By Robert Wilkes
Having bought Rybovich in 2004, Wayne Huizenga, Jr., made a multi-million dollar gamble. He thought his location in West Palm Beach, Florida, had the potential to attract large yachts from around the world. His vision for a superyacht marina and service center had not been executed on this level before. On the other hand, there were few suitable alternatives in the area for superyachts passing through. To test the idea, he would have to dredge the basin, an expensive undertaking.
Huizenga, as it turned out, was right. Since setting up the world’s first integrated superyacht marina, Rybovich has enjoyed steady growth and expansion. The marina and refit center has acquired a worldwide reputation among superyacht owners, captains and crews that is arguably unmatched in the world.
Without doubt, Rybovich has benefited from the continuous building of new superyachts. There are just under 5,000 superyachts over 30m (100 ft.) worldwide and shipyards are turning out 150 new ones each year. But expanding market size is only part of the story. Huizenga is from a very successful South Florida business family. So it’s no surprise that his success has more to do with sound business practices, most importantly listening to the customer, adapting to market needs and having a clear, “big idea” and staying with it relentlessly.
Changes at Rybovich
Rybovich in West Palm Beach is a Bellingham Marine-built floating dock facility with 57 slips up to 120m (390 ft.) in length. The heavy-duty docks support scissor lifts and a fleet of golf carts. The marina provides fresh water connections, in-slip pump out for gray and black water and superyacht-capable shore power. New power pedestals with increased capacity have recently been installed and the electrical capacity continues to be upgraded. Much of the service work is done in water, and the marina also has 10 dry-space locations for on-land refit for vessels up to 600 tons and 59m (195 ft.).
Soon after purchasing the marina, management could see more space was needed for out-of-water work. In 2006, a 14-acre site two miles north at Riviera Beach was purchased and put in operation. A property improvement plan for the Riviera Beach location is process.
Called the Rybovich North, once complete, Rybovich’s Riviera Beach location will have a 1,100-ton Travelift to complement their 2,500-ton floating dry dock. A 400-ton Travelift will also be added to the facility.
A channel had to be dredged to 4.5m (15 ft.) before the two sites could be operationally linked. Permitting took seven years. The channel allows transfer of very large yachts from one site to the other. Bellingham Marine built a 400 ft. floating dock at Rybovich North to stage 75m to 85m (250 ft. to 280 ft.) yachts for servicing. In 12 to 18 months the facility will have haul out capabilities for large yachts. The goal is to move the industrial work to Rybovich North and have the two sites work seamlessly at the same level of quality and service.
Meanwhile, at the marina, the outside of the east dock was dredged deeper to allow 90m (300 ft.) yachts to tie on the outside. The arrangement provides easy maneuvering and offers the owner’s guests a Palm Beach Island view. Bellingham Marine wave attenuators are planned and permitting is in place for expansion of the north side on the marina that will accommodate several more superyachts.
A global player
Francois Van Well is vice president of business development for Rybovich. “We’re not just a shipyard,” said Van Well, “we’re a full-service marina and we try to keep it full like any other marina. Our customers come here because of the quality of our facilities to maintain and repair large yachts. Our clientele includes larger and larger yachts as our reputation and capabilities have grown.”
Huizenga did more than put up a “superyachts welcome here” sign and wait for business. He hired Chris Denhard as their business liaison and customer relations manager. Denhard travelled the world creating relationships with owners and captains that would later turn into service visits to Rybovich. Van Well and his team approached large yacht manufacturers in Europe and offered to acquire the specialized capabilities, tools and training needed to make Rybovich a provider of warrantee services for their yachts.
The presence of Rybovich in Florida, the growing number of superyachts and congestion in Mediterranean ports combined to alter cruising patterns of large yachts. “We’ve become an integral part of the itinerary for many yachts,” said Van Well. “They plan a stop for annual maintenance either on their way to the Caribbean or on the way back to their home port.”
“As these boats get bigger,” said Van Well, “their capabilities are greater. A steel-hulled vessel 40m and up can go anywhere any time of year and doesn’t have to be put up for storage in winter. They can leave the Mediterranean, go to either coast of the Americas, or go to the Galapagos, Fiji, New Zealand and Asia. We’re helping to encourage yacht visits to our area. We are a co-sponsor of the St. Barts Bucket Regatta held in March for sailboats over 30m (100 ft.), and it attracts many superyachts to the area.”
Taking care of the superyacht customer
“This was uncharted territory,” said Van Well, “when we pioneered the superyacht marina and refit concept. We had to listen to the customer and adapt quickly, and we still do. We learned that the key is to take stress off the captain by removing risks and uncertainties. For example, we have our own fleet of tugboats specifically designed for superyachts. We are taking delivery of a new, larger tugboat and training new crews to transfer large yachts between the West Palm Beach marina and the Riviera Beach Facility. When there are movements there are potential risks, so we make it as stress free as possible for the captain.”
“We have in-slip refueling and that’s fine for boats up to 40m to 45m (130 ft. to 150 ft.),” said Van Well. “Very large yachts need faster refueling. We’re one of the larger fuel distributors in South Florida, and we know the captains don’t want to wait all day for fuel trucks to arrive. So we have fuel trucks back to back, sometimes six or seven of them, to expedite refueling. We tailor our operation to be seamless, accommodating and up to the standards of the boats themselves.”
