Archive for » February 1st, 2018«

Everybody wants a piece of Virginia Key. Will Miami ever stop trying to cash in?

Poor Virginia Key. Always up for grabs.

Can the barrier island fend off the latest gambit to cash in on its beauty?

A formerly quashed proposal to open a mooring field for 49 yachts in the Miami Marine Stadium basin is back, riling rowers, dragon boaters, paddleboarders, kayakers, triathletes and nature lovers who say a parking lot in the blue lagoon is incompatible with its purpose as an oasis for recreational water sports, dolphins and birds.

The city of Miami also wants to expand a launching area now reserved for non-motorized vessels into a triple-wide motorboat ramp, accompanied by a 90-space parking lot for trailers.

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In addition, a plan to build a boat ramp over a wild turtle-nesting beach at the North Point mountain-biking trailhead plus an adjacent 200-space parking lot is still lurking, alarming cyclists, wildlife conservationists and paddlers who frequent Jimbo’s Lagoon.

The city’s ideas for monetizing Virginia Key parkland are being raised against the backdrop of the Miami International Boat Show, a marine sales extravaganza that grows more massive each winter since it moved from Miami Beach in 2016. The Feb. 15-19 event — which boasts on its website that “The five biggest days in boating just got bigger!” — begins setup in December, driving pilings into the bay bottom, installing 900 wet slips and 270,000 square feet of floating docks across the water and erecting convention-center sized tents on land. It’s not removed until March, which means the boat show monopolizes that space for nearly four prime months per year.

“Virginia Key is a jewel, unique in its proximity to the urban core,” said Leah Kinnaird, a member of the Save Our Sisters dragon boat team. “It’s a playground for Miami. Let’s take care of it rather than chip away at it.”

So what, exactly, is the vision for Virginia Key? The 1,000-acre island with breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay and the downtown skyline is home to beaches, a nature preserve, two marinas, a sewage treatment plant, a landfill, MAST Academy, Seaquarium, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration station and the historic, abandoned, graffiti-covered marine stadium. The Rickenbacker Causeway is popular with cyclists and runners and its sandy shoreline is popular with swimmers, waders and picnickers.

Former Mayor Manny Diaz declared that Virginia Key should be Miami’s Central Park. But there’s an unrelenting tug of war between its users and commercial development forces.

“The problem is that the city hires a consultant first and makes decisions behind doors, and then when the citizens find out what’s been planned undercover, there’s friction,” said Gary Milano, vice chair of the Virginia Key Advisory Board that was created to channel public input. Milano, a former habitat restoration specialist for the state, is also a steward of the key’s carefully crafted master plan. “What’s important is comprehensive planning — not trying to rush things through to make money.”

The master plan emphasizes environmental sensitivity and public access, but Miami Rowing Club member Joyce Landry worries that the city is constantly tempted to circumvent it. The city has already allocated $750,000 for design of the mooring field, which isn’t allowed under the master plan. The plan also called for the creation of a green flex park in the marine stadium parking lot. There would be a public boathouse, a soccer field, picnic benches. It could have been a cool waterfront space — the type you’d see in Brooklyn, Portland, Detroit or Toronto. Instead, the city spent $20 million black-topping the vast barren lot and installing electrical, plumbing and drainage infrastructure for the boat show.

“Everybody is trying to get a piece of this place,” said Landry, who spearheaded the defeat of a huge $100 million marina development plan in 2016. “The designs we see are always out of scale and dominated by concrete. It’s a shame that the priority to make this a beautiful area for the people has not come to fruition. We imagine the city of Miami looking across the bay and scheming, ‘Hmmm, what can we build over there next?’ 

Daniel Rotenberg, director of Miami’s Department of Real Estate and Asset Management, argues that the city does want citizen input while balancing its budget needs by making the most of its properties when feasible. He pointed out that the size of the mooring field has been cut in half.

Landry met her fellow rowers for their usual 5:30 a.m. practice Tuesday. They had to launch around the boat show piers, which extend 100 yards farther east than they did last year. They had to alter their route as well to get around the piers that cover a third of the 300-yard wide basin.

