Brendon Stock remembers in 2015 when the maritime community packed a Port of Astoria Commission meeting, pleading for the agency not to close the boatyard on Pier 3 in favor of log exports.
With log exports gone, the Port has a renewed focus on expanding the boatyard Stock now manages.
Originally from Seaside, Stock worked in the oil fields of Alaska in summers during high school. He served in the U.S. Air Force after graduation, returned in 2005 and worked in forestry and construction.
The Great Recession dried up the construction market. Stock got a job at the Fred Meyer gas station in Warrenton to make ends meet for his wife and their children. Someone from the Port recognized Stock and asked if he wanted a job.
“As far as marine industry, I was actually pretty blind to it,” he said. “I didn’t even know boats had to come out of the water.”
But Stock saw an opportunity to utilize his knowledge of heavy equipment. He spent the next decade as an assistant learning under Steve Barkemeyer, the longtime boatyard manager who retired in January. The Port interviewed replacement candidates and decided Stock was the right fit given his familiarity with customers.
Stock oversees about 40 spots where boaters work on everything from fishing vessels to sailing boats lifted into and out of the water with an 88-ton cradle.
Shortly after Stock started, Westerlund Log Handlers offered the Port a lucrative part in exporting logs to China. The company stored logs on Pier 3, dramatically cutting into the boatyard’s footprint. Then Astoria Forest Products took over, building a sorting yard, installing a debarker and further squeezing the boatyard.
“It made a really unwelcoming atmosphere,” Stock said. “When you’re trying to paint and do nice work on your boat, and every morning you wake up to sawdust all over your boat, that word got out, and we kind of got hurt from it.”
Stock said the outpouring of support to save the boatyard was heartening, given its tenuous future in the face of more lucrative log exports. The log-exporting business and Astoria Forest Products abruptly disappeared in 2019 amid trade wars between the U.S. and China.
The Port has pivoted back toward a previous master plan that focused on a boat-working cluster around Pier 3 and is now pursuing state support to expand on the concept. The Port of Toledo near Newport has secured millions of dollars in state and federal grants to develop a boatyard on the Yaquina River and buy a 620-ton lift.
Stock said an expanded footprint, a covered workspace out of the wind and a larger boat lift would do wonders for the regional economy.
“It would also be good for Oregon in itself,” he said. “We would create so much commerce. I just had a fisherman come to me yesterday. And he was like, ‘You guys would be the kings of the West Coast.’”