We’re going to need a bigger slip.
South Florida’s voracious appetite for yachts — along with their ballooning size — has marinas scrambling to accommodate financiers and celebrities desperate to dock their floating mansions.
“South Florida has become a highly desirable place to live not just domestically, but globally,” said Carolyn Stone, Deputy Palm Beach Town Manager of Business Enterprise and Culture.
“Yachting is part of the luxury lifestyle. There just weren’t enough slips to accommodate the bigger yachts.”
The shortage has spurred a frenzy to secure slips for behemoths that stretch up to 300-feet long, with some owners shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars annually just to park them in prestigious spots.
Stone said one well-heeled slip suitor has paid in excess of $500,000 annually for a space at the Town of Palm Beach marina for two years, totaling well over $1M — while still waiting for their craft to be built.
“They’re willing to pay it because they’re nervous they’ll lose the spot,” she said.
According to a report in the Palm Beach Post, on person recently paid close to $12 million for a home just to land its 400 precious feet of water frontage to host his yacht — and plans to tear down the structure.
Nicole Haboush, Senior Charter Broker Manager of TJB Super Yachts, said docking arrangements are usually settled before a sale is completed to avoid an angry customer.
“They don’t want to buy the boat and then find out there’s nowhere to put it,” she said.
The municipally-owned Town of Palm Beach marina completed a $40 million renovation that transformed it into a world-class facility — with a complex electrical infrastructure to power yachts and around the clock security.
The marina only had a single slip for boats longer than 200 feet before the revamp — and now has 10.
World class vessels that have called the facility home include the 257-foot Amaryllis, reputed to be owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Borodin, and industrialist Leo Vecellio’s $60 million Lady Kathryn V.
But even with its expansion, waiting lists — and pleas for accommodation from yacht owners continue to soar, Stone said.
Demand is so intense that applicants are more than willing to pay the $10,000 required just to join the queue.
The city of West Palm Beach is also looking to benefit from marina mania, recently announcing plans for a $16 million new facility to host slip-starved boat owners.
According to a study from the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, Sunshine State boat sales soared to $19 billion in 2022 — a jump of 197% from 2018.
Local observers said that the COVID-19 pandemic initiated an unprecedented boom in the yachting industry as the rich and famous sought offshore solace.
But as the armada of mega-yachts began gliding into South Florida’s waterways, officials and private marina owners soon realized demand was outpacing supply.
For decades, many local marinas were semi-sleepy operations run by families.
With their waterfront properties facilities suddenly coveted by potentates from across the world, many old guard operators sold them off for millions.
“Venture capital realized the potential here,” said Patience Cohn of the Marine Industries Association. “They have been buying them all up, upgrading them to host some of the bigger boats, and consolidating. They discovered this niche and came flooding in.”
Safe Harbor Marinas — the largest operator in the world — acquired the Rybovich yacht facility in West Palm Beach in 2021 and has rapidly developed the site.
Stone said the explosion of the marina business has had far-reaching impacts in the area — and is even driving up property prices in previously dormant residential neighborhoods.
With yachts requiring year-round crew to maintain and operate them — even while docked — developers are building apartments around Rybovich partly to house everyone from captains to mechanics, Stone said.
The Related Group development firm recently completed Icon Marina Village, a 399-unit apartment project immediately next to the Rybovich facility.
“This is where people want to be,” Haboush said, noting that super yacht prestige stems not only from their length, but where they call home.