By New England Boating Magazine Editor Tom Richardson
MacDougalls’ Cape Cod Marine Service lays claim to being the Cape’s largest marina, able to accommodate and service huge luxury yachts up to 150 feet, but its beginnings were decidedly humble. In fact, it all began with wooden catboats.
At the start of the 20th century, local South Cape catboat builders Crosby, Bigelow, and Phinney were engaged in a fierce rivalry for their unique and popular catboat designs. In 1911, in an attempt to separate himself from his rivals, Captain W. W. Phinney moved his boatbuilding operations from Cataumet to Falmouth Harbor, which had recently been created by the dredging of Deacon’s Pond by the U.S. Army Corps. By 1938, an aging Captain Phinney sold the boatyard to William MacDougall and his two partners for a sum of $18,000 and the assumption of a $25,000 mortgage. MacDougalls’ of Falmouth Harbor was born.
On September 21 of that same year, the infamous Hurricane of ‘38 struck Cape Cod, providing MacDougall with an opportunity to expand his business—by now called Cape Cod Marina—through the repair of boats damaged by the storm. Another growth spurt occurred at the onset of World War II, when the boatyard was enlisted by the government to convert some 25 sailing yachts into “coast watchers” for the defense of local waters.
In the mid-1960s, William MacDougall bought out his partners and brought his children into the business. After a decade of family ownership, the MacDougall family sold Cape Cod Marina to Ocean Research Equipment in 1972. In 1986, when ORE was contemplating closing the Cape Cod Marina and replacing it with a condominium development, the McNeil, Mooney and Berwind families formed a partnership to purchase the yard and maintain it as a boating facility.
The Berwinds became sole owners of MacDougalls’ Cape Cod Marina in 2001, and set about a major upgrade of the entire facility. New floating docks for vessels up to 150 feet, a 75-ton Travelift and enormous service buildings that could accommodate oceangoing yachts were installed. A clubhouse for existing customers and transient boaters featuring showers, laundry facilities a library and more was also built.
Today, “the big red building” on Falmouth Harbor stands as a beacon to boaters of all types looking for a convenient place to keep their boat through the season or a convenient stopping point during their travels up and down the coast. The facility can handle any type of service, from diesel repowers to complex electronics rigging to custom canvas work. Clearly, MacDougalls’ has come a long way since the early days of catboat buildings, and from the looks of things they’ll be around for another 75 years.