About 18 months ago, Capt. Bernard Calot tried to get his boat into Rolly Marine on the New River in Ft. Lauderdale, but it was full. They suggested he look into dockage at neighboring Universal Marine Center.
Not only did he find room for the 121-foot M/Y Olga, he found room for about a dozen other yachts, which seemed odd since shipyards all around South Florida were full. This place was empty.
This was the old Greek yard, also known as Ft. Lauderdale Shipyard in 2004 when its Synchrolift collapsed and dropped the 130-foot M/Y Sacajawea. The yard was bought out of bankruptcy about six years ago for about $12 million, Calot said. Like many properties, it sat idle during the recession, welcoming the few people who knew it was open and who didn’t need services or amenities.
When Calot discovered it in the winter of 2013-2014, he called some friends and within a week, a half dozen boats were there.
Calot told the story as he rode around the revitalized yard in a golf cart in late August, pointing out the new paint job on the leasable warehouse space, noting where trailers and parking will go, and explaining how the docks will be reconfigured over the coming months.
“I love this,” said Calot, who became marketing manager at UMC in July. “I love boats, and I love the challenge. I have been really lucky to have good owners, nine years with Olga and three years before that. But now, every night I go home, just 11 miles from here. I got a new motorcycle and I ride that everywhere. And I can work with captains, on projects, on boats and solve problems. I just love it. To be on the other side of the fence, I’m learning so much.”
The yard makes its money by providing slips and some services such as hauling of tenders, storage and space rentals. It charges a percentage of work done by its preferred vendors, and charges a gate fee for contractors not on site.
“I’m trying to be competitive,” Calot said. “You know the frustration of captains for the past 10 years, of everything being so expensive and there not being any space. Ft. Lauderdale needs more dockage.”
In high season, he says he charges $2.75 a foot, and gate fees are $35. Low season rates are about $2 a foot.
The yard has a lift for tenders. but there are no plans to haul yachts. In addition to the cost of a lift (about $1 million), the yard would need to fortify the parking area to handle the weight of hauled vessels (about $3 million) so that service must wait. So they are hauling tenders only; storage is about $360 a month on land in the undercover area in the middle of the yard.
Managers of the yard got the OK in late August from the owners to spend close to $3 million to upgrade the power, shift some docks, dig out some land, and reconfigure the entrance to double the amount of slips from 17 to 35, about 4,000 linear feet. The basin has about 9-13 feet of depth.
“On Nov. 1, we’re supposed to be able to flip the breaker,” Calot said, giving all slips up to 480 volts of power.
One of the key changes will be the entry to the yard off the New River. Tucked in a bend of the river, Calot noted that it can be a challenge to maneuver into the basin. Removing some land on the west side of the existing entrance will straighten out the entry to make it easier and make more room for dockage on the east side.
The first phase of the new concrete floating docks was expected to begin on Oct. 12, with the rest of the docks expected to arrive in early November as the rest of town is busy with the Ft. Lauderdale boat show.
By the end of the year, all the work should be done, he said. And while the yard targets yachts of about 130 feet, the redesign will allow it to receive and dock as many as eight yachts up to 160 feet.
The old 150-foot Feadship M/Y Endless Summer has been there a year getting a full refit, Matrix Rose was under shrinkwrap in late August getting a topsides paint job, and M/Y Loose Ends and M/Y Unforgettable had just pulled in.
By mid-September, Calot said, the yard was full, with a 10 yachts on a waiting list.
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.