Boating Industry

Old Evinrude Site in Stuart revived with incoming Atlantic Point Marina

Old Evinrude Site in Stuart revived with incoming Atlantic Point Marina

 

 

The marine industry is one of Martin County’s “Hubs of Excellence” and vital to its history and economic strength. A new marina was proposed for downtown Stuart to replace the inactive site that was once a bustling hub of somewhat mysterious marine activity. The Business Development Board supported the proposed Atlantic Point Marina, whose principals include Jeff Hardin of Straticon.

After the project received unanimous approval from the Stuart Commission (following removal of an originally proposed lighthouse feature that had generated some negative reaction), Jeff sat down with the Martin County BDB to discuss what makes Atlantic Point Marina so unique—and why he believes it will be embraced by more than just the boating community.

 

Jeff Hardin, Straticon

You can read the interview between Jeff Hardin and Martin County BDB below: 

So, tell us what’s special about this project?

JH: Oh, so many things. Of course, we’re excited about our vision for the property and the ways in which it will meet the needs of the boating community but also cater to the general public at large. We’ll have dry dock storage—in a facility fortified to withstand Cat 5 storms—for up to 455 boats. We’ll have dockage 105 boats—including space for vessels as long as 160 feet. But we’ll also have a restaurant, transient dockage with preference to local boaters, loads of really interesting displays of public art, expanded public waterfront access and we’ll also incorporate a water taxi stop so people downtown can reach us—or depart from Atlantic Point—without needing to get in their cars.

So Straticon is not only the builder of the site, but you’re also a partner?

JH: Yes. Straticon Marine is leading up the construction. My wife Chris and I, who founded Straticon, are partners in the project alongside Mike Nixon and Lenny Tarzia. We’re all locals and extremely excited to do something like this in our community.

How big is the overall site?

JH: The total land mass is more than 10 acres, about 2 and a half of which are submerged. The property, by our research, basically accounts for half of the City of Stuart’s total commercial lands. But that’s only part of what makes the parcel special. This was the Evinrude Testing Site for many years. When we considered the legacy the Ralph Evinrude’s Outboard Marine Corporation has on boating, it’s hard to overstate the significance.

How so?

JH: The Evinrude family created and refined the outboard motor. Ole Evinrude, Ralph’s father, invented the single-cylinder engine back in 1907. It’s a great story. He used to take his sweetheart, Bess, who later became his wife, out in a rowboat on a little island in a small lake in Wisconsin. One hot day he decided to row back to shore to get her ice cream and of course it melted before he could return. He was a natural tinkerer and mechanically inclined, so that got him working on a motorized way to power the boat. He created a two-cycle gas-powered engine that he didn’t think had much commercial value, but Bess convinced him otherwise, and that launched the early years of the company. His son Ralph later took the company to the next level.

So what took place on the testing site?

JH: Interestingly, the site was heavily protected from public view, as the company wanted to safeguard its innovations from competitors. Ed Killer, the Stuart News outdoor writer, compared the site to Area 51. The barbed wire fence that’s around the permitter today is one example of the security. You basically had scores of engineers working on designs to make better, more durable outboards. The test drivers would do everything in their power to stress the engines and see what they could withstand. We’ve got great pictures of boats catching major air over waves going out the inlet. If you were a young, hotshot boat captain with a high tolerance for getting banged up on the water, it was a dream job.

There’s some really fascinating local history here.

JH: Absolutely. And we got a lot of really cool memorabilia from the Evinrude and Johnson Outboards era when we purchased the property. The storage area—which we demoed and recycled for reuse in construction—gave some great stuff that we plan to use in the décor of the restaurant.

What’s the cost of the project?

JH: Well, this is an $80 million project. And the need is really there to support it. Martin County has 18,000 registered boaters—and there are 46,000 registered boaters on the Treasure Coast. Boat sales—which took off during the pandemic—continue to remain hot. But the dry storage options, by our research, are less than 4,000 countywide.  And we could always use more slips, so Atlantic Point can provide big benefits on both fronts.

What can you tell us about the construction onsite?

JH: Well, this site in particular takes on water during king tides, so in anticipation of that as well as sea-level rise, we’re raising the entire site by three feet. And we’re able to do this with the fill we gather by dredging the basin on our property where we’re creating deepening access for larger vessels, as well as for the floating docks we’re creating to accommodate them.

How many jobs will be created?

