Lori Becker - Palm Beach Post Columnist
January 03, 2005


Winter resident Joe Charles wanted a better place to store his boat for the summer. Tired of leaving his 56-foot Neptunus Express behind his house in Jupiter, he decided to build his own marina.
Charles plans to open the River Forest Yachting Center this spring in Stuart. The $4 million project will sit on 8 1/2 acres off the St. Lucie Canal on Pennsylvania Avenue, just north of State Road 76A.

"My wife and I have been looking for a place for years. We finally found one, but we had to do it ourselves," said Charles, 65.
The marina will feature a 45,000-square-foot air-conditioned building for summer storage of large boats. It will also include two smaller buildings for boat storage and maintenance.

The facility, connected to the canal by a 700-foot-long channel, is aimed at larger boats from 30 to 50 feet, Charles said.

For $4 a square foot, seasonal boaters won't have to worry about sun or water damage to their vessels while they're away.

"The sun tears them up, and the barnacles grow on the bottom," Charles said. "Having them in a climate-controlled building for six months of the year greatly enhances the life."

But after September's twin hurricanes wiped out marinas along the Treasure Coast, River Forest is also selling itself as a storm shelter.

The boatyard, a mile west of the St. Lucie Locks, will have dry storage for up to 300 boats.

Boaters can pay to reserve a dry slip to move their vessels to in case of a hurricane.

"It's a safe harbor so we can get people out of those (coastal) marinas and get them up the river," Charles said.

Gary Guertin, vice president of the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast, said the inland storage would a plus for local boaters.

"The more boats that are taken out of harm's way, the better," he said. 

Charles, who splits time between Jupiter and Chicago, is chief executive officer of Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based Charles Industries, which makes electronic equipment for the telecommunications and marine industries. He bought the former Foster Dredge property in May 2003.

Charles expects to get final approval this week from Martin County so he can begin construction.

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