CLEARWATER — The Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina, which for decades has been home to Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise, dolphin tours, dinner cruises, half-day fishing charters and hundreds of other vessels, will be rebuilt and expanded over the next several years.
The $15 million capital improvement plan, scheduled between 2019 through 2024, will use computer-aided design to configure slips, floating concrete docks, and utility lines to ensure the best financial and physical operation of the marina, said Ed Chesney, the director of the city’s Marine and Aviation Department. He oversees the city marina, the downtown marina, the Seminole Avenue boat ramp area, and Clearwater Airpark on Hercules Avenue. The city owns the airpark property, which it leases to a company that manages it.
“In the next five years, everything is going to come out and be replaced with more modern, concrete floating docks,” he told the Beacon on March 14. “Nothing will be where it is now because the slips have been built over the years and nothing was really planned accurately. This will be a big undertaking.”
Chesney, whose office is on the docks of the beach marina, also oversaw the construction of the downtown marina, below the Clearwater Memorial Causeway on the east shore of the Intracoastal Waterway. During that multi-year project, he worked on the architectural design, managed the permitting process, and the construction effort that produced the marina, which was finished in 2010.
He said the city will apply lessons learned to repeat the process for the much larger beach marina, the 198-slip port that is home to a U.S. Coast Guard was built in various unconnected stages since the 1970s. He already has $300,000 to “get my slip mix together and to do all my preliminary stuff before we go out to bid,” he said.
“Everything is coming up, the pilings, the planking, the electric, water, sewage, it’s all coming up and being modernized,” Chesney said. “Now with technology and computer aided design, my designers can change layouts and slip sizes and give me different options. They can show me a 200-slip configuration, or here are bigger slips for fewer, but larger boats, or wider slips.”
Chesney may combine smaller slips into single, larger slips, he said. “There’s a lot of wasted space here,” he said.
The designers, the builder and the contractor — none of which have been named — will work as a team, Chesney said.
“Design build is a very efficient way to do it, because your designer, your builder and your contractor work together from the start,” he said. “The risk is also shared: If you design something the builder still has time to say, ‘This won’t work,’ rather than discovering the design problem later, in the middle of construction.”
The new marina will be built in phases, Chesney said. During Phase I, the city will demolish the marina walkway and update the electric, water, cable, and other utility lines beneath it. That’s the sidewalk where charter fishing boats clean their fish and hawk their trips to fishing grounds.
“We are going to have to move boats around, in phases,” Chesney said. “For the sidewalk, it won’t impact the charter boats too much, maybe interrupt power for a time.”
The marina’s demand for electricity has increased exponentially over the years, so electrical engineers will be installing bigger electric lines.
“There are bigger boats with air conditioners, refrigerators, generators,” he said. “This started out as a sailboat marina and now, look out there, you see little mini-houses with air conditioning running.”
Chesney and his office staff have already made changes to save the city money.
Once the new slip configurations are in, or possibly sooner, the marina will start charging for slips based on the length of the vessel. For some reason, the marina had been charging for slips on the vessel’s passenger capacity.
“Nowhere else in Florida can we find this,” Chesney said with a chuckle. “If you carry six passengers, there’s a charge, if your boat holds 50 people, there’s a higher charge, and so on. It’s the strangest thing.”
The marina didn’t track how much each slip holder used for cleaning fish, washing the boat, or running on-board sinks and showers. After Chesney installed water meters at the slips, fishing captains and other commercial boat owners bought new hoses to replace leaky ones they had been using for years.
“I watched my monthly water bill go from $10,000 to $12,000 a month to between $5,000 and $7,000 a month, he said.