Sail boats. Motorboats. Yachts. You see boats of all types and sizes on the waterways of Venice. They’re docked or racked at the marinas, sparkling in the sun on a sales lot and on a trailer behind a car or truck on the way to—or coming home from—a day of sun or fun.
Could it be the imagination, or are there more boats out and about this year than last? Are we stopped at the drawbridge a bit more often, and as we wait, watching more boats than before gliding away, spinning the water behind them?
Business is booming; a talk with some of the area’s boating businesses confirms it. More boaters are hoisting their sails and revving up their motors than last year, and the upturn shows no signs of sputtering out.
“Business is way up for us,” said Tim Joslin, general manager at Marine Max. “The bottom line is that people still want to have fun. Even with gas prices so high, they take the boat out; they just don’t go as far.”
Marine Max sells new and used boats, acts as a broker, and services all types and sizes of boats. The full-service marina has a fuel dock, ship store, over 60 wet slips and dry storage for over 200 boats.
Business began to really pick up in August of 2011, said Joslin, and has increased with the season. He is surprised at the number of new boaters who have come in over the past 90 days.
Marine Max is an ideal “one-stop shop” for land lubbers who want to become mariners. When new owners pick up their boats, they find them ready to go with a full tank of gas and a Coast Guard kit, as well as unlimited lessons from a licensed captain.
“Even two years later, if someone who bought a boat from us comes back and says, ‘I haven’t been out on the water in awhile and I’d feel better if I had some refresher lessons,’ we’ll accommodate them,” said Joslin. “We want to see people out boating, out on the water, enjoying themselves.”
Having fun on the water is only one part of owning a boat, however. As every boat owner quickly discovers, owning a boat is a lot of work, too. One way around the tedium and toil is to turn over the bulk of the work to someone else.
True North Yacht Services, Inc., is one such “someone else” that will handle just about anything you need to have done for your boat, from cleaning and polishing to routine maintenance and large repairs. Through their preventive maintenance program, True North certified technicians will inspect your boat to make sure everything is in peak working order. Should repairs be needed, they can handle anything from a small outboard to a large yacht.
“Some people bring their boats in every month for us to check them over and make sure everything is OK,” said business manager Steve Shipps. “Or they’ll bring it in for detailing—cleaning the hull, polishing the woodwork—we’ll even dive under the water and clean the bottom of the boat.”
Aye Aye, Captain
True North offers captain’s services too. If you need to have your boat moved from Florida back north, for example, their captains can take care of that.
A boat that sits unused may need more cleaning than a boat that gets out on the water regularly, said Shipps. Sitting in the water causes build-up on the bottom of the boat, for example. And if no one is using the boat, no one knows if it’s working or not.
“Most people request routine maintenance after the winter, like changing the oil and maybe the water pump,” Shipps explained.
Along with upkeep, boat owners must make the decision of where to physically keep the boat. The number of boats we see on trailers indicates that many owners keep their boats at home.
Others opt for the convenience of keeping the boat right at the marina so they don’t have the hassle of hauling it back and forth just for a day on the water. Gulf Harbor Marina is a Mercury dealer and full-service marina, with plenty of “high and dry” storage, colloquially known as a “rackominium”—a sort of condo building for boats.
Their 275 boat “condos” are about 60 percent sold out, according to Steve Cocchi, service manager at the marina. People either buy their space or rent it monthly.
“Investors also buy the condos and rent them out to other boat owners,” said Cocchi.
If you want to be able to get out on the water any time you want to, but forego the costs and hassles of owning the boat, Freedom Boat Club is awaiting your call. For a monthly fee, you can rent a boat for a fraction of the cost of chartering a boat for the day.
Just Part of the Adventure
If, on the other hand, you want to dive right into a water adventure while leaving the actual boating to someone else, try Florida West Scuba and Charter. Their vessel, The Hammerhead, takes guests on a daily basis to hunt for sharks’ teeth and fossils that are millions of years old.
“Venice is one of the two foremost places to find sharks’ teeth,” said Dan Sansiveri, an instructor and boat captain at Florida West. “We even have some secret places we take people to.”
Florida West also has a dive shop and three types of training in SCUBA: NAUI, PADI and SSI for basic levels through professional. Formerly Florida West Scuba School, the company combined with Megalodon Charters and became Florida West Scuba and Charter.
Their season begins in earnest when spring breaks start in early March. They have charters and training booked every day for weeks ahead.
Tim Joslin calls boats “stress release vessels.” One thing is certain, for boaters out on the water feeling the wind in their hair, the rush of the ride or the thrill of what treasures a dive may uncover, cares melt away. Time stands still. And life is good.