Better berths ahead: South Florida marinas, yards growing

Aug 27, 2019 by Dorie Cox

By Dorie Cox

Larger, deeper, fancier – that’s the goal as marinas and shipyards in South Florida spend billions on dredging, new docks and treadmills for clubhouse gyms, just in time for the upcoming yachting season and the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Several new facilities opened for business this year; about 20 are in some state of improvement, and a couple have yet to unveil future improvements.

South Florida has a legacy, and has almost always been a mecca for boats, said Kitty McGowan, president of the U.S. Superyacht Association. She grew up in Fort Lauderdale and worked as chef and stew on what were considered large yachts in the 1980s and ’90s.

“Granted, they weren’t 300 feet – but they were 100 feet,” she said of her experience on yachts including the 152-foot M/Y Octopussy, 120-foot Denison M/Y Thunderball, and the 123-foot Norship Moonraker

“Essentially we talk about South Florida as the epicenter of superyachts in the U.S., and new development is relatively long overdue,” McGowan said, noting that now billions are being spent on lifts, infrastructure, and dockage for larger vessels, which makes South Florida even more attractive for service, repair and cruising.

“We rested on our laurels for a while, we didn’t keep the apple shiny. Then we learned if we don’t keep up we’ll lose it,” McGowan said of the industry. “Now the market is right, people are spending, it’s a perfect storm for growth. Where water goes, land goes as well. We created an atmosphere of proximity and service. Now we need to take it to the next level.”

Jim Naugle, former mayor of Fort Lauderdale, has monitored marine industry trends in the area for decades and sees continued growth toward large yachts.

“People are really plowing money back into facilities to upgrade and handle larger boats,” he said.

Now chairman of Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) and owner/operator of Lauderdale Boat Yard, Naugle said, “Superyacht accommodations will expand and continue to grow for larger yachts. The growth is important, whether at Derecktor Ft. Pierce or [RMK] Merrill-Stevens in Miami, it is all South Florida.”

Early on, only a few facilities added amenities such as swimming pools, cafes and fitness centers to entice the crew on larger yachts, a move many in the industry said was unnecessary, according to American Yacht Agents owner Debora Radtke.

“After a kind of initial pushback, I think a lot of yards realize that the amenities are important,” Radtke said. “Initially,  when Rybovich built all the extras, there was a lot of poo-pooing that was stuff crew doesn’t need. Now, yards started to realize they do need a spot for crew to get off the boat.”

With years as a captain holding a 1600-ton U.S. license, and now as an agent, Radtke said she has heard from crew that the amenities make a big difference for them, whether it’s for a workout or simply to get off the boat for a coffee or a beer.

“It builds camaraderie,” she said. “Yards are starting to realize amenities are not just frills. The industry has changed in 30 years and the people in it have changed. They want more and are asking for more.”

The growth from Miami through Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach to Fort Pierce has brought several new marinas and yards, as well as extensive upgrades to existing facilities. Among the new are Seahaven Superyacht Marina in Dania Beach and Port 32 Fort Lauderdale, which both opened for business this year. Las Olas Marina and Pier 66 South (formerly The Sails Marina) are open but plan complete overhauls, and development has begun in the port of Fort Pierce with Derecktor Ft. Pierce and its neighbor, Fort Pierce Yacht and Ship.

From new docks and dredging to branding and amenities, upgrades are underway at many other facilities, including RMK Merrill-Stevens, Sunset Harbour Yacht Club, Bradford Marine, Marina Bay Yachting Center, Lauderdale Marine Center, Pier 66, Hall of Fame Marina, Harbour Towne Marina, Derecktor Dania, Rybovich, Palm Beach Town Docks and Berth One.

Plans are are pending at Dania Cut Super Yacht Repair, 17th Street Yacht Basin at The Hilton, and Bahia Mar Yachting Center.

