By David Gee
Take a look at that photo. It’s me standing underneath the SE 17th Street Causeway Bridge in Fort Lauderdale, just across the street from Pier 66. As this particular image was taken, the spot where I was standing also served as the entrance to the Superyacht Village at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Behind me at the time, was a 313-foot Lurssen yacht, aptly named Madsummer. If you like the way it looks, it is available for the proverbial “if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it” pricetag, or in a smaller chunk, for the recently discounted winter charter rate of $1.4 million. A week. Food, fuel and tips for the staff are extra by the way.
Several decades ago, this seven-acre piece of property where the Superyacht Village was went by a different name. It was called Sails Marina, and I lived aboard a boat there right after I graduated from college in Minnesota.
The boat wasn’t anything special. For those of you who remember the 1991 Martin Scorsese-directed thriller “Cape Fear” with Robert DeNiro, the boat I lived on was the kind Jessica Lange and Nick Nolte’s characters owned in the movie.
The location of Sails Marina though? That was/is special. It’s the closest marina to the ocean in all of South Florida (literally right around the corner), the famed Fort Lauderdale beach is just a few blocks away and the airport is two miles across the water.
The marina wasn’t much. Just a few bare bones slips, a small ship’s store, fuel dock and the best part, for me anyway, warm showers that were always a welcome morning respite after a night rocking and rolling on an old, musty boat.
The guy who ran the place was a crusty old salt with weathered skin and a seemingly permanent scowl. He had lots of great stories though, about years spent aboard fishing boats, oceangoing commercial vessels and living in pre-Castro Cuba. The good old days he was fond of saying.
Marinas have changed a lot since those days obviously. I don’t know that the Sails Marina guy would have much cared for computers, or smartphones, let alone getting organized and controlling work flow processes for his marina via software platforms and mobile apps.
Between federal, state, county, and local government agencies and regulations, workforce challenges, employee health insurance, weather, the economy and everything else, running a marina and boatyard is a tough business.
And after diving a little deeper into it for this issue, I have a new appreciation for those who slip, store, service, refuel and haul our boats. Thanks for making our time on the water easier and more enjoyable. And thanks to all of you, as always, for reading.