“Larger boats have larger permanent crew, 30 people on some boats,” said Van Well. “We normally have 500 to 600 crew staying in the marina. They may be here for two months or more. We basically run a hotel where the guests bring their own room. This is their chance to take care of medical and dental needs, go shopping, and relax. We have a crew lounge which acts as a hotel lobby, a restaurant, a pool and a complete exercise facility. Our concierge helps them with any non-technical needs. They used to rent cars, but that was expensive and created a parking problem. Instead we have a complementary shuttle bus to take them anywhere they want to go.”
An economic boost to the region
Relocating out-of-water work allowed Rybovich to begin multi-acre, nautically-themed real estate development at the West Palm Beach site that will include a number of new buildings that will host retail, restaurant, residential and other commercial tenants.
“When you have a marina like ours it’s buzzing with activity, like other ports around the world,” said Van Well. “That’s what we want to capture in our real estate development, a nautical feel that people will want to be around. Instead of fences and security guards we want it to be open to the community and be a place where they can enjoy the atmosphere and excitement created by these large, beautiful yachts.”
Rybovich is having a big impact on the economy. The company and its subcontractors provide hundreds of jobs. They hire and train people from all economic levels of the local area.
Wayne Huizenga, Jr.’s concept of a large-boat integrated marina and service center continues to expand and add capabilities, much to the credit of his management team. As they have from the beginning, they listen to the customer and adapt to their needs. Along the way they have changed the large-boat yachting world and benefited the community they serve.
Learn how to attract Millennials to your marina. Think functional luxury. There are some simple features you can incorporate into the design of your marina that will appeal to the Millennial generation.
By Roxie Comstock
High-spending Baby Boomers, floating concrete docks and affordable fiberglass boats built the boating and marina industries we know today. That was then. Today we are facing a serious challenge: as Boomers pass the keys and floating key fobs to the next generation of boaters, who are they passing them to? What do these new boaters want in a marina?
Millennials are the up and coming generation and will make up the bulk of our boating population. They are attracted to a different set of facilities and services than those that once satisfied the Boomers.
The definitions of Millennial vary, but they are generally described as those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. At about 80 million souls, they are the largest demographic cohort in U.S. history. Understand their approach to life and you have a window into the future.
Marinas around the world have stepped-up to the call to be good environmental stewards. Responsible waterfront development can benefit the environment. Did you know a marina could actually enhance biological diversity and improve water quality? Concrete docks especially are beneficial to marine life.
By Robert Wilkes
Here is one view of marinas as stewards of the environment:
‘Marinas are businesses and are all about making money like other businesses. They will cut corners and look the other way where the environment is concerned rather than spend the energy, time and money to proactively protect it. Marina operators don’t have the training or just don’t care enough to put in the hard work of environmental stewardship. Marinas and the boats in them are loaded with noxious chemicals that leach into the water, pollute the environment and kill marine life. Boat owners are ‘one-percenters’ with big gas tanks and large carbon footprints who chuck garbage over the side and are a threat to clean water and sensitive marine life.’
Now that I’ve got your attention and the hair standing up on the back of your neck, we can at least agree these attitudes and beliefs exist. But this dismal picture is not true, not even close. When it comes to sustainability, clean water, habitat development and every other aspect of marine ecology, marinas and boat owners are doing a great job. They are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and competent stewards of the environment.
We have a deep and persistent perception problem. These false impressions can and do influence decisions by coastal planning boards and regulatory and permitting authorities, especially when they are under pressure from watchdog environmental groups.
The waterfront of the United State’s capital is being transformed into a masterful work. Find out how #WharfDC is using DC’s unique waterfront location to build community pride and position the city for economic growth.
by Robert Wilkes
It’s a familiar story around the world. The once bustling waterfront, the city’s gateway to the world, was a tableau of sailing ships awaiting the tide. Then railroads and later automobiles turned the focus inland. The waterfront became a forgotten quarter of night clubs and bars surrounded by oily water and foul air.
By the 1950s and 60s, cities began building renewal projects that were mostly unremarkable single-use buildings with their backs to the water. Broad freeways truncated the waterfront from the rest of the city, leaving it isolated and neglected.
The dark days of urban waterfront neglect are over. There is a new sense of optimism, pride and possibility. Among a number of ongoing urban waterfront revitalisation projects, The Wharf in Washington DC is the largest in the US and arguably the most comprehensive and consequential. The District of Columbia, “the District” as the locals call it, is turning its face toward the water again.
As stewards of the marine lifestyle, it is important that we continually draw in new crowds to keep the industry alive. Find out how The Yards marina opened the DC waterfront up to a whole new generation of boating enthusiasts.
By Robert Wilkes
Children splashing under a waterfall in an enormous wading pool, a parade of mothers pushing strollers down the boardwalk, yoga classes, concerts, artisanal ice cream, taco-Korean fusion cuisine, residential apartments in a former Navy Yard foundry and office working spaces in a repurposed lumber shed are some of the things you’ll find at The Yards on the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.
The water is humming with life as well. Water taxis soon will take people to work and play. Paddleboards and kayaks explore the river, and on the Education Dock, Living Classrooms Foundation, a non-profit organization, teaches disadvantaged youth life skills and gives them hands-on job training.
On game day boaters moor at The Yards Marina, have dinner in an au courant locally owned restaurant, walk to Nationals Park baseball stadium to see a game and return home under the stars by boat — avoiding the traffic snarl on the highways. The Yards development has made this 48-acre, once-abandoned industrial site explode with life and created a new neighborhood on the river.