Prime Marina is in negotiations to sell its entire Martha’s Vineyard business operation to Safe Harbor Marinas, a large and growing owner and operator of boat yards across the U.S., town officials with knowledge of the discussions confirmed this week.

The complicated transaction is pending a legal signoff from the town of Edgartown, and is believed to include Prime Marina’s locations in both Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, as well as property used for storage and servicing in Katama, officials said.

“I know those two entities are in negotiations for a sale,” Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty said last week.

Based in Dallas, Safe Harbor Marinas has expanded aggressively since its founding in 2015, buying or consolidating about 100 marinas and boat yards in 22 states nationwide. In October 2020, the company merged with the real estate investment trust Sun Communities Inc. in a deal valued at approximately $2.1 billion, according to releases from the companies.

Prime Marina, a smaller Miami, Fla., based company, has owned the Vineyard Haven and Edgartown businesses since 2016, according to land records. Along with the two Island boat yards, Prime Marina operates a large marina in Coconut Grove, Fla.

Vineyard Haven location includes 51 boat slips and six repair slips. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Safe Harbor did not respond to a telephone message left at its corporate office seeking comment. Prime Marina general manager Chris Scott also did not return telephone calls from the Gazette.

But town and harbor officials in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven confirmed that the negotiations are under way.

Unlike Prime Marina’s Vineyard Haven boat yard at 100 Lagoon Pond Road, which the company owns outright, the Edgartown marina at the foot of Morse street is owned by the town and leased to the company in a complicated easement and shared cost arrangement that was drawn up in 1997 between the town and previous owner.

Under the current agreement, Prime Marina leases approximately 60 per cent of the 3,300-square-foot harbor master building from the town, as well as about a half-dozen floating dock slips for boat repairs, town documents show.

According to Mr. Hagerty, any transaction involving the sale of the Prime Marina would require an estoppel certificate signed by the town, effectively transferring the easements and conditions of the tenancy over to the new purchaser — in this case, Safe Harbor. The certificate requires signatures from the town selectmen.

Mr. Hagerty said the two sides met with the town and harbor master Charlie Blair about three weeks ago to discuss the transaction.

“I had a meeting . . . to discuss the expectations of the estoppel certificate and what the course of action moving forward is,” Mr. Hagerty said.

Safe Harbor Marinas is headquarter in Dallas. — Mark Alan Lovewell

In an interview this week, Mr. Blair said managers at Prime Marina thought the sale would close earlier this month but that details still haven’t been finalized, in part because Safe Harbor has requested permission from the town to conduct an environmental study on the property.

“They are a big outfit,” Mr. Blair said, referring to Safe Harbor. “They are very thorough.”

Prime Marina’s operations represent the largest full-service marina entity on the Island — and the only marina operation with real estate on the Edgartown harbor. The company offers boat maintenance, storage, support personnel and rentals, as well as a repair and service shop.

The two-acre Vineyard Haven marina at the western edge of the Lagoon Pond includes 51 leased boat slips and six repair slips. Tisbury harbor master John Crocker estimated that the marina hauls more than 200 boats per year.

The proposed sale comes as the Island’s only other private waterfront-based boat service operation, the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard in Vineyard Haven, is planning a large expansion that would include a 48-slip marina on the Lagoon side of its property. The expansion project is currently pending review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and has seen pushback from environmental groups on the Island, including the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group.

Mr. Blair said he understood that Safe Harbor is contemplating a package deal for both the Edgartown and Vineyard Haven properties, including the Katama storage facility.

Both the Vineyard Haven and Edgartown Prime Marina locations have long histories that date to the mid-20th century, transitioning from family businesses to today’s corporate ownership.

Formerly Maciel Marine, the boat yard on the Lagoon was established by boat builder Erford W. Burt just after World War II. In 1985, longtime employee Robert Maciel bought the business, renaming it.

In Edgartown, the property at North Wharf was operated as Edgartown Marine by Leonard Greene for 25 years before he shut down after a feud with the town in 1994. In 1997, voters at town meeting approved the town purchase of the property for $1.4 million and arranged an 89-year lease with the boat yard, financed partially by fuel sales and the rental of slips.

“It was a quick deal,” Mr. Blair said. “And we got it for $1.4 million, which is nothing. People were going to buy that property and put a private residence there.”

Ralph Packer had a 10-year lease with the town to provide fuel at the North Wharf, although that has recently been renegotiated to a one-year agreement.

George and Sheryl Rogers bought Maciel Marine in 2011 and Edgartown Marine in 2013, operating both as family marina outfits. They sold the properties in a bundled transaction to Prime Marina in 2016. The total sale price was not disclosed, but land changed hands for a total of $8.2 million.

Mr. Blair said he hoped the potential sale to Safe Harbor will keep a full-service boat yard in Edgartown intact.

“I really need a good boat yard,” the harbor master said. “If they do great service, that’s what I need. So I’m hoping that if it does go through, and Safe Harbor moves in, we have a first-class outfit.”