By Tom Serio
If someone could literally have saltwater in their veins, it would be Megan Washington. The marine director at Pier 66 Hotel & Marina at the 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale (formerly the Hyatt Regency) said she has been messing on and around the water since she was a kid. “I was born into it,” she said.
Washington, whose name was Megan Lagasse until she recently got hitched to Brandon Washington, hails from a family of boaters in Massachusetts. Even before she was of legal age to work, she was filleting fish on local party boat Erica Lee out of Newburyport and working in marinas, she said.
Washington has been at Pier 66 for about six months, but has years of experience managing or staffing marinas, from Boston Yacht Haven to Miami Beach Marina, as well as other IGY marinas. Prior to Pier 66, her most recent stint was managing the Bahia Mar Marina for four years. Now it seems she has jumped right into the fire, focusing not just on her property, but the entire industry in South Florida.
Acquired by Tavistock Development Co. in 2016, the iconic Pier 66 landmark boasts a 384-room hotel and 127-slip marina. In 2017, Tavistock added The Sails Marina in Fort Lauderdale to their portfolio. The Sails, now named Pier 66 South, is on the southeast side of the 17th Street Causeway, joining Pier 66 North.
Pier 66 South is of huge benefit to the big superyachts that visit, Washington said. “There’s easy access right from the inlet [Port Everglades] and no bridge to deal with,” she said. “Additionally, it’s a great location. Yachties get to use the amenities at the hotel, including the pool, spa, five restaurants, tennis, gym and more.”
There will be no rest for Washington, as she has her hand in many aspects of the operation. “The city wants a full development plan for the whole marina property,” she said, pointing to dock drawings for the south side that lay on her desk, although there are no firm plans committed yet. Hotel upgrades are expected also. The north side marina was rebuilt after being damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and will stay as is.
Washington said she had no thoughts of a career in the yachting business when she was younger. She earned a degree in biology and went to work in a hospital performing DNA analysis. But while spending a summer during college working at Nantucket Boat Basin, her saltwater roots beckoned.
She came to Florida in 2012 and stayed for the opportunities. With a tinge of regret, Washington said that she was never a “yachtie,” although she thinks she could have been one.
What keeps her going?
“People. Marina people are generally happy people. They have similar likes,” she said.
What she doesn’t like is being cooped up in her office all day. “I like to walk around the docks and speak to the people.”
With much of her time recently spent planning her wedding, Washington does relax a bit, even if it includes her own boating. She does enjoy and support the arts. But she and Brandon are in the middle of renovating a house, and you know what time that needs.
Washington is proud that the Pier 66 Marina management offers free dockage and recycling bins across the marina to 4Ocean, whose mission is to clean up trash and plastic from inland and coastal waterways.
“They do a daily cleaning of the waterway, and we’re happy to assist them,” she said.
“This is a good property [Pier 66] in Fort Lauderdale, but it’s not just about us. We need to support bigger boats and services all over. It’s not Miami versus Fort Lauderdale versus Rybovich. We are all serving the same customer,” Washington said. “You don’t have a marina support system like this anywhere else.”
Tom Serio is a freelance captain, writer and photographer. Comments are welcome below.