Following is a generally south-to-north list of some of the large yacht facilities with changes underway or completed:


5th Street Marina

The 5th Street Marina is in the process of completing dockage on the Miami River in downtown Miami. The final 100 feet of wood dockage is being added for transient vessels. It completes the existing 500 feet of concrete dockage built in 2010 for six yachts to tie side-to with 13 feet of draft., +1 (305) 324-2040

RMK Merrill-Stevens

The most recent update at RMK Merrill-Stevens was the delivery of a 2,700-metric ton ship lift in August for yachts up to 235 feet. An electronic systems division was recently added, as well as a 100-metric ton travel lift for yachts under 100 feet. This follows a complete overhaul of the north yard that was reconfigured with new slips, bulkheads and office space., +1 (305) 324-5211

Epic Marina 

Epic Marina has closed a section of the 900 feet of available dockage during the construction of Ashton Martin Residences, according to dockmaster David Smyth. This still leaves about 500 feet of available dockage with 15 feet at MLW and no obstructions to the Atlantic Ocean., +1 (305) 400-6711

Museum Park Marina

Museum Park Marina’s 1,000 feet of dockage in downtown Miami is now under management by Yachtsmyth Management, run by Epic Marina’s David Smyth. Upgraded by the city of Miami about 10 years ago, the property and neighboring Maurice A. Ferré Park are part of ongoing government discussions about future changes at the property. There are no clear plans at this time., +1 (305) 632-1242

Island Gardens Deep Harbor

Island Gardens Deep Harbor debuted as Superyacht Miami for the Miami Yacht Show in 2016 and has recently updated dockage and power, according to marina manager Gianluca Orlando.

“We upgraded the power to 800 amps and now can accommodate more boats on the south side,” Orlando said. “The mooring balls have been replaced with lines for Mediterranean-style mooring for eight more yachts. Now, we’re more flexible and it’s super safe.”

The marina offers 5,000 linear feet of slips with depths up to 27 feet for yachts more than 500 feet in length and the onsite restaurant, The Deck at Island Gardens, recently reopened for business with a view of downtown Miami across the water., +1 (305) 531-3747

Sunset Harbour Yacht Club

Construction crews were scheduled to complete a variety of upgrades at Sunset Harbour Yacht Club by Sept. 1, according to Douglas Mason, general manager of the facility.

The equity membership club now allows private owners to lease the 125 slips for yachts up to 212 feet with an 8-foot draft and 12 feet at the dock. The old wooden dock has been removed and 800 feet of synthetic deck has been installed with concrete piles for vessels up to 45 feet, including electrical upgrades.

An upgraded Wi-Fi system and office renovations are complete, with a new fitness center expected to be complete in September. A new pool pavilion design is underway for next summer, and a new wave attenuation device is under review, Mason said., +1 (305) 398-6800

Miami Beach Marina

Suntex bought Miami Beach Marina in 2018 and is in the process of making improvements, according to dockmaster Mike Ercole. The marina offers 400 boat slips for yachts up to 250 feet in length.

The ship store “was totally gutted and we updated with a whole new look and feel,” said David Filler, a principal with Suntex. A new tenant, FB Marine Group, was added and workers are currently upgrading the bathrooms.

”We added some marina office space and improvements we could make quickly,” Filler said. Management is creating a long-term vision of how to best serve the customer base for a better operating and functioning marina, he said.,+1(305) 673-6000


Harbour Towne Marina

Harbour Towne Marina in Dania Beach, Florida, has completed what it calls a superyacht dock, according to Logan Moore, marina manager. About 550 linear feet of face dock can accommodate vessels up to 200 feet with depths to 15 MLW water. Dredging to 8 feet is underway for 35 slips for vessels up to 72 feet and is expected to be completed by Oct. 1. Twenty slips will have new finger piers and upgraded power. A new 30-square-foot entertainment pavilion includes a dry bar, TVs, outdoor furniture and barbeque area, and four new bathrooms with showers have been added.

“We completed the marina office, remodeling the flooring, art, ceilings, a face lift, and a captains lounge area with coffee and continental breakfast on the weekend,” Moore said. “It’s a place to hang out when you want to get off the boat.”, +1 (954) 926-0300

Dania Cut Super Yacht Repair

Dania Cut Super Yacht Repair expects to make an announcement for future plans in mid-September, according to Kevin Klar, president., +1 (954) 923-9545

Derecktor Dania

Construction at Derecktor Dania is underway to lengthen the piers for the 900-ton mobile boat hoist by 15 feet to allow for vessels up to 220 feet. The work is not expected to disrupt current hauls and the project is expected to be completed by the end of September., (954) 920-5756

Seahaven Superyacht Marina

The new facility opened early this year along the Dania Cut-off Canal with wet slips for vessels up to 250 feet with 2,400 linear feet of dockage. The clubhouse includes a fitness center, TV room, game table and kitchen amenities., +1 (954) 416-1860


Roscioli Yachting Center

RYC underwent major expansion and upgrades in 2008, which included a captains lounge, conference rooms, gym, laundry and bathrooms, and a cafe. Currently the yard is increasing Wi-Fi capabilities., +1(954) 581-9200

Bradford Marine

Fort Lauderdale Yacht Harbor (FLYH) bought Bradford Marine at the beginning of this year and is first improving infrastructure, including traffic flow and parking, at the facility in Fort Lauderdale. Upgrades to dockage and wi-fi are next., +1 (954) 791-3800

Yacht Management South Florida

Yacht Management of South Florida is scheduled to start construction on a new 10,000-square-foot service building, according to Capt. Joshua Kerrigan, founder and president of the full-service yard and marina for vessels up to 100 feet in length.

