar to that of John Peck — perhaps a little stronger on sailing, and weaker on punning.
The prospect of moving forward with someone who really understands boats and boatyards gave me great hope, and the fact that Ormonde is enthusiastic about my idea to turn Pecks’ Boats, Inc. into a consumer owned cooperative has put new wind in my sails. I am actively pursuing this potentially more resilient way of providing services, and I need your help to guide the development of the project. The basic idea is to gradually transfer the ownership of the marine services done by Pecks’ Boats, Inc. to interested customers, while building an infrastructure that creates a Community of boat owners, rather than a typical business. Think of it as an inland yacht club with the goal of keeping boating affordable and attainable. I will not get into details or try to sell you the idea here, as my more immediate concern is to give you the context that will help the Cooperative be sustainable and keep the commercial value of the property from overshadowing other potential.
Rather than burden the Cooperative with full responsibility for the two-acre boatyard property, it will be one of several entities working out of 3800 Falmouth Road. These service providers, and others who want to support maintaining the property as a local resource, will be called Peck’s Maritime Collaborative — an organization that already has charter members and T-shirts! As an umbrella organization, Peck’s Maritime Collaborative (PMC) can address a wide range of maritime concerns, from preserving important maritime traditions to providing housing for interns and wash-a-shores. The goal is for PMC to become a community organization that can sustainably own the boatyard real estate, just as the members of the Cooperative will eventually own the business that is currently Pecks’ Boats, Inc.
As the owner of the property, I will provide incentives for environmentally and socially responsive action with below-market rent. The property will need to be self-supporting; if PMC can also provide me with an income in my retirement years, we will have created an attractive model for other business / property owners who are approaching retirement. We will not be in uncharted territory. I have been deeply inspired by cooperatives and other non-traditional business models supported by a non-profit think-tank called B-Lab. Those interested in understanding my broader philosophical direction can Google B-Lab or B-Corp. I will also be putting some relevant links about B-Corps and cooperatives on the website.
To move forward, both the Cooperative and the Collaborative need a vision statement and a plan of action. Both need structural organization. Both need to be self-supporting. Both need a steady hand – someone who can put in more consistent administrative hours than I can, given that much of my time is dedicated to caring for my 85-year-old father in my home. Miraculously, just when we started to slow down after the hauling season, we were approached by someone with experience in exactly the kind of rebirth and development that we need. Ted Austin, who joined us last month, also has a bio on the website. He has come aboard to help us redesign the daily operations of Pecks’ Boats, Inc. to accommodate cooperative values while moving the real property toward a more sustainable and resilient future under Peck’s Maritime Collaborative.
Ormonde and Mike did an amazing job of handling this past fall’s haul-out season and winter work. They have been busy with the relentless cleaning, organizing, repairing, and maintaining the equipment buildings, and grounds. Now that they are more familiar with the ramps, the routes, and the routines, we are looking forward to the intrinsically less complex job of putting boats back in the water this spring. We are also organizing ourselves so that the launching season can happen in tandem with the official launch of Peck’s Maritime Collaborative and the first stages of transforming Pecks’ Boats, Inc. into a cooperative. Watch for more information on our website. In the meantime, please fill in and send back the enclosed Spring Service Form, which has options for joining Peck’s Maritime Collaborative as a charter member. You might not notice too much difference between this and a typical launching season, but your participation will help redirect our course to initiate changes that we owe to future generations.
With Hope & in Peace,
Laura C. Opie
President, Pecks’ Boats, Inc.
Founder & Focaliser, Peck’s Maritime Collaborative