It sometimes can be bittersweet when you’re moving to a new home, town or in our case, new marina. When we first moved Blue Turtle from Cape Coral Yacht Club to Snookbight Marina 4 and half years ago, we honestly thought we’d be staying there at least until Corey graduated from high school. We did extensive research on live aboard marinas in southwest Florida and found it difficult to find one in a location close to Corey’s school in Bonita Springs. We didn’t find any marinas that allowed full-time live aboards in Bonita Springs or Naples and Marco Island was just too far to drive, so we settled on Fort Myers Beach. We were psyched that we found a newly renovated marina mid-island which makes for easier access to head south to take Corey to school, avoiding the seasonal traffic on the north end of the island. So, in December of 2012 we moved to Snookbight Marina.
Our first year at Snookbight was magical. We were obviously stoked to be right on the beach and be able to walk across the street to put our feet in the sand, but we were equally excited about all the wonderful folks we met. We instantly forged great and lasting friendships and were happy to finally have a fun social environment which we had been missing on land. During season, the docks were festive and we had dock parties 2 times a week during season. Our first couple of years there were simply awesome, however, as the old saying goes, “Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”
The corporate vision
In June of 2014, Snookbight was bought by Suntex Ventures, a company that owns 30 other marinas across the U.S. At first, things really didn’t change for the marina residents in the day-to-day sense, only that we were basically left in the dark about what was happening with the marina now that it had exchanged hands. Managers were fired and hired and fired again and there was no communication to us regarding anything about the marina and who we could talk to if we had a question or issue. It seems the only communication we did receive was when our rates went up. And up they went. One of those early changes was when they went from charging by the foot to charging by the slip. We’ve heard of some marinas adopting this fee schedule method but Snook Bight basically made all their slips 50’ minimum. This was a difficult pill to swallow considering the vast majority of boats in the marina were 35’-45’. Since we were on the face dock, the slips ranged from 37’ to 48’. We were in a 46’ slip so we started to pay for 6’ additional feet for our trawler. Since we loved being out on the face dock, we considered ourselves lucky and just accepted the new 46’ slip rate.
Over the course of 3 years, we also encountered per foot rate changes, live aboard fee increases which have more than doubled and went from metered electric to $95 flat fee per month which doesn’t add up in the winter when we typically have $15 electric bills. The final straw for us was when we returned from our Dry Tortugas trip in July, we found that they wanted to move us off our face dock slip so that they could put their rental boats there. They moved us to an interior slip by the fuel dock and wanted us to pay for a 50’ slip when we renewed our contract in December. This contract renewal would bring our monthly expenses up by $450/month from when we first started living there.
End of an era
We hung in there through all the changes and rate hikes, because we loved it there and it was convenient for us. However, one side effect of the rate increases is that many of our seasonal friends from the first few years aren’t coming back in the winter and going elsewhere. Many of our year-round live aboard friends are now gone as well. Gone are the dock parties, social happy hours, and folks gathering impromptu to chat and catch up. There are still a few full-time live aboards there, but it’s far from when we first started out there. One thing is very clear now: the corporate vision of the marina is only to make money, understandably, but with that new vision it has driven out many of the live aboards and it now lacks a thriving community. Things just aren’t the same anymore. It’s a shame that such a beautiful, well maintained property that once had such a lively and active community is no longer competitive in their rates and fees. For what they are now charging, you could stay in a marina in the Keys.
SO, where did we move to?
Randy and I looked at a few other marinas but the only one that we agreed would be the best fit for us was Salty Sam’s Marina. You might have heard of this marina last December when I blogged about the Fort Myers Beach Boat Parade when we stayed here for the weekend. Back then, we really enjoyed our stay and so we decided to check it out again and talk to some friends of ours who lived there on their boat. With nothing but great things to say about the marina and the very attractive rates, we decided that this would be the new home for Blue Turtle. Salty Sam’s is still located at Fort Myers Beach, but they are not physically on Estero Island which we think will be helpful to avoid that seasonal traffic on the beach. We are still a short bike ride over Matanzas Bridge to the beach and the north end of the island where most the restaurants are located. I also love that this marina is so involved with all the fun activities on Fort Myers Beach that we usually attend, like Shrimp Festival, Pirate Festival and the Christmas boat parade. While we will miss our marina friends still at Snookbight and the few seasonal folks who will be there in the winter, we are looking forward to being at the hub of festive activities that celebrate all there is about Fort Myers Beach.