JH: During construction, we’re estimating—conservatively—500 temporary jobs. And we’ve conducted outreach to local subs to ensure they’re aware and hopefully involved. We see a lot of opportunities here for local people to earn good money during what will be a really fun—not easy, of course, but definitely fun—undertaking. For the boat barn, it’s tilt-up construction, as the pre-fitted walls will be transported down the river to the site. It’ll really be something to see. We hope to get the news out that day. And when it’s complete, with all the public art, it will really be something.

What does the public art include?

JH: Some really good stuff. Local artist KC Scott, who specializes in marine themes, created the images of marine life that will cover the boat barn. While the ship store and the restaurant feature the Quonset-style roof modeled after the buildings Evinrude had on site, the roof design of the boat barn is what’s called a mansard roof, which will be outfitted with very elegant up-lighting that can change colors to correspond with holidays and important occasions. We’re refurbishing an existing memorial to Ole Evinrude that was on the property and giving it more prominent placement. And we’ll be using the broad, sort of canvas that the boat barn provides to project local artwork as a rolling showcase to artists in need of more exposure.

How will you know which artists to feature?

JH: We’ll be working with Nancy Turrell of Martin Arts on that, but it will provide a great element for visitors—not only to the restaurant but for the special events—live music, fundraisers, event weddings—that we plan to host. All told, Atlantic Point Marina will be something the entire community can be proud of and enjoy.

 

Learn more about this project and others by contacting the Martin County Business Development Board: bdbmc.org | (772) 221-1380

 

Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

 

Jul. 7, 2022|

Wave of newcomers joins Treasure Coast’s expanding boating industry

Wave of newcomers joins Treasure Coast’s expanding boating industry

Three workers at Pursuit Boats in Fort Pierce

Three workers at Pursuit Boats in Fort Pierce apply resin and woven Fiberglas, a step in the lamination process that strengthens the hull. PURSUIT BOATS

Companies cite port location, a skilled workforce as reasons for moving to the area

BY BERNIE WOODALL

Explosive growth in the marine industry in the past decade has made the Treasure Coast the third-largest area in the United States in terms of the economic impact of recreational boating.

The area’s two largest builders, Maverick Boat Group and Pursuit Boats, now with the same corporate parent, each employ more than 400 full-time workers in neighboring plants in Fort Pierce.

The area’s boating strength is expected to continue. There are about two dozen boat manufacturers making more than 30 brands at small and large plants from Stuart to Sebastian. They are about to be joined by two game-changing newcomers: Derecktor Shipyards and Contender Boats.

Derecktor Shipyards is expected to open in May with the world’s largest mobile boat lift at the century-old Port of Fort Pierce, which could make Fort Pierce a center for some of the world’s most expensive mega-yachts and large sailing yachts. The $6.5 million, 85-foot-tall boat lift will be capable of lifting yachts up to 250 feet long and weighing up to 1,500 tons, according to Justin Beard, Derecktor Fort Pierce marketing manager.

Beard said it was a combination of factors that led the company to bring its game-changing boat hoist with repair and refit yard to Fort Pierce. The port is pretty much a 3-nautical-mile straight shot to the Fort Pierce Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean. Also, there are no overhead obstructions from the ocean to the port, meaning it can handle the taller sailing vessels. Derecktor has locations in New York and Dania Beach in Broward County. The 74-year-old company has signed a 75-year-lease for the port.

“This is going to be a huge economic benefit for the whole area,” Bob Chew, a salesman for Stuart Boatworks, said. Even a company that makes boats shorter than 30 feet long like his will feel the effect of the new lift and shipyard.

“Maybe the owners of those yachts won’t be there, but their crews will be, and so will the people who refit and repair their yachts,” Chew said. “And they’ll hire local people to do some of the work. And the out-of-town crews will rent hotel rooms, eat at restaurants and on and on.”

The world’s largest mobile boat hoist

The world’s largest mobile boat hoist, which can lift yachts weighing up to 1,500 tons, is expected to be fully operational at the port soon. DERECKTOR FORT PIERCE

GROWTH ON THE HORIZON

By May 2022, when the huge mobile boat hoist is fully operational, the estimated annual tax revenue will be $800,000, which is expected to rise to $1.5 million by year four, Beard said.

“It’s going to spur a lot of new economic growth in the area and is also going to increase the footprint of [yachting] services in South Florida. Palm Beach down to Miami is sort of the center for the yacht world in the U.S. and some of the most accomplished and technically skilled tradespeople are located in those areas.

