Tip No. 1 in the universal handy-dandy fix-it guide is avoid major repairs during the fortnight stretch of St. Peter’s Fiesta and Fourth of July. Especially if it involves a huge crane and your business is in the heart of The Fort neighborhood.

Too late.

Cape Pond Ice, bedeviled for years by an aging and undependable ice-making system, began installing a new self-contained Freon system on Friday morning that, in both a practical and symbolic sense, represents a major investment along the Gloucester waterfront.

“It’s an insane time of year to do this, but we spent the better part of two months trying to fix the old system,” said Scott Memhard, the veritable face of Cape Pond Ice all these years, who now partners with his son Larry and Rick Kohn in the business. “But we see this as an investment in the future of the Gloucester fishing fleet.”

Memhard said the new Vogt system, which costs about $250,000, will be vastly more efficient and more appropriately sized for the demands of the city’s diminished fishing fleet. It replaces an old ammonia-based system — the Turbo TIGAR — that was installed in 1992.

“Somehow, we kept it working,” Memhard said. “But in the end, we had problems with controls and the CPU (central processing unit) that we just couldn’t fix. And a lot of the wiring had corroded. It was pretty worn out after more than 25 years.” 

On Friday morning, as the temperature stretched toward 80 degrees under a crystalline sky, the Fort was a busy place. It was a telling departure from 1992, when the old Turbo TIGAR system was brand new and installed in the middle of a snowstorm. 

Tractor trailer trucks, delivering to some of the shoreside businesses that comprise much of the city’s waterfront infrastructure, competed for space on the neighborhood’s narrow streets. The parking lot of the Beauport Hotel Gloucester was full and a huge crane hovered over the ice plant at 104 Commercial St. Within hours, Fiesta revelers would join the mix.

On the ground, workers were in the sweaty process of ripping out the old ice-making system in advance of installing the new one.

In the end, Memhard said, there was no real debate whether to replace the old ice-making system.

Cape Pond Ice, as it still searches for other uses for the facility, needs to retain even a scaled-down version of its ice production and delivery system to vessels because it provides the marine industrial use required of parcels with the city Designated Port Area. And there still are active fishing vessels that require significant amounts of ice to fill their holds and ice down their catch.

And the timetable for getting the new system operational? That’s a tad fluid at the moment.

“We hope to have it up and running soon,” Memhard said.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.