“We’re building the new facility next to the existing one with a three-bay garage to expand our services to handle larger jobs, generators, engines, rebuilds, air conditioning and more,” Kerrigan said. “We’re quadrupling our size. And we’re adding a 120-ton travel lift at the end of 2020.”, +1 (954) 941-6447

Universal Marine Center

Electrical power was upgraded at Universal Marine Center two years ago, and currently, final permits have been secured for work on the seawalls, said general manager Laurent Bensoussan. 

“We’re sealing the marina for erosion,” he said about the installation of metal sheets., +1 (954) 791-0550

Marina Bay Yachting Center

Marina Bay Yachting Center is the new name for the former Marina Bay Marina Resort, according to dockmaster Tara Dirato.

“We are in the process of installing four new Accudocks within the marina, each of which will accommodate vessels up to 150 feet,” Dirato said. The docks include expanded electrical service capabilities and the rebranding is intended to encompass all amenities and commercial tenants, she said. These include a restaurant, resort pool, clubhouse, fitness center, dog park, walking trail, Tryp Hotel, spa and commercial yacht companies., +1 (954) 791-7600

Port 32 Fort Lauderdale

Port 32 Fort Lauderdale broke ground last year and officially opened this spring with slips for yachts up to 150 feet, power pedestals, onsite fuel dock and a gazebo. A 150-metric ton Marine Travelift was being assembled, according to Bruce Wallace, director of operations for Port 32 Marinas.

Phase 2 is underway for upland development for the boat yard and about 13 commercial units. Dry stacks for approximately 240 boats are also in the plan.

“Demolition permits are in hand to tear down existing structures; we hope to start in the end of August, September for demolition of the dry stack, old paint shed, office complex and one freestanding building,” Wallace said., +1 (954) 895-8360

Lauderdale Marine Center

Docks have been replaced at Lauderdale Marine Center and a new restaurant is scheduled to open in October, according to Colin J. Kiley, executive vice president.

“We’re continuing to invest heavily,” he said. “We feel that the market is strong and will continue to grow.”

River Bend at LMC is scheduled to get a new 140-ton travel lift by October and “long-awaited new parking” for 207 cars is due by year’s end. The 65-acre facility holds 227 vessels with more than 2 miles of in-water dockage, half of which is dedicated to vessels over 100 feet, according to Kiley., +1 (954) 713-0333


Pier Sixty-Six Marina

Pier Sixty-Six Marina has big plans. The hotel is closed for extensive renovations while the marinas at Pier Sixty-Six Marina North and South remain open.

“One of yacht captains’ biggest concerns is navigation, and that is why they are currently dredging around a section of docks,” marine director Megan Washington said of Pier Sixty-Six Marina North. “We want everyone to feel safe entering the Mercedes Canal. Before, it was like 9 feet, so we are widening the entire depth and width of the canal section.”

The dredge to 16 feet is projected to be completed in time for the boat show.

Meanwhile, the Pier Sixty-Six Marina South, formerly The Sails Marina, will see upgrades, including a new 300-foot floating dock. 

“In September, we will be going to the city [of Fort Lauderdale] to present our plans for the new dock on Pier Sixty-Six Marina South,” Washington said. “We have already met with the Fort Lauderdale Marine Advisory Board.”

Acquired in 2017 by Tavistock Development Co., Pier Sixty-Six Marina South will feature the new Super Yacht Village for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show., +1 (954) 728-3578

17th Street Yacht Basin at Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina

Upgrades at 17th Street Yacht Basin at Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina have been completed to offer more flexibility for yachts, according to dockmaster Alan Montgomery. Power pedestals have been renovated on the face dock, including the addition of 480V power to the north side for bigger boats., +1 954-527-6766

Bahia Mar Yachting Center

Yacht captains and crew can use Bahia Mar Resort hotel amenities, which have recently seen multimillion-dollar upgrades, including renovations to the fitness center and restaurants.