“Bringing a yard like Fort Pierce online will extend that market north and it will help spur not only the local economy but the Florida economy,” Beard continued. “We’re going to be able to accommodate boats that normally don’t come to the U.S. We’re looking into bringing an entirely different market that doesn’t come here now because there’s not been the opportunity to get service work done. There are only four sailing yachts in the world we will not be able to haul with this lift.”

Some of the yachts being serviced at Derecktor Fort Pierce will be there for just a few weeks and some for a year. Some boats will get mild maintenance and others a major overhaul or new construction. Some of the yachts that will come to Fort Pierce could fit into a James Bond movie.

Beard said Derecktor Fort Pierce will have about 30 to 40 full-time workers by May 2022 and perhaps as many as 150 in five years. Even more will be subcontractor tradespeople and craftspeople working on the yachts. Derecktor will seek to expand its network of subcontractors to include those from the Treasure Coast.

Derecktor will be able to host eight big boats at the shipyard at a time, but Beard explained that work will begin slowly and there will be fewer jobs in initial months. Once the shipyard can handle eight boats, there will be up to 280 people working on them, in addition to Derecktor’s workers, Beard said.

Bob Chew, a salesman at Stuart Boatworks

Bob Chew, a salesman at Stuart Boatworks, believes the addition of Derecktor Shipyards and its mobile boat lift, which is the largest in the world, will have a tremendous impact on the region’s economy. BERNIE WOODALL

CONTENDER ON THE WAY

Contender is a high-end boat maker of center-console fishing crafts. In late January, it closed a deal for land and a former packing house off Midway Road near I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike, according to a news release from the Realtor handling the sale, SLC Commercial.

Work is underway to convert the 34-year-old former Packers of Indian River building into a factory for the boats that often sell for more than $1 million, even on the used market. The company would not comment on its plans to expand production from its base in Homestead, but a source familiar with Contender’s plans said eventually 160 to 180 full-time workers will be hired to work in the 98,067-square-foot plant that is on 33 acres. The source did not know when Contender would begin building boats in St. Lucie County.

Beard of Derecktor Fort Pierce said there is a strengthening synergy on the Treasure Coast that “creates a Blue Economy” for the area.

Dave East, who founded Eastward Boats in Fort Pierce three years ago, explained that “a crowd attracts a crowd,” meaning that once a critical mass of marine manufacturers is achieved it will foster more expansion, including for suppliers and other ancillary businesses.

The main attraction to the Treasure Coast for boat builders, East said, is its trained workforce, the way that engineers and craftsmen who know cars are centered around Detroit.

Eastward Boats, which makes catamaran-style hulled fishing boats using a design that evolved for the rough waters off Australia, is in an industrial area that has a concentration of boat builders including Maverick, Pursuit and Bluewater Sportfishing Boats. It is not unusual, East said, for a trained worker to work for two or three of those companies within a few years.

“They can hop from company to company to make an extra 50-cents-an-hour and that’s why we have to treat them well.”

EARLY BEGINNINGS

The boating industry began along the Treasure Coat about 100 years ago. According to local boat builders, the first company to make boats was started by Curt Whiticar, who founded what is now a marine servicing company called Whiticar Boat Works in Stuart. Whiticar built his first fishing boat in the 1920s and built a few more on what is Jonathan Dickinson State Park in southern Martin County. Whiticar moved to its present location in Stuart in 1947.

East said that there were only a few boat builders in the area, including Maverick, by the 1990s when he came on the Treasure Coast boat building scene. He pegs 2004 and 2005 as the time that the industry greatly expanded in the region.

Today, the area is in the top three nationwide, according to John-Michael Donahue, vice president of public affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. He explained that boat-building areas are measured by the country’s 435 congressional districts.

In the 18th Congressional District, which includes St. Lucie, Martin and much of northern Palm Beach counties, the recreational boating industry accounts for $1.3 billion in annual economic impact, which supports 461 businesses.

The district is behind only Maine, whose area covers most of it southern coast, including Portland and Augusta and the biggest boating economy in the United States, and Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, which stretches from Fort Lauderdale to north of Boca Raton.

And while it may be one of the largest boat building areas in the country, it has yet to have a nickname, according to Michelle Miller, executive director of the Marine Industry Association of the Treasure Coast, said.

One publication has called it The Fiberglass Belt and the Boat Coast has also been suggested. But so far, nothing has caught on the way that Fort Pierce is The Sunrise City and Stuart is The Sailfish Capital of the World.