Out on the water, the rowers were greeted by herons and ospreys. Dolphins often swim and leap alongside the rowers in a playful race. When the rowers cut through a school of fish, stragglers sometimes jump into their laps. Manatees amble through the lagoon, too. As the sun rose, painting a pink arc over the treeline and illuminating the glass towers of the skyline, the rowers leaned over their oars and paused to catch their breath.

“The kind of morning when you truly appreciate living in Miami,” said club member Sunny McLean. “No better spot to be than here.”

The boat show presents a temporary obstacle. The rowers dread that a mooring field, with boats up to 60 feet long tethered in the middle of the basin, will create a permanent one. They’re concerned that motorboats, Jet Skis and water taxis — and their wakes — will create a safety hazard.

They are practicing in quads, but the eights need even more space, have wide turning radiuses and need to race abreast.

Aside from the 300 adult and youth members of the rowing club, the basin is used by school crews from Ransom Everglades, 200 members of three dragon boat teams, 200 members of the Kana Lui Outrigger Canoe Club, 90 members of a paddleboarding club, plus triathletes who practice swimming and other paddleboarders and kayakers who seek the flat water of the lagoon.

“Our oars are very long, we’re facing backwards, we have to account for currents and we need room for human error,” said rower Chris McAliley. “This is the only place in Miami where we can practice passive water sports. Power boaters don’t really know the passive boat community. We’re in very light and vulnerable sculls. To put a mooring field and boat ramp in here — it’s not a good mix.”

The city counters that the basin is already a congregating space for dozens of boats that anchor there for free. A mooring field would not only allow the city to collect rent but would enable it to regulate the basin population, reduce seagrass damage caused by dragging anchors, grounded boats and derelict boats, and prevent discharge of sewage by providing a pump-out facility.

The city also wants to address a chronic shortage of ramp space by enlarging the one next to the marine stadium, which skeptics say will create traffic problems on the Rickenbacker for left-turning vehicles towing trailers.

Mooring field opponents say the city should not compromise the environmental fragility of the area by adding traffic and pollution and should simply block the mouth of the basin.

“Place a line of buoys and forbid any anchoring,” McLean said. “Why do wealthy or transient motorboat and yacht owners who can use marinas have higher priority than the constituents who use the basin daily? We’re always talking about making Miami a world-class city, wooing Amazon. People want blue and green space.”

The questions persist for poor, exploited Virginia Key. What’s to become of the empty stadium and what operator would want to take it over if it can’t be used for four of the nicest months of the year because of the boat show? If the city can clear out the squatter boats anchored in the basin during the boat show, why can’t it be clear year round? Will the flex park ever be constructed?

“We have to stop the piecemeal approach and engage the ear of the city,” Kinnaird said.

The rowers who love Virginia Key say conflict is inevitable as the city has to find ways to make a buck on its land. Running the key like a conservancy similar to the one that oversees New York’s Central Park may be the only solution.

“Otherwise the holistic plan gets ignored and the city keeps going pell mell with these ideas that don’t make any sense,” McLean said. “We are tired of fighting them off.”


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Brunswick Corp. releases 4Q, full-year 2017 financial results

Brunswick Corp.’s fourth quarter and full-year 2017 financial results were bolstered by a net sales increase of 14 percent in the company’s boat segment as well as an 8 percent increase in the marine engine segment.

Collectively, Brunswick’s marine businesses reported a 10 percent increase in both revenue and operating earnings over 2016.

“Our 2017 revenue increased by 9 percent, reflecting strong growth in all three of our primary boat categories and the outboard engine business, along with solid growth in our parts and accessories businesses,” said Brunswick Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Schwabero.

Overall demand in global marine markets was strong, as domestic markets continued to grow and international markets benefited from gains in Europe, Canada, and Asia-Pacific, as well as improving conditions in other regions.

Successful marine product launches and continued strong market share, combined with an effective acquisition strategy, have positioned Brunswick’s marine businesses for success in 2018, Schwabero said.

In December, Brunswick announced its intention to sell its Sea Ray businesses, including the Meridian brand.

Starting with the fourth quarter of 2017, Brunswick is reporting the historical and future results of these businesses as discontinued operations.

The Sea Ray businesses reported net sales of $103.2 million in the fourth quarter and $387.6 million for full-year 2017.

