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Larger yachts navigating South Florida waterway

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Navigation is easier for large yachts on their way to Derecktor, Dania Cut Super Yacht Repair and Broward Shipyard in Dania Cut-off Canal south of Ft. Lauderdale. It’s been more than a year since dredging increased depths from 10 feet to about 15 feet in the waterway. The canal, located one and a half miles south of Port Everglades, was dredged to 17 feet deep to allow for a 15-foot controlling depth after the accumulation of silt.

“The Dania Canal is far more friendly these days, and the passage to and from Derecktor’s is far easier and less of an issue with the tide,” said Capt. Len Beck, who went to the shipyard with the 170-foot Feadship M/Y Battered Bull throughout the dredging.

Gone are the days of tides deciding schedules, said James Brewer, business development for Derecktor.

“Before, if the tide dictated midnight, we did it then,” he said. “Captains love the fact they can come and go, and the need for local knowledge is gone. “Now, it’s a clear, deep waterway.”

Numbers are up for revenue and yacht projects at shipyards and marinas along the canal. Although most have made other improvements as well, dredging gets a portion of the credit for improving business.

Dania Cut Super Yacht Repair has seen a near 60 percent growth since the dredging, said Jason Harrington, the yard’s director of business development. Much of that is due to the addition of seven new slips and new shore power at the east end of the property, but also the dredging the yard did inside the basins in conjunction with the canal work.

“The dredge was very important to us as it gave us better clearance for our deeper draft boats,” Harrington said. “We routinely cater to 11- to 13-foot draft boats with lengths to 300 feet.”

Derecktor attributes some of its growth to the addition of a 900-ton lift at the end of 2012, as well as growth in the marine industry.

“We can’t distinguish between our new lift and an uptick in the economy, but there is a positive net effect for all the businesses in Dania Cut with the increased ease of ingress and egress during any tide,” Brewer said of the dredging.

The Florida Inland Navigation District, the group that headed the dredge project, estimates the economic increase to be between $3.6 million and $9.2 million per year, plus between 24 to 38 new jobs for the marine facilities along the canal.

Marina Manager Barry Armband of Westrec’s Harbour Towne Marina said the marina has seen an increase in business and has upgraded to a 100-ton lift. The marina hosts dockage for vessels up to 200 feet and it has waited for years for the deeper water, Armband said.

“We are glad the dredging is done; better late than never,” he said.

Construction, repairs and renovations haven’t stopped with the dredging. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, one of the busiest in the United States, is another part of the area’s growth. Located just north of Taylor Road, which is the roadway to the area’s shipyards, the airport’s new runway is scheduled to open in September.

The airport work cleared trees so yachting businesses are now visible from U.S. 1, and a new road was built connecting Taylor Road with U.S. 1 and Port Everglades.

“We’ve had a lot of cleanup work after the dust and debris of the airport,” Brewer said. “We even had dirt roads for a while.”

Many of Derecktor’s future projects include upgrading the covered storage and doing asphalt repair, Brewer said.

Dania Cut Super Yacht Repair has yard improvements in the works, also. It has plans to also dredge the basin near its eastern slips this summer, Harrington said.

The deeper water seems to have encouraged several of the yards to create working agreements with each other and the area has a renewed sense of community, Brewer said. The shipyards work together to accommodate ever larger vessels for wet slips and Derecktor works with its neighbors by lifting larger vessels.

“We are stronger together than apart,” Brewer said.

On the south side of the canal, Harbour Towne Marina offers services for the smaller end of the megayacht spectrum.

“We realized many of the larger yachts go to Derecktor, but some of the 100-foot yachts can’t go there, they are too small to lift,” Armband said. “We are filling the need for 100-ton yachts.”

MarineMax Yacht Repair Facility General Manager Dan Kingston agreed that each business on the canal has specific expertise, but all benefit from helping a neighbor.

“We’re the small kids on the block, but we have a 103-foot Westport here now,” Kingston said of the last yard on the western end of the canal before it narrows toward U.S. 1. “We work with Derecktor on and off. It’s a good thing for us to work together.”

Brewer would like to see Dania Cut marketed as a destination. He compares the concept to European marinas where several business from one country or region work together.

“In the European model, you see groups together, but then the Americans are separate,” Brewer said. “It’s not necessarily the American way. It’s a grassroots movement at the moment; but if so, we all benefit and eventually the customer benefits.”

His vision is Dania Cut-off Canal and surrounding area as one-stop shopping for all yacht needs. “Perhaps add crew housing?” he said.

To make it a reality, Brewer said all the businesses must get active and go get the business.

“When we ask in the Mediterranean, ‘have you heard of Dania Cut?’ They say no,” Brewer said.

“But, what they mean is ‘not yet’.”

 

Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

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