Expect to see the new boat barn, rapidly sprouting up at the
St. Joe Marina, begin to move watercraft in and out of dry storage by year’s
“My phone is ringing off the hook several times a day from
people who want their boat in my barn, right now,” said Preston Sutter, the
marina’s general manager. “They’re chomping at the bit.”
Nearly three years since Hurricane Michael flattened the existing
marina, tossing boats to the gusts like a ball cap off a bald man’s head, the
marina is on the verge of a total rebuild.
“We spent a year and a half taking it down to subgrade,
getting rid of all the asphalt and the remnants and starting anew,” said
“The boat barn before held 80 boats; this new one will hold
252 and boats up to 45 feet in length,” he said.
The roof is now on the new four-story dry boat storage
facility, with a footprint of approximately 63,000 square feet, being built by
Roof & Rack, out of Boca Raton, under the auspices of J.M. Phelps Construction,
out of Panama City, the general contractor.
“The barn is probably 80 percent complete,” said Sutter.
Next on the agenda is the arrival of Wiggins Marina Bull forklift
from California within the next four to eight weeks.
At the same time, Phelps is working on getting the concrete poured
and staging docks built to enable transfer in and out of the barn and the water.
“I’m hoping by the first of year I’ll have a way to take boats
in and out of the barn,” Sutter said.
Phelps will build the ship store in the corner of the boat
basin, featuring retail space, bathrooms and showers, while a dock contractor
puts in 48 wet slips. Those projects are expected to be completed by late
One project that is not currently on the drawing board, but
is being contemplated, is a restaurant and hotel.
“Perhaps one day,” said Sutter. “If the marina fills up and becomes
a center of activity, and if the county and visitors embrace it and it becomes thriving,
I can see more things going in down the road.
“Now we’re trying to build infrastructure,” he said. “It’s all
about amenities when people get here to the beach. From a tourism standpoint,
for a family coming down to Cape San Blas or Port St. Joe, I think the marina is
going to be a great fit.
“We don’t want to subtract from Reid Avenue and that
downtown Main Street USA feel that Port St. Joe has,” Sutter said. “We want to
be a value add.”
He said the more than tripling of dry dock storage space, and the
decrease in wet slips, is in keeping with a growing trend that boaters prefer.
“The trend in boating is people have gone to outboards, to center
consoles,” Sutter said. “They want to get on the boat, and get off the boat,
and go home.
“The thing we’re trying to create is a world class 21st
century operation,” he said, with instructions easily handled through a launch
app from a smartphone.
“My goal is you park your car and get back to it and leave, and
we flush the boat, we wash it and put it away. We’re trying to be a concierge service
for slips,” Sutter said.