COMPANIES WEATHER PANDEMIC

Boat builders have weathered the ongoing virus pandemic well, in part because of the robust stock market that buoys the riches of people who can spend on customized boats made on the Treasure Coast. And boating is a safe activity for families amid the coronavirus. Even the smaller boats cost more than $100,000, and other than the larger production plants, area manufacturers build to order. The custom boat builders know their customers by first name, Tony Bonadeo, vice president of operations for family-owned Bonadeo Boatworks in Stuart, said.

“We only build a boat or two at a time,” Tony Bonadeo said. His father, Larry Bonadeo, is the president of the company the family started in 2004.

Bonadeo Boatworks is in an industrial area of Stuart that is also home to Willis Marine, a maker of customized yachts; Jim Smith Tournament Boats, a maker of custom fishing yachts, including one that is 100-feet-long; Garlington Yachts; and Gamefisherman, which also makes tournament fishing craft.

Beard of Derecktor said the attractiveness of the area for boat builders is seen by the acquisition of Maverick Boat Group and Pursuit Boats by Tennessee-based Malibu Boats.

“That’s a huge acquisition by a big company looking at this area and saying, ‘Yeah, it’s growing and we’re going to invest here,’ ” Beard said. “Contender is coming to town. They see the value of getting set up in St. Lucie County, and you’ve got Pursuit, which has long been established here, and that’s a very high-quality boat. I’d put Pursuit right up there with Grady White in terms of the quality and the kind of workmanship you’re going to get.”

Mark Castlow, who founded Dragonfly Boatworks

Mark Castlow, who founded Dragonfly Boatworks 14 years ago, is in his fifth decade on the Treasure Coast boat scene. Castlow is a former owner of Maverick and Hewes, which are now owned by Malibu Boats. BERNIE WOODALL

MAVERICK STARTED SMALL

Maverick, now the largest boat builder in terms of jobs provided in the area, had humble beginnings. In the mid 1970s, Dr. Leonard Berg of Fort Pierce, who is still an avid shallow-water fisherman, bought the hull mold for a flats fishing skiff and began production at a small plant south of Miami. Berg later teamed with Mark Castlow, now the owner of 14-year-old Dragonfly Boatworks in Vero Beach.

Castlow had owned a Fort Pierce surf shop and then a fiberglassing company called Atlantis. He shifted from making surfboards to making boat hulls with Berg and his son, Elliott Berg, at a dusty old shop near the north causeway in Fort Pierce. Castlow and the Bergs made a few dozen boats in the early 1980s before the Bergs bowed out. Eventually, Scott Deal of Vero Beach re-established Maverick and grew it to include the Pathfinder, Cobia and Hewes brands of fishing boats.

Deal was the CEO of Maverick until January, when Pursuit’s parent company, Malibu Boats, acquired Maverick Boat Group for $150 million. When the deal was sealed, the CEO of Tennessee-based Malibu, Jack Springer, said the two companies’ products complement one another.

Charlie Johnson, marketing director for Maverick, said the company makes about 1,800 boats annually, and that will rise to 2,000 a year soon.

See the original article in the print publication


Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Magazine Inc. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Apr. 30, 2021|

Triton Submarines opens new high-tech facility in Sebastian

SEBASTIAN – Triton Submarines, LLC, the leading manufacturer of personal submarines designed for yacht and cruise ship deployment, has opened its new facility in Sebastian. With the demand for submersibles steadily increasing, Triton outgrew its previous facility in Vero Beach, opting to relocate to a larger space just down the road. After a long […]

Jan. 14, 2019|

Fishing tournaments, boat shows and seafood fests reel in big bucks

BY GREG GARDNER

Boat shows and fishing tournaments bring a huge economic impact to the Treasure Coast, but a much larger benefit is the growth of appreciation for the marine environment.

“With tournaments comes environmental awareness and safe practices for the fishermen and the fish species,” says April Price, president of Marine Industries Association of the […]

May. 30, 2016|

Local business awarded boat supplier of the year

STUART – The Independent Boat Builders Incorporated (IBBI) recently awarded its suppliers during the annual Purchasing Meeting and Vendor Expo conference in St. Louis.

Lenco Marine received their supplier of the year award for the third consecutive year.

Richard DeVito, President of Lenco Marine, Inc. says, “This award is not one to be taken lightly. The […]

Apr. 4, 2016|