YACHT CENTER TAKING THE SEARCH OUT OF SUMMER STORAGE
Joe Charles always struggled to find a storage spot for his boat during the summer months. The lack of local options meant the boat wound up spending summers in the back yard of his Jupiter home — a less-than-ideal location.
'It sits out there and rots,' said the part-time resident. 'And then, every time there is a hurricane threat, we have to have the neighbors help out and keep an eye on it.'
Charles finally found a solution for his frustration, however, one he hopes will ease the minds of many other boat-loving seasonal residents.
He plans to open the River Forest Yachting Center near Stuart by late May, with space to accommodate 200 to 250 boats.
'This is not a marina,' said Charles, founder and CEO of Charles Industries Ltd., a Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. 'It's a long-term storage summer boat facility. It really caters to those who go North or leave for the summer ... There's nothing like it around.'
The center, at 9150 S.W. Pennsylvania Ave., is nestled in a 9-acre, hurricane-protected freshwater lagoon area connected to the St. Lucie Canal by a 700-foot channel.
The nearly $5 million project includes a 45,000-square-foot, climate-controlled building for larger boats, as well as two smaller buildings for boat storage and maintenance work.
Previously a junkyard, the property was purchased in May 2003. Charles received the last of the necessary permits in February and expects to open in time for hurricane season.
Although the project took shape before last summer's storms, its taken on importance in light of the damage to area marinas. Statewide, marina owners have provided loss estimates totaling about $40 million. Along the Treasure Coast, all 27 members of the area's marine association reported damage.
In response, Charles has created and patented the 'Hurricane Club.' Group members are ensured wet or dry boat storage at River Forest in the case of a hurricane.
'When a hurricane is on the way, everyone is trying to find a place to take their boat,' said Charles. 'This guarantees you have a spot for your boat.'
Annual membership will range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the size of the vessel. Charles said the club also can help decrease insurance premiums about 20 percent, by meeting insurance hurricane storage provisions. Charles said he's already receiving requests about hurricane club membership.
Once open, other River Forest services will include boat detailing, bottom painting, fueling and propeller work. Maintenance, repair and other services will be available by arrangement.
'It's hassle-free storage,' said Charles. 'We want people who store here to feel comfortable. We're very excited about it.'