New plans for the property are scheduled to be announced closer to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat show., +1 (954) 627-6309

Hall of Fame Marina

“Renovations are well under way, the dock demolition has been completed,” Scott Salomon, marina manager, wrote in an email. Workers have removed 400 feet of wooden docks, which are in the process of being replaced with 600 feet of concrete Bellingham Marine docks at the Westrec marina.

“During this renovation, the north docks have remained open all summer and will remain open until we turn the marina over to the boat show in October,” Salomon wrote. “In the last 20 years, megayachts requesting dockage in the Fort Lauderdale area have doubled. Larger and wider slips with more power are in high demand. We will soon be able to accommodate these larger vessels.” 

The renovations will accommodate five yachts up to 160 feet in length, one of these slips will run north-south while the other four slips will face east-west, he wrote. 

“We will also be able to accommodate a dozen vessels up to 125 feet. As a reminder, we have 20 slips on our south dock that accommodate vessels up to 65 feet,” Salomon stated., +1 (954) 764-3975

Las Olas Marina

Plans to rebuild the city-owned Las Olas Marina are underway and include new docks, restaurants, a dockmaster’s office, a ship store, offices, a rooftop gym and a swimming pool. Nearly 70 spaces for yachts of more than 80 feet are in the drawings. Meanwhile, existing docks are in place and will comprise the north end of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show., +1 (954) 828-7200

Sunrise Harbor Marina

Sunrise Harbor Marina is currently being dredged to 11.5 feet. The fitness center is being remodeled and the upgraded marina office is open, according to Brad St. Coeur, marina manager. The dredge should be completed before the Fort Lauderdale show. For more details on this project, check out our story posted a few weeks ago., +1 (954) 667-6700


Berth One Palm Beach in Riviera Beach, Florida

Berth One Palm Beach opened at the end of 2017 with dockage for yachts of up to 450 feet with a draft of 33 feet at MLW. The property temporarily closed on May 1 to build an entirely brand new seawall, according to Kevin O’Conor, CEO and co-owner.

Housed on the bottom floor of the Port of Palm Beach, interior renovations include a crew lounge, remodeled kitchen and four bathrooms, contractors’ break room, air-conditioned storage and a conference room with video conferencing for use of the property’s U.S. Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ).

“We’ll have multiple television relaxation areas and smaller offices,” O’Conor said. “We’ll do some outside landscaping and an outdoor kitchen bungalow for barbeque for crew to hang out on the weekend and after work. We did food truck event nights and will continue to do that and invite the community.”

The marina is scheduled to open Nov. 1., +1 (561) 332-1820


Both Rybovich facilities expanded this summer. Rybovich North Facility in Riviera Beach expanded previous hard-standing space capacity by seven vessels for a total of 21 spaces, and a full-service tiki bar has been completed, with the bar to open in October. Rybovich South Facility in West Palm Beach added approximately 1700 additional linear feet of dockage for seven vessels of up to 110 meters., +1 (561) 840-8190

Palm Beach Town Docks

The Town of Palm Beach Marina is scheduled for major renovations beginning in May of 2020. The Australian docks house larger yachts and the marina will have 84 floating dock slips ranging from 65 to 294 feet with improved wave attenuation, upgraded electric service and enhanced Wi-Fi. There will be new dock buildings and an upgraded bulkhead. The property will be closed during the construction, which is expected to last 15 months., +1 (561) 838-5463


Fort Pierce Yacht and Ship

Fort Pierce Yacht and Ship completed acquisition of the property in the Port of Fort Pierce last year and saw the first client early this year. Permits and plans are being confirmed for development and Mediterranean-style dockage off the 205-foot-wide seawall., +1 (954) 260-4151

Derecktor Ft. Pierce

Derecktor won a county bid to develop Derecktor Ft. Pierce late last year, and demolition of a 55,000-square-foot packing house has started.

“It takes up a large part of the 12 acres. Once it’s down, we can move forward with infrastructure,” said Justin Beard, marketing manager. “In the next couple of months, we plan to bring in a dry dock to work in the water, then a mobile hoist would probably be installed in winter 2020-21.”

Lori Gage, director of human resources, has been hired in Mamaroneck, New York, to handle new hires. Beard and Tiffany Graves, administrative assistant and yacht concierge, are on-site., +1 (772) 595 9326


About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is a writer with Triton News.

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