In early September 2004, the research for this volume was just about complete, and we were within shouting distance of publication. We’d confirmed that Charley had impacted only a handful of the marinas on Florida’s East Coast — doing most of its damage on the West Coast. Then Frances happened.
The devastation to the Treasure Coast area was enormous, and the path of destruction spread far north and south from there. After a week of faxing and phoning, we knew we couldn’t publish without more onsite research. The marinas began to clean up and rebuild as Ivan threatened the West Coast and finally tortured the Panhandle. Many of the East coast facilities got themselves back in business in a remarkably short period of time. Docks were gerryrigged and fuel and pump-out was not always available, but most marinas were hosting boats, and some semblance of normalcy continued. Then Jeanne arrived. And all of that clean-up and repair was undone; what Frances had missed, Jeanne took out. Another week of faxing and phoning, and we knew we couldn’t publish without re-visiting every impacted facility.
And that’s what we did! The month of December 2004 was spent re-visiting 95% of the marinas in this book — a brief check-in on those that had escaped unscathed and a longer interview and tour of those not so fortunate. By December, enough time had passed so that the clean-up operations were pretty complete. What was truly remarkable was the speed of the rebuilding. FEMA seemed to be more expeditious than they had been the year before in the Chesapeake, insurance adjusters were writing checks on the spot, Florida was processing permits in a flash, and trucks, barges and construction vehicles with out-of-state plates were everywhere. Communities, marina owners, managers, staffs and, most remarkably, customers all stepped up brilliantly and, with only a handful of exceptions, most facilities were back in business — at least on a limited basis. Many fuel docks were impaired and required complete replacement as did the pump-out services and the power pedestals. Decks that had been decimated were already re-built, restaurants reopened in what seemed like nanoseconds, and shiny new docks replaced the ones washed away. Even the blue tarps gradually disappeared from area roof-tops. And no one ever complained about the pounding of hammers or the screeching of cranes. Good humor reigned. It was truly impressive.
As of January 2005, all but about a dozen marinas along Florida’s East Coast are taking transients. Services may not be perfect, and there may be a few amenities missing, but the docks are there, the landside facilities are almost all restored and the staffs are ready and happy to see you. To describe the precise situation for each facility, a sentence in many Marina Reports, preceded by (H), closes the Marina Notes paragraph. If there is no (H) in Marina Notes, then there was no hurricane damage of any kind. For those facilities that were more seriously damaged — either totally wiped out (but with plans for rebuilding within the year) or not anticipating accepting transient boats until later in ‘05, we have also added an (H) on the page-edge black stripe after the marina name. Take time to read the (H) details before choosing a marina. And bear in mind that plans may change as the costs and opportunities of reconstruction become clearer. It would also be useful to check the Atlantic Cruising Club’s website to determine if those marinas have been able to stick to their schedules.
Ft. Pierce and Stuart, for instance, were hardest hit but they have recovered amazingly well. The Ft. Pierce City Marina may think long and hard before rebuilding the docks that are right on the Indian River, but they are fully operational and taking transients in their large, very protected basin. All landside services are functional, both restaurants are open for business; the town appears unscathed, and the palms that line the river walk are still standing.
On another note — you may notice that we have a penchant for seeking out those remaining vestiges of "Old Florida." Whether it’s a rustic back-country marina, a charming B&B with docks, or slips convenient to a revitalized historic downtown, we hope you enjoy these occasional respites as much as we do. These special places are becoming harder to find as is transient dockage, in general, on Florida’s East Coast. When we began this volume, we’d identified 255 facilities that took transient vessels with LOAs of 30 feet or greater. By the time we’d finished, there were only 226 that qualified. Thirty marinas had "disappeared." Most were no longer eligible because they had decided not to accept transients under any circumstances, and others had gone dockominium (or condorina). A few had been bull-dozed to be replaced by condominiums or gated communities with docks for residents only. This list may grow if some of those few currently closed facilities run into a developer with a plan they cannot resist.
There’s still a lot of great boating along this beautiful coastline, and we wish you bright skies, fair winds and happy cruising as you use the Atlantic Cruising Club’s Guide to Florida’s East Coast Marinas.
Bridget Balthrop Morton, Beth Adams Smith and Richard Y. Smith