Melissa Walsh

The Return of The Goat Yard

Detroit River Living | April 2020 | "The Return of The Goat Yard"

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The Return of The Goat Yard By Melissa Walsh

Years ago, there was a magical place of lovely chaos called Detroit Boat Works, where a group of merry sailors kept an antique 296-ton steel tugboat, a goat named Nemo, an armored vehicle, a fire truck, school buses, an “aqua-car,” and the world’s largest fleet of Crescent sloops.

In 2018, sailors Hanson Bratton and Alex Hume partnered to purchase this beloved boat yard at the foot of St. Jean on the Detroit River, known for decades among local sailors as the Goat Yard.

Nemo the goat was a gift from the yard’s proprietor, Stephen Hume (Alex’s uncle), who died in 2013, to his long-time girlfriend, Sue McDonald. Nemo became the beloved pet of the gang at Detroit Boat Works, hence “the Goat Yard.”

Early this year, Bratton and Hume officially gave the yard its true name.

“It will be Goat Yard Marine, LLC,” says Bratton.

Focusing on servicing sailboats, Bratton and Hume added floating docks, improved the seawall, and acquired Edison Yacht Club’s gin pole and a 40,000-pound yard trailer. Thomas Hardware Company relocated from Grosse Pointe Park to the Goat Yard.

“We’re going to be a proper sailboat-oriented boatyard with boat storage, boat repair, and boat painting,” says Bratton.

“I’m just so impressed with what they have done," says McDonald. "The waterfront needs to have boating-related businesses.”

The yard required major tidying up, including removing the antique tugboat. The yard’s new owners were left with two options: cut the tug up and scrap it or restore it and find a place to store it. They chose the latter option.

In May 2019, the tugboat moved to nearby Bayview Yacht Club, where it was restored for use as a temporary club house, while BYC’s new club house is being built. The tugboat’s pilot house serves as the Goat Yard’s administrative office. Since November, BYC members have been dining, drinking, and dancing in the tugboat’s spacious cabin, just as frolicsome sailors gathered there years earlier with Stephen Hume and the Goat Yard gang.

The Goat Yard is the setting of some of Detroit's most amusing stranger-than-fiction tales, including Stephen Hume's prank-ridden mayoral campaign to oust Coleman Young. It is where he and his buddies built and launched Detroit’s one and only “aqua-car," and from where the Crescent battle cry “Huy, huy, harya” was heard on the Detroit River.

“Those were wonderful years,” says MacDonald, “and Stephen was an amazing, inventive, and fun-loving guy. He really put the pleasure in pleasure boating. He really was magic.”

Located at 95 St. Jean in Detroit, the Goat Yard is open daily at 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thomas Hardware is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

To purchase the documentary The Goat Yard, visit thegoatyard.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/purchase-a-dvd-of-the-goat-yard/.

Caption: Built in 1911 as the “The Polana,” the tugboat launched from Kingston, Ontario, to the port of Quebec, where it was used as a quarantine ship. In 1930, she became “Jalobert,” an asset of the Canadian Ministry of Marine Fisheries until it was sold in 1954. It became “Macassa,” “Queen City,” and finally Windsor’s river restaurant “The Tug Boat” in 1980. At BYC, the vessel again sports the name “Queen City,” but sailors dub it “The Tug.”]