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By most all accounts, there are more and larger yachts being built each year. With that growth comes expansion in the support economy including places to dock and work on these vessels. Two facilities are aiming to fill these needs, one in Ft. Pierce, Florida and another in Savannah, Georgia.
Yachts give a go to new central Florida facility
Captains build strong relationships with shipyards and Capt. Michael Auer wanted to continue to work with one for the recent refit of M/Y Double Down, a 213-foot (65m) Codecasa.
But his choice, the two-year old Taylor Lane Yacht and Ship (TLYS) location was full. Yachts occupied each slip at the Powell Brothers property located between Derecktor, Playboy Marine and Dania Cut Superyacht Repair in Dania Beach. So, Buddy Haack, a managing partner of TLYS, to put together a plan.
Haack found space not where most Florida large yacht facilities are located in Dania Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami or West Palm Beach, but in Fort Pierce, Florida.
For the last five months, Capt. Auer managed the refit about 100 nautical miles north of Port Everglades. TLYS is currently leasing the property at the former Indian River Terminal and would like to buy the spot’s 455-foot long and 177-foot wide pier with water depths up to 28 feet.
“They put in all infrastructure and got lots of work done in a short time,” Auer said by phone in mid-March. They made containers for painting, secured cranes, organized housing for crew and vendors from Ft. Lauderdale. This allowed them to stay in place.”
The clear shot from the Atlantic Ocean works well for large yachts like Double Down, which draws just under 12 feet, he said.
“It’s quite an easy trip, it couldn’t be more straightforward for navigation,” Auer said. “Also the logistics are good since we do our own work with our own resources.”
“Lots of time in a yard you generally have limited space for the footprint you inhabit,” he said. It can be difficult to do your own thing with the space dedicate to each yacht. At Fort Pierce the access for sub-projects, tenders, and other work was able to be staged and completed on the pier.
“It’s nice to have it all right at the boat,” Capt. Auer said.
Although refitting a yacht in the South Florida area is convenient due to a concentration of resources, Capt. Auer said that taking the yacht to central Florida was better than he anticipated. He expects more yards will expand to meet needs like his.
“It’s simple supply and demand,” Capt. Auer said. “The building of yachts has far exceeded the expansion of facilities.
“When I started, 90 feet was the largest yacht, now it is an entry level,” he said. “And that’s not going to stop.
Capt. David Morrison, managing partner at TLYC, has nearly four decades at the helm and believes the yard will continue to accommodate larger yachts.
“In 1975 in yachting, you could count the number of crewed positions and a 77-footer was huge,” Morrison said. But the equation is larger these days and with that kind of growth comes a crunch for yard space during busy times.
“Often the windows of opportunity for work are small and availability is difficult,” Capt. Auer said.
“Yachting runs in a bell curve, it is flatter in summer, but unfortunately when everyone is busy, everyone is busy. With larger vessels, that speaks quite loudly.”
There is certain time for certain work and space is becoming harder to find, he said.
To help with that, more yachts are being scheduled for work at TLYS’s Ft. Pierce yard, Haack said.
Aside from dockage, South Florida yacht hubs need facilities for yacht crew and contractors. And some of that is new to central Florida, Haack said.
“Initially the crew was miserable because they thought it was a one-horse town,” Haack said of the Fort Pierce location. “Part of my job is to keep crew entertained because we don’t want them to badmouth it.”
So Haack brought in golf carts with lights and the crew went to the recently renovated downtown. “It’s been voted the best downtown in the country, plus they could get to Disney and the Space Coast,” Haack said. “The crew discovered there’s surf, tours, kayaking, riding horses. The place embraced the crew.”
“We had good resources, and extremely fabulous shop called Apple Industrial Supply Co.for heavy fab and metal work,” he said. “It was interesting for me because I didn’t know anything Fort Pierce.”
“The area is quite nice. I was kind of surprised,” Auer said. “I hadn’t heard much good about it.”
The creation of a new yachting hub takes time.
“It was a challenge when Palm Beach put itself on the map. People said it was far, yet people went to Savannah and Jacksonville,” Haack said. “Palm Beach didn’t turn out to be too far. Fort Pierce is not that much further.”
Haack said the benefits for yachts will outweigh the unfamiliarity.
“Yachts don’t need tide to come and go. Housing is a lot more reasonable for crew and vendors and the community is so much behind us,” Haack said. “It’s a great location.”
“There is lots of land, we have equipment to lift and the docks are big with no height restriction,” Morrison said.
“We want to let the sailing community know we have capacity to pull a mast and to work on it with laydown area. It’s effortless to do that because in Fort Pierce we have ample space and water.
“But we have our challenge, to get people to realize it’s there,” Morrison said. “As word grows, business will grow.”
“It’s a good alternative for boats to get work done,” Morrison said. “We can do work where it didn’t exist before.”
Longtime shipyard to re-emerge as Savannah Yachting Center
A longtime marine facility on the Savannah River is under renovation to become Savannah Yachting Center. Jim Berulis is at the helm as vice-president for Colonial Group, the Savannah, Georgia property’s owner. Berulis brings his vice-president experience from two years at Rybovich in West Palm Beach, Florida and 15 years at Trinity Yachts.
The deepwater yard has been known by many names, including Intermarine, Palmer Johnson, Saylor Marine, Savannah Machine & Foundry and, most recently, Global Ship Systems.
“We’re in planning stages,” Berulis said by phone from the yard on Feb. 24. “The intent is to be a yachting facility.”
The property, with its 535-foot graving dock and 1,000-ton marine railway, has served as several mixed-use facilities and has been closed since 2007, according to media reports.
But maintenance crews are on the graving dock, inspections are underway and contractors are onsite to reopen, Berulis said.
“We’re well underway with work on the graving dock, the basin needs some upgrades,” he said. “We’ll replace the bulkheads, the floating dock and the power in the basin.”
The yard is able to accommodate most yachts since the water is 47 feet deep in the river and 25 feet deep in the graving dock.
“There have been some large yachts on that rail, Blue Moon and Meduse, but now it needs upgrades,” Berulis said.
“We are making a decision whether to keep the railway and add a large syncrolift or remove the rail. We’re making these changes to get the targeted yachting client, but we have some major decisions to make,” Berulis added.
“This is a wonderful spot and Savannah is a good destination.The yachts that have been here, like to be here, and this is perfect for repairs and refits.”
No date has been set for the opening of the facility.
“We would like to say we are up and running, but it will be months,” Berulis said. “I’ve just been here two weeks.”
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.