Where’s your go-to spot to tie up? Whether it’s a favorite hometown marina or annual vacation resort, celebrate their service with Marinalife’s highly anticipated Best Marina Contest! Send your choice of the top marinas of 2023 in two categories: Best Large Marina (over 100 slips) and Best Small Marina (under 100 slips). Submit your selections by October 2, 2023.
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Premier marina owner and operator, Suntex Marinas, expanded in the mid- and southwest by scoring two expansive properties. Reserve your spot at the 258-slip Roosevelt Lake Marina in Roosevelt, AZ, or Port of Kimberling Marina in Kimberling City, MO, boasting 1,000 wet slips and 400 dry slips. Guests can enjoy upscale amenities, boat rentals, lodging accommodations and stunning lakeside views at both locations.
Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina in the Bahamas is known for amazing attractions, watersport excursions, top-notch fishing, delicious seafood and tons of events. This fall, the marina hosts two world-class fishing tournaments attracting anglers and visitors from around the world. Be sure to catch the new Viking Yacht Owners Wahoo Weekend Tournament November 9 – 12 and The Slicker Wahoo Tournament on December 9.
Climb aboard the newly renovated Hampton Queen and cruise past buildings that date back centuries. Enjoy all-new sunset tours and sightseeing excursions traveling from downtown Hampton to the destroyers, subs and aircraft carriers stationed at Norfolk Naval Base. Sit back and relax in climate-controlled comfort or step out on the deck for a front row view of Hampton’s highlights including Virginia Air & Space Science Center, Hampton University, The VA Medical Center, Fort Monroe, Fort Wool and Old Point Comfort Lighthouse.
Live the High Life while Saving a Dime
If you sail south this season, cruise to Key West and dock at Conch Harbor Marina to enjoy onsite amenities including a large pool, fuel dock, restaurants, a West Marine, plus a convenient walk to Key West’s top attractions. Book your stay around fall events such as the Key West Fantasy Fest extravaganza October 20 – 29, Offshore World Championship speedboat race November 5 – 12 and Key West Film Festival November 15 – 19. Mention Marinalife for 10 cents off per gallon of fuel! To book, visit Conch Harbor's website.
Walking into a scene of chaos — sunken piers, demolished structures under mountains of debris and millions of dollars in damage — is the ultimate nightmare every marina owner fears. Businesses do their best to prepare for natural disasters, but even with the highest quality materials, no dock is indestructible.
In September 2022, Category 5 Hurricane Ian swept across the Atlantic, devastating regions from the Bahamas to the Carolinas. With nearly 148 fatalities and miles of damage, Florida’s southwest coast endured the most loss, especially the Fort Myers Beach, Pine, Sanibel and Captiva Island regions.
While Florida regions have made excellent progress in the aftermath of Ian, many island towns farther south have taken years to fully rebuild from past hurricanes. The following marinas celebrate triumphant stories of resurrection and the journey to welcome back boaters.
Fort Myers marinas prevail in record time
When Hurricane Ian swept through Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach, FL, Dave O’Connor, dockmaster at Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, felt helpless as he watched live updates of docks disappearing underwater sent by employees who stayed onsite through the storm. O’Connor has worked at Pink Shell since 2012 and says he never anticipated experiencing something of this caliber.
“From the pictures I could see maybe two-to-three feet of the pilings were left, and I knew what I was going to see when we came back to the property,” says O’Connor. “The hardest part was walking around to assess, and all I thought was, how are we ever going to clean up all this stuff? It was so overwhelming.”
O’Connor returned to three feet of water in his office and a heartbreaking scene at the marina. Despite obliteration to the docks, the buildings remained unharmed thanks to breakaway walls and top-notch construction in the early 2000s.
Pink Shell expedited a speedy recovery over the past year with plans to fully reopen the marina this fall with new docks from Golden Marine Systems, a Fort Myers company. O’Connor credits the marina’s longtime relationships with electrical and plumbing companies and industry partners he’s worked with for more than 20 years. He says just a few weeks after the storm, Pink Shell was the first marina on the manufacturer’s production queue.
Amenities such as the Octopool, fitness center, breakfast at Jack’s and the Bar & Grill at Pool Deck are now available for guests. The recreation areas, Aquagene Spa, Bongos Bar & Grill and Rae’s Real Italian are still under renovation with plans to reopen this season.
“They’ve dredged the entry channel into Fort Myers Beach and cleaned the debris so boaters shouldn’t have any worry about navigational depth or obstructions,” says O’Connor. With support from guests and the community, he remains optimistic about moving forward.
Just a mile down the road, family- owned Moss Marina is another property with a speedy recovery story even more miraculous than Pink Shell’s. Despite significant dock damage and disheveled debris, the marina’s core elements sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Ian. The property was left with detached structures and demolished utilities, but the team rebuilt the floating docks to their original layout and reopened in an astonishing two months.
