Grovie Dalzell and his garage marina. He has more than 70 boats moored at the marina.
LARGO – A visit to the room of Grovie Dalzell at UPARC’s Dryer Group home reveals his love for boats.
All over the walls are pictures of boats. There are paintings and photographs and drawings, many by Dalzell himself. There are model boats on his dresser and the drawers are filled with more pictures and memorabilia relating to watercraft of all kinds. It is hard to imagine how there could be any more stuff relating to boats in Dalzell’s possession.
Then you see the marina.
Grovie’s Marina is located in a full-sized garage behind the house. A full bay filled with small boats on display tables. But for Dalzell this is as real as anything else in the world. His boats come and go. They end up in dry dock for repairs. They have to gas up and they need appropriate credentials to operate.
“We’re actually asking the people at the state level in Tallahassee for the licenses and documents we need,” he said. “It takes time but we have a woman getting them for us. They should be in next week.”
Once the documents arrive then Dalzell can go about the business of operating all the boats legally. It is important to him. He’s also aware that space is limited and his collection is growing.
“I have to build more slips. Some of these boats need a place to tie up,” he said. “Right now they are tied together so we’ll have to rearrange the docking spaces.”
Dalzell’s marina would rival any model train layout. The difference is, in his world, the marina is real. He has the bases covered.
“See that big antenna over there? We can contact by radio any boat as far away as North Carolina,” he said. “I have a guy who operates that for us.”
He also has a mechanic who fixes the boats when they break down.
“She knows all about engines,” he said. “Show her a broken engine and bam. She knows how to fix it.”
Dalzell’s knowledge of boats and his skill in making the marina has made him something of a celebrity at UPARC. Sheldon Hershman, the executive director, has known him for more than 20 years.
“He has always been a fascinating individual,” he said. “He’s always updating and expanding his marina. If he brings in a new boat, it isn’t just any boat. It is a very specific boat; he spent a long time researching the details of what he wants. Each boat has its own little story that he chronicles.”
That is evident as Dalzell points out the various craft tied up in the marina.
“That over there is the party boat,” he said, pointing to a yacht-like craft. We day-rate that vessel and so far we only have small parties booked for it.”
Then there is the Show Queen II, a local cruise boat. That’s one of the vessels awaiting proper documents from Tallahassee. Then there is the yacht that sleeps six and makes regular trips to the zoo at the end of the marina. And Dalzell especially likes telling about the trawler named “Never Got Done.” Of course, it is an unfinished boat; it just never got done.
Likely the reason the trawler never got done is because Dalzell is always busy with a new project. In the works is a theme park called Dinosaur World. Dinosaurs surrounded by boats of course.
Then there is the airport, off to the side of the marina and now under construction. Already several planes are parked waiting to take off.
Dalzell is most excited by upcoming boat races, which will happen once he develops the course.
“We’ve already got the committee boat where the judges will be,” he said. “And in this drawer are the racing boats. They haven’t been on the water yet.”
With that he opened a cabinet drawer and revealed a dozen finely appointed racing boats just waiting to get started.
And there is more. He plans car shows, an ice cream parlor and bigger parties on that party boat.
Dalzell’s love of boats came from his early days growing up on North Pine Circle in Belleair. His father was an architect who worked in Clearwater but always had a boat. Dalzell remembers looking out over the water every day and as often as not going for a ride with his dad in one of the boats.
He’s 64 now and his boats, more than 70 of them, exist in the garage. In his world they exist on water in his marina.
The Dryer Home wasn’t where the marina got its start. Dalzell lived in a UPARC group home in Dunedin when he started the project and when he moved to Dryer Road 10 years ago the marina moved with him.
UPARC operates 19 group homes in Pinellas County and they house residents who are intellectually or developmentally handicapped. Daily, the residents go to UPARC’s main office at Clearwater’s Long Center where they attend courses and learn life skills. Others go to work at jobs provided by UPARC’s partners in the community.
Hershman said it is no different for their residents than it is for anyone else.
“It is a challenge to them just like the rest of us who have to leave home for the first time,” he said. “There is a certain amount of anxiety to be sure.”
Some residents, like Dalzell, find comfort in hobbies or interests to keep them going. Dalzell has more than just his boats to keep him busy.
“He keeps up on current events,” said Hershman. “He loves the weather; he’s always following the weather patterns, and he’s our in-house meteorologist. When hurricane season comes we always look to Grovie for information. He’s a person that I can count on.”
That fascination with weather is a must if you operate a marina.
It is also a worry. For Dalzell, hurricane season is always a concern.
“If a hurricane ever hit here and ruined the marina, I don’t know … I’d cry,” he said.