On the Vineyard Haven waterfront you can see, smell and hear the bustle of activity. The town's boatyards are all party to boat building and launching. Anyone who walks the shores of the town will discover a wide variety of vessels undergoing extensive work. It was a busy winter and there is evidence everywhere.

Maciel Marine, Martha's Vineyard Shipyard and Gannon and Benjamin boatyards are witness to a resurgence in interest in Island built and restored vessels.

At Gannon and Benjamin, wooden boat specialists Nat Benjamin and Ross Gannon have completed the hull of a 28-foot, canoe-stem yawl with a 7-foot, 6-inch beam. The vessel is being built for a Columbia University professor, Bill Diver. Mr. Benjamin designed it and work began in January. "It is inspired by L. Francis Herreshoff. It is a modified version of his Rozinante design vessel." She is being built for coastal cruising. The owner plans to take her north to sail in the waters of Maine and Nova Scotia. The new 32-foot mast of the vessel extends across the boatyard workshop. This week a workman hand sandpapered the mast, while Mr. Benjamin and his crew of two other men worked on the new deck.

"Vineyard Haven is always busy but it is not recognized," said Mr. Benjamin. "We've got a pile of projects." They plan on launching the vessel in June.

Work has begun on two of the town's mascots. Gary Maynard is leading an ambitious restoration project on the 90-foot white-hulled Alabama which has sat on her mooring for 27 years, mastless and without life. Mr. Maynard runs G.S. Maynard and Co., also known as Five Corners Shipyard. He was contracted to spend the next year restoring her to her original glory for the benefit of young sailors. "We will rig her up for taking kids' groups out," he said. With the rising interest in exposing young people to the power and pleasures of the sea, the vessel is going to be a sight in a year's time. "When she is restored, she will change the appearance of Vineyard Haven harbor," Mr. Maynard said. Instead of seeing the Shenandoah there will be two working large-sized vessels in the harbor. Add to that the many visitors that come each year.

The Alabama was built in 1926 in Pensacola, Fla., for the Mobile Bar Pilots (not to be confused with Mobile Bay). She is a Thomas McManus designed vessel. He designed some of the best Gloucester fishing schooners. She was purchased and brought to the Vineyard by Robert S. Douglas, owner of the 108-foot topsail schooner Shenandoah. "He had always intended to rig her up as a passenger vessel," said Mr. Maynard. Mr. Maynard has worked on the Alabama off and on over the last six years. She is in good shape. She is built of hard pine, trunnel fastened. "She is in very good shape for a vessel of her age." He expects to have the vessel ready for sailing in 1996.

Mr. Maynard is also doing restoration work on the stern of Shenandoah and they are restoring an old 24-foot catboat and doing interior work on a 24-foot Noank sloop called Wilbur.

At Maciel Marine, John Holmes is building a unique vessel which will be highly visible in the harbor next summer. The metal boatbuilder is fabricating a 20-foot pumpout boat from sheets of quarter-inch aluminum. The vessel will empty holding tanks for the town's visiting boaters. The new vessel was designed by Bob Henry of Bay Marine Engineering Inc. in Barrington, R.I. She is the result of a lengthy effort by a town committee, at a cost of $46,442.

The vessel will be powered by a diesel engine which will run both the power and the pumping system. She has a 9-foot, 6-inch beam. Mr. Holmes began building her at the end of February. "It's the sixth aluminum boat I've built," he said. "There are a lot of headaches. I go home tired. Still, it is really neat seeing it come together." This week, Mr. Holmes hopes to complete the hull and turn her over. Launching is scheduled for May 1.

Mr. Holmes has made many other vessels. Three years ago he completed a 22-foot push tug called Sheila Ann which travels about the Vineyard waters.

The new vessel, when completed, will be painted with white epoxy and will have a light gray interior.

At Martha's Vineyard Shipyard, the crew completed restoring a 22-foot, double-ended work boat called Filly. The vessel was built in 1898 and spent her early years in Edgartown. She was transported from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven in the 1940s. She was retired from the boatyard in 1989.

"We started working on her last fall. We put in a new engine, new shaft. She has been rewired, received a new coat of paint and has new fenders," said Philip P. Hale, president of the shipyard. She is going back to Edgartown as part of the shipyard's expansion of services in that town. "Everybody in the shipyard had a hand in the work. She is a vessel from another era."

Along with the other winter work done at the shipyard, Mr. Hale said his crews restored a 16-foot Herreshoff. The 80-year-old wooden boat received a new keel.

"We had a very productive winter. Vineyard Haven is a year-round harbor. We hauled out our work boats on Jan. 15. We changed the oil, worked on them, painted them and put them back in the water on March 1. We put the first boats back in the water three weeks ago. The season is arriving."

Robert E. Maciel, owner of Maciel Marine, has his hands full. Last winter, the marina built a new $200,000 mechanic's shop. The huge work area rivals in size most of the Island's largest churches. The structure measures 120 feet long, is 50 feet wide and stands 31 feet tall. Mr. Maciel said growth in his industry has forced him to provide adequate year-round work space. For 20 years the business has been an authorized Mercury dealer and service. Just this last year the company became an authorized Yamaha dealer.

"It has been a busy winter," said Mr. Maciel.

Within view of the Maciel Marine shop, Ken Child has been welding a 25-foot steel barge that will be used as a floating dock.

This week at the Tisbury Marine Railway Company off the Beach Road, the Chappaquiddick ferry On Time 3 was high and dry getting her annual maintenance. Not far away, the 46-foot, single-screw tugboat Taurus of Packer Marine Inc. is coming to the end of a lengthy renovation project. The vessel is expected to be ready to work again this summer.

Vineyard Haven harbor is a dynamic community of waterfront interests. There is a sense of pride of place among the boat builders. "This is not a competitive environment," said Mr. Maynard. "There is plenty of work for everybody and it seems that we have been attracting work to the Island." For the boat builders, he said, it is nice to have four marine railways. "It is nice to have a commercial yard at Ralph's [Packer]. It is very helpful to have fork lifts and dock space. It is pretty exciting to see what is happening at each of the four working railways. To think that you can get anything done on a wooden vessel by any of a number of different places and individuals is great."