The businesses had adjusted operating losses of $5.9 million in the fourth quarter and $17.2 million for the year.

These amounts exclude a $36 million impairment loss recorded in the fourth quarter of 2017 in connection with the anticipated sale of the businesses, as well as $2.2 million and $9.9 million of other restructuring, exit, integration, and impairment charges for the fourth quarter and full-year respectively.

Brunswick’s marine engine segment reported net sales of $564.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, up 13 percent from $500.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

International sales, which represented 31 percent of total segment sales in the quarter, were up 6 percent compared to the prior year period.

For the quarter, marine engines reported operating earnings of $57.5 million. This compares with operating earnings of $51.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Strong growth in the outboard engine business and the parts and accessories businesses led to the sales increases in the quarter.

The improvement in operating earnings in the fourth quarter was primarily the result of higher net sales and favorable changes in product mix, partially offset by planned increases in growth investments in advance of new product introductions and unfavorable adjustments related primarily to product warranty and the resolution of litigation.

Brunswick’s boat segment reported net sales of $283.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, up 15 percent from $245.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

International sales, which represented 27 percent of total segment sales in the quarter, increased by 14 percent compared to the prior year period.

For the fourth quarter of 2017, the Boat segment reported operating earnings of $21.9 million. This compares with operating earnings of $13.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The boat segment’s revenue reflected strong growth in the aluminum and fiberglass outboard boat businesses, Schwabero said, adding the increase in operating earnings was primarily the result of higher net sales and improved operating efficiencies.

“Our outlook for 2018 is generally consistent with our recently provided three-year strategic plan and indicates another year of strong revenue and earnings growth, with excellent cash flow generation,” Schwabero said. “We expect our marine businesses’ top-line performance to benefit from the continuation of solid global growth, along with the success of new products.” 

Brunswick will host a conference call today at 10 a.m. CST to discuss its fourth quarter and full-year 2017 results. The call will be hosted by Schwabero, William L. Metzger, senior vice president and chief financial officer, and Ryan M. Gwillim, vice president – investor relations. The call will be broadcast over the Internet at ir.brunswick.com.



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Dreaming of summer: A look inside how businesses prepare at New York City boat show

The scene at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan this past weekend was all-nautical as the Progressive Insurance New York Boat Show was in full swing. First held in 1905, it is the nation’s longest-running boat show, bringing together hundreds of businesses that represent dozens of manufacturers. 

For East End marine businesses, the event is a time for staff to gear up and bring their A-game for five days of nothing but boat talk.

Dealers come from all over the country but mainly from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. More than half of the marine businesses that come from New York are based on Long Island, and out of those, over a quarter of them are from the East End.

Some of these businesses include Strong’s Marine, Port of Egypt Marine, Hampton Watercraft and Marine, Spellmans Marine and Albertson Marine.

“I love coming to this show, seeing what’s out there, our competition, seeing our customers that own boats and hearing stories about what they’ve been doing out on the water with their families and then helping others get into new boats,” said Rachel Pena, a sales consultant from Strong’s Marine, last Wednesday, the first day of the show.

The large showroom was divided into sections by boat brands like Grady-White, MasterCraft and Regal.

Ms. Pena was in the Cobalt boats section, one of the manufacturers Strong’s represents. One of the newer models she was showing off was the Cobalt R7 Surf Boat, designed for wakesurfing and other watersports.

Ms. Pena said the show is a great opportunity to see a lot of different products all at one venue.

Salesmen from Port of Egypt Marine aboard the Grady-White Freedom 375 model Wednesday morning at the New York Boat Show at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan. Credit: Krysten Massa

A few feet away at the Regal boats station, Strong’s Marine salesman David Russell was showing off a more luxurious boat. He was taking guests on a tour of a Regal 42 Grande Coupe, which evoked oohs and aahs from people who walked by it.

The 42-foot boat offers plenty of seating for guests, an aft cabin with a king-sized bed, a forward stateroom with a queen-sized bed and a kitchen area with a refrigerator, freezer, microwave and stove.

“This would be ideal for anybody who wants to go for a nice cruise out to Block Island or Connecticut,” he said.

The boat show is the one-stop shop for anything a boat lover could ever want, from engines to jet skis, luxury boats to more sporty boats.