Communities unite to rebuild the Bahamas
In 2019, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian demolished the gorgeous Bluff House Beach Resort & Marina at Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas. When the marina began rebuilding, COVID hit, forcing another shutdown in 2020. After prevailing through supply shortages, sick staff and no electricity, the marina finally reopened thanks to help from the United States, local communities, volunteers and organizations such as the Green Turtle Cay Foundation that rebuilt the destroyed hurricane shelter.
“Winds were clocked at 225 mph, so homes on this island were flattened and gone,” says Bluff House Beach Resort & Marina general manager Molly McIntosh. “We were prepared — we don’t take hurricanes lightly as we’ve had some strong ones. But I don’t think there’s been anything like Dorian since maybe the 1930s.”
The island suffered food and water shortages, and no docks were left to bring in food. From September 2019 to the end of December, Green Turtle Cay had no power and ran solely on generators. Chef José Andrés from World Central Kitchen visited the island to supply food via helicopter during the recovery stages.
Though the 40-slip marina is fully rebuilt and open for business with 12,000 square feet of Ipe docks (a Brazilian teak), they’re still working on getting back their fuel dock. Guests can stay at the charming villas and enjoy the marina’s newly renovated private showers and upscale amenities including a freshwater swimming pool, drinks at the Tranquil Turtle Beach Bar and gorgeous secluded beaches and surrounding cays. Play volleyball on the private white-sand beach, kayak, paddleboard or relax in hammocks under palm trees. Don’t miss the annual Cheeseburger in Paradise community fundraiser event held in the summer.
Turning a new chapter post-hurricane
In 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Irma swept through the British Virgin Islands (BVI), taking down 100 buildings in just two hours. Family-owned Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) resort marina, located on the island of Virgin Gorda, feels like a little nautical village, so when the storm decimated the destination, it felt like an entire community was lost.
After four years of rebuilding and pushing through COVID and supply chain shortages, BEYC finally reopened in December 2021. The first two years were spent cleaning and remediating the property. The team remained environmentally conscious in the recovery by burning, upcycling or recycling every piece of rubble onsite.
“The property has evolved into maintaining a sense of history and legacy,” says BEYC President Kerri Jaffe. “The place feels like it’s been there for a really long time, because we used materials that have been at Bitter End for over 50 years, and we were really lucky to salvage interesting artifacts that somehow survived the storm,” says Jaffe. “Whether it be signage from old cottages or a piece of maritime history, we created art galleries throughout our space to showcase what we were able to save.”
The staff refers to the new chapter of BEYC as Bitter End 2.0 as they currently thrive with new amenities, restaurants, attractions and top-notch services. Watersports are the heart and soul of the marina, and they offer everything from sailing and windsurfing to winging, and even provide lessons.
Reeftique, the onsite retail hub and boutique, curates fashion and jewelry from around the world and has become a premier BVI destination. In tandem with Reeftique and the community, the marina launched Bitter End Foundation after the hurricane, hosting fundraisers, events, auctions and environmental initiatives. With each BEYC retail product purchase, a dollar is donated to the foundation.
Abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) are a growing problem in the boating community and pose dangerous environmental threats. When boats are irresponsibly discarded and sink below the surface, plastics, glass and pollutants are also left behind, harming marine life and aquatic ecosystems. Debris in the water can cause serious risks to boats, damage other vessels, marinas and properties, and obstruct safe cruising.
Thanks to nationwide environmental organizations, efforts to remove ADVs are increasing with help from federal agencies. The Annapolis-based nonprofit, BoatUS Foundation, recently received a $10 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from its Marine Debris Removal Program. This competitive four-year grant program will support the BoatUS Foundation’s efforts toward Boating Safety and Clean Water. It is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law through NOAA’s mission to address the marine debris crisis.
In addition to vessel removal, BoatUS Foundation’s project will also develop a national database to track ADVs and support educational research. This database will include an added focus on ADV impact in underserved communities. Most of the funds are dedicated to complete marine debris removal programs along the nation’s coastal regions, as well as extending into the Great Lakes.
BoatUS Foundation Director of Outreach, Alanna Keating, says the team is in the beginning stages of the project and looks forward to working with partners, stakeholders, local government and communities to tackle this large-scale issue nationwide.
“We want to look at why ADVs happen, how to address them on a local and state level, how to be efficient and work through the process with states and entities involved to streamline a structured, efficient removal,” says Keating.
“We’ll utilize that information we receive to work toward the prevention aspect — what can we do to help remove the barriers that prevent people from proper disposal? Whether it’s a cost or permitting issue, access to sustainable disposal, etc., this will give us ideas about how to work on national and state-level prevention.”
BoatUS says they are working diligently to get the project off the ground and see the impact. Stay tuned for updates at boatus.org/ADVGrant.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program awarded 14 recipients, totaling $69 million in federal funding over the 2022-2023 fiscal years. In addition to the BoatUS Foundation, NOAA grantees include the Center for Coastal Studies (New England), Gulf of Mexico Alliance (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas), Isla Mar Research Expeditions (Puerto Rico) and more. To learn more, visit marinedebris.noaa.gov.