When Ocean Alliance first brought its 93-foot Odyssey to Gloucester in 1999, there were no docks at the former Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory large enough to accommodate the research vessel.

Soon, that will not be the case.

Ocean Alliance is in the midst of building 132 feet of seasonal docks at its Rocky Neck headquarters, an addition it envisions as another step toward its stated goal of creating an oceanographic innovation center at the very mouth of Gloucester's Inner Harbor.

"We see these docks as a triple threat," said Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance's executive director.

Kerr said the new docks satisfy an obvious need for Ocean Alliance as a place to tie up the organization's vessels and serve as a transfer space for equipment.

He said they also will provide a community benefit as a stop for the Harbor Shuttle, as well as providing another watery gateway onto Rocky Neck and additional docking space for much larger craft during popular events, such as the Schooner Festival.

"Their use during the Schooner Festival is a classic example of meeting a common need," Kerr said. "I think we will have 196 feet of frontage when we're done, which means we could probably handle four 100-foot boats."

But perhaps most important to Kerr, given Ocean Alliance's mission of research and innovation, the enhanced dockage could help attract more research vessels, pleasure craft, sail training and education vessels and other boats that could play vital roles in the area's evolving Blue Economy.

"It's just another positive step along the Gloucester waterfront," Kerr said, adding that Ocean Alliance has completed $2.4 million in renovations at the historic Paint Factory site, including a new roof on the main manufactory building.

Workers from Marblehead-based Smith Marine were busy driving pilings on Wednesday and Kerr said the new docks, which will cost about $240,000 to build and install, are expected to be completed by Monday, with utilities to follow.

The new 12-foot wide docks and heavy-duty timber floats will provide 2,208 square feet of space. The docks were built by Custom Float Services of Portland, Maine. Newburyport Bank was the lender on the project. 

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

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