As a destination for boat repair, Wilmington has much to offer. The 10-mile stretch from Historic Downtown to Wrightsville Beach offers onshore diversity and ease of access, with Wilmington International Airport (ILM) just three miles from Port City Marina proper.
“Boaters using our services might spend a couple nights at the downtown Hilton, then a couple nights at Wrightsville Beach. They love the variety of the area,” says Tricia Bennett, of Bennett Brothers Yachts.
In the waters surrounding Port City Marina, both up and down the Cape Fear River, and along the Intracoastal Waterway, the Wilmington area’s boatyards are convenient, comprehensive, and competitive in the field.
Here’s an alphabetical round-up of our area’s main venues, making your sail up the Cape Fear strategic, as well as scenic.
With a thriving local business, Bearing remains a solid option for area boat owners and newcomers exploring the Cape Fear basin. From slipholders’ needs to transient repairs, to Snowbirds heading south in the fall, north in the spring, Bearing Marine Centers sees a lot of traffic.
“We’ll service boats during stopovers on their Great Loop voyage,” says Tim Nichols, Operations Manager, of the 29,400 mile trek around US waterways, including the Erie Canal and Great Lakes.)
“When they’re doing the Loop, they may take a break and choose boat storage, either in slips or on dry land. We’ve got a really safe, secure facility; we’re in a basin setting, so it’s a great place to hunker down during a hurricane.”
With 25 years in the business, Bearing employs some of the area’s most qualified technicians. “We’re the only boatyard between Norfolk and Charleston with two American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) certified master technicians,” shares Nichols. As the John Deere dealer for North Carolina, Bearing’s also the only WestMar dealer in the area for stabilizers and thrusters.
Electronic toys and add-ons are an integral part of today’s yachting industry, and Bearing Marine fine-tunes all sorts of gadgets. “We definitely keep up with the growing electronic market’s needs,” says Nichols.
Located across from Port City Marina on the Battleship North Carolina side of the Cape Fear River, and also on the Intracoastal Waterway, Bell Hart Marine Services meets and greets boaters around the region’s waterways.
With 12 years in the business, Bell Hart Marine became a natural extension of founder and owner Dwayne Dehart’s boating background; having grown up around boats, Dehart’s been in the boatyard business for 30 years.
“We do mobile service, from Southport to Topsail,” says Dehart, while boat owners can also sail their vessels to either full-service Bell Hart location.
On-site, Bell Hart performs Carolina Canvas and Awning repairs, a brand known for high quality marine canvas, while Moon Marine Carpentry specializes in all types of marine carpentry.
“Our river location is great during a hurricane,” says Dehart. “We’re not even a half-mile from Port City Marina, as the crow flies,” he adds, with a smile. “We service a lot of boats out there.”
Located on the Intracoastal Waterway, just across from the Carolina Beach Inlet, Bell Hart’s second location hosts an 8600 sq ft facility. “We do outboard work, fiberglass, mechanics, electronics, you name it. With our travel lift service (25-ton and 77-ton), we’re a great choice for all-around repairs.”
Bell Hart’s also a premier Mercury, Verado, and Cummins Mercruiser dealer and service center, as well as full-service yacht brokerage. Seasoned yacht broker Jim Grantham brings a combined 30 years experience in the marine and yacht sales industry, making Bell Hart a well-rounded marine services spot.
Bennett Brothers sits just around the corner from Port City Marina, on the north side of the Isabel Holmes Bridge. “We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary this year!” says Tricia Bennett, of the family business that keep growing.
The Cape Fear Region is known for having exceptionally skilled boat craftsman, a line of work almost indigenous to the area, and Bennett Brothers’ values its loyal, long-standing work force; this includes Tricia’s son, Connor, aka ‘The Next Generation’, with his passion for all things yacht—and boat.
“From the Bottom of the Keel to the Top of the Mast,’” says Connor, with a smile, of Bennett Brothers’ full-service slogan. “Yacht owners heading northeast in the summer, to the Caribbean in the winter, will just give us the keys during the off-season. We do whatever’s needed to get them all set for boating season,” Connor explains. “Less and less people want to work on their own boat, because they value their free time. They’d rather spend that time boating!”
From running the engines to cleaning the boats, to repair, painting, and year-round maintenance, Bennett Brothers specializes in ‘all systems go.’
Through yacht brokering and management, Bennett Brothers continues to expand beyond local waters. “International clients frequently pass through for repair and restoration—right now, one of our regulars is coming in from New Zealand,” shares Connor.
Each November, around 200 oyster lovers find their way to Bennett Brothers Annual Oyster Roast, where boating, live music, and fresh oysters bring the boating community together.
Close to Leland, in Navassa—along the Cape Fear River, and just minutes from the Intracoastal Waterway—Cape Fear Boat Works prides itself on being one of the largest growing marine facilities on the East Coast.
A lifelong boater, owner Sam Law lives aboard his 70-foot Cheoy Lee trawler, keeping current on marine business and close to his busy, full-service boatyard.
“Cape Fear Boat Works has the largest lift for 100 miles, in either direction,” shares Law. “We can store 250 boats, more than any other boatyard around. We’re also 15 feet above waterline, with deep water—it’s an extremely safe place during a hurricane.”
With an 88-ton travel lift and a 12-ton marine forklift, Cape Fear Boat Works boasts unlimited, and affordable, storage capacity, and a 270 x 100 service building.
“A 75-foot boat can sit with us for $250 a month. We have several boats from Canada, whose owners know how cheap and easy it is to leave their boats with us. They can extend that vacation by a couple months with the time and money they save!”
From detailing interior and exteriors, painting bottoms, fiberglass repairs and engine install and reparation, Cape Fear Boat Works offers a comprehensive menu of services, making it a competitive choice for boaters and yachters in the area.
“We’re definitely a one-stop shopping facility,” says Law.