Bill Witzke from Albertson Marine in Southold does not bring boats with him to the show, but can be found by the Mercury Marine boat engines. He said he’s been participating in the show for close to 30 years.

“It’s nice; we meet a lot of our customers here,” he said, adding that it’s cool to represent the North Fork at the show. “It’s always nice to meet people who I didn’t even know lived in Southold.”

Some of the Grady-White models on display at the show. Credit: Krysten Massa

Mike Kelley, sales manager at Port of Egypt Marine, said the same thing about being a business from the East End of Long Island.

“It’s always neat to represent our home area,” he said. Mr. Kelley and the rest of the Port of Egypt team could be found at the Grady-White section of the showroom. He said Port of Egypt is the longest-standing Grady-White dealer in the world.

One of the most impressive models he was showing was the Grady-White Freedom 375, a 37-footer with the largest hull the manufacturer makes. The boat features a large seating area in the bow, a sleeping/lounging area, and a refrigerator and electric grill.

He said that, while the goal is always to sell boats, many people come to the show just to look around, see what’s new and then later on follow up with a dealer to purchase a boat. He said during the long weekend, his main focus is to make sure he can answer any questions a potential buyer may have and to give smart buying tips. He said a sale will typically be made in the days or weeks following.

“It’s a good economy, people are into boating and it’s usually the kickoff to the season,” he said. “The manufacturers have great incentives. It’s a perfect time to buy a boat.”

Photo caption: Rachel Pena, a sales consultant at Strong’s Marine, on the Cobalt R7 Surf Boat Wednesday afternoon at the New York Boat Show. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

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Providence Boat Show docks at RI Convention Center this weekend

There’ll be hundreds of new and used boats — including cruising and fishing boats — as well as paddleboards, jet skis and sailing dinghies. Also on display will be a wide range of boating equipment and clothing.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Everything you need to get out on the water this summer will be on display Friday through Sunday at the Providence Boat Show, at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

There’ll be hundreds of new and used boats — including cruising and fishing boats — as well as paddleboards, jet skis and sailing dinghies. Also on display will be a wide range of boating equipment and clothing.

The Kayak Centre of Rhode Island, in Wickford, is among the exhibitors. “We’re at the Boat Show this weekend with some very unique boats,” said manager Matt Bosgraaf, “like the Hobie Eclipse that’s a paddleboard you can peddle much like a Stairmaster, or a new boat for us, the Bote Rover. It’s a 14-foot motorized paddleboard they are marketing as a skiff.”

In addition to the boats, you can learn about docking and line handling and see the latest in gear and gadgets. A full lineup of seminars will include speakers who can answer your questions about boating, including how to help a friend or family member while you’re on their boat. Fishing seminars will offer tips on how to catch everything from tautog and summer flounder to striped bass and tuna.

There will also be a “Sea to Table” cooking demonstration area that will feature Jarvis Green, former New England Patriot defensive lineman and two-time Super Bowl champion. Green will be cooking up his Oceans 97 Shrimp and signing autographs on Friday and Saturday.

If you’re considering buying a boat, the show is a good place to start your research. You’ll find a number of models and manufacturers all in once place, as well options for used boats. “Brokers with years of experience who can help buyers find the used boat they are looking for will be at the boat show, too,” said Matt Leduc of Latitude Yacht Brokerage in Jamestown.

The first step is to determine what you want to use a boat for — water skiing, sailing, fishing, family outings, swimming, weekend cruising or a combination. The use of the vessel will dictate the type of boat you buy. The pros from the Annapolis School of Seamanship can give you an overview of the styles and types of boats.

“The 25-year-old Providence Boat Show is the longest running expo of its kind in New England.” said Wendy Mackie, CEO of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, sponsors of the show. “No sales tax on boats and services, and no property taxes on boats provide a strong incentive to buy your boat in Rhode Island and to keep it here,” she said.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association has a great online boat selector at discoverboating.com that can help narrow your decision and point you toward which boats to seek out at the show.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He can be reached at dmontifish@verizon.net.

If you go …

What: Providence Boat Show

When: noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Rhode Island Convention Center, 1 Sabin St., Providence

Tickets: $15 adults, children under 12 are free

Information: providenceboatshow.com


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