Adapting an Existing Marina to Accommodate Superyachts
May 6, 2016
Odds are good that marketing conditions that existed when your marina was built have changed. You may have a “problem child,” a section of the marina that is underperforming. Or, you may suspect there is an opportunity you could capture if you could repurpose part of your marina.
You’re not alone. Around the world owners are adapting their facilities to welcome superyachts, and it’s paying off. In some cases a marina’s existing floats can be reconfigured and reused without additional pile. That usually avoids reliving the lengthy permitting process.
Superyachts may offer the promise of increased revenues and improved brand caché. The prestige of becoming a superyacht marina can make your marina more competitive and allow you to charge more. Revenue from large yachts may be more consistent than vacancy-prone small slips. Marinas that cater to larger boats can expect higher revenues from fuel sales, supplies and services. They are also unlikely to be burdened with derelict or abandoned vessels.
There are limitations. Reliable channel and basin depth, maneuvering room and ample electrical power are required. 480V 3-phase is essential, as captains do not like to run generators in port. High-speed, high-capacity refueling nearby is an asset.
In this article we’ll visit four marinas that created superyacht moorage without starting over. You might be able to do the same and it may be easier than you think.
Elliott Bay Marina, Seattle, Washington, USA
Seattle, Washington, the “Emerald City,” rises from Elliott bay in Puget Sound. Although far from the typical superyacht axis from Florida to the Med, the area attracts owners in search of adventure in the wilds of British Columbia and Alaska.
Elliott Bay Marina opened in 1991 with 1,200 slips 10m to 19m. The city was starved for slips and the marina was an immediate success. Two decades later ownership recognized the need to reconsider the slip mix. “The 2008 financial crises depressed the moorage market,” said Brian Kaloper, Harbormaster, “especially for our 12m slips. Many of those were vacant 6-8 months a year.
Kaloper and Dwight Jones, General Manager, saw a trend. Superyachts stay for a long time. “We thought larger boats would provide more consistent revenue,” said Kaloper, “and we charge by the length of the dock not the length of the boat.”
Bellingham Marine, the general contractor for the original marina, was consulted and developed a simple conversion. Five 12m slips were selected as a test of concept. “We disconnected the finger piers and joined them in parallel to the main walk,” said Rob Rasmussen, General Manager of Bellingham Marine’s Northwest Division. “The resulting 4.3m-wide main walk is stronger and more stable. Some finger-pier piling was removed but no additional piling was needed.
Unifloat docks have timber walers attached by thru-rods threaded on the ends and locked in place with nuts. “The thru-rod channels of the main walk and finger pier modules lined up perfectly,” said Rasmussen. “With new, longer thru-rods we could make them one solid unit.”
“Finger piers were in 3m modules,” said Kaloper, “and that gave us enormous flexibility to fit it all together. Elliott Bay Marina already supplied 480V 3-phase power so no power modifications were needed.
“We had a superyacht on our dock three hours after we opened,” said Kaloper. “With it came better revenue, so we reconfigured more docks. All told, 32 of our old 12m slips were eliminated to make longer berths.” Elliott Bay Marina can now accommodate ten superyachts as follows: two at 100m, three at 31-50m, and five at 24-30m. Maximum draft is 6m.
Customer service adapted to the demands of large yachts and professional crews. “We learned to be more flexible and more fluid,” said Kaloper. “We became a concierge operation for our superyacht guests. That raised the level of service for all guests.”
The new docks have drawn boats from far and wide. “We have yachts coming up the coast from the Panama Canal and staying a year,” said Kaloper. “We had a boat moor with us from Alaska that originated in Nova Scotia. He came by way of the Northwest Passage.”
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