By Tom Serio
On the job for just a few months at the 17th Street Yacht Basin (formerly the Hilton Marina in Fort Lauderdale), dockmaster Alan Montgomery already brings a little different perspective to his job. A licensed captain since 1986, as well as having had a hand in engineering and as a mate, Montgomery knows what a captain wants.
“I know what that captain is looking for in a marina before he gets here, since I used to be that guy on the boat,” Montgomery said.
Recently purchased by Brookfield Asset Management from the Blackstone Group, the Hilton property has a face dock for several yachts of up to 600 feet on the Intracoastal Waterway, as well as a 33-slip marina for yachts up to 70 feet along the canal and to the west of the hotel. The marina will now be managed by US Marina Group, headed by two industry veterans, Kevin Quirk and Jim Bronstien. Montgomery works for US Marine Group.
In the past, the Hilton Marina was part of the its neighbor’s operation, which made it feel like the “red-headed stepchild of the Pier 66 operation, just getting their overflow,” Montgomery said. (Blackstone owned both properties and Bahia Mar Marina.)
Now, the new owners and managers are raising the stakes, promoting the amenities and services, and getting their own identity back.
“We can fuel a yacht through bunkering, and the location is a mini-hurricane hole, if necessary,” Montgomery said.
They don’t have the volume of transient slips as in the past but will always try to accommodate as they can, he said.
The hotel features amenities such as an outdoor pool and bar, and offers walking access to 17th Street shops and restaurants.
Montgomery said what he likes best about his job so far is the people. With the large yachts that dock on the ICW, it’s a pleasure to deal with professional crew and know what they want, he said, adding that he takes a certain pride in giving everyone a chance to be human at the marina or when getting off the yacht.
With a penchant for all things on the water, Montgomery also is a paddle board dealer. “It’s been by word of mouth,” he said of his style for selling. But out of 50 boards for his initial order in 2011, he has only two or three left. He said he would paddle around the canals and show off the boards. “I’ve got a little entrepreneurial spirit in me.”
When asked what he would be doing if not a dockmaster, Montgomery didn’t skip a beat. “I would always find something to do in boating,” he said.
With years of experience under his belt, including a few ocean crossings on board Dockwise Yacht Transport carriers, Montgomery said he wants to keep going. He’s healthy at 64, lives on a boat and has a bit of a bounce in his step.
He likes the Hilton operation. “Although there’s a lot to do, especially administratively, it’s a simple operation,” he said. Montgomery said he takes particular pride in the marina’s clean waterway efforts. Without the impact of any green algae or red tide to contend with so far this year, there’s been no impact to the local boating.
“There’s a good flow of water from under the condos [next door], and we scoop out any debris that gets trapped in the corners,” he said.
Changes lie ahead – the dockmaster office may move to the face dock and the back docks may get redesigned – but Montgomery is confidant he knows what yacht crew want. “My experience will pay off for the marina.”
Capt. Tom Serio is a freelance captain, writer and photographer. Comments are welcome below.