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View Full Version : Florida (Tampa area) and Marine-related Businesses



cmhbob
09-11-2015, 08:34 AM
Tell me about the boating industry in Florida, especially Tampa/St Pete. Thinking generally about fall 2008 up until early 2012. I really want to keep it in that area for psychological reasons related to the story.

I've got a guy who's going to be the significant other of my female lead. I know he's lived in Pinellas County his entire life, and he's in his mid 40s. That's about all I know about him, other than he's in "the boating industry." I'm not sure what I mean there. I wondered about him being a harbormaster or something of that kind at a boat club or marina, or maybe running some sort of repair shop, which I figure are at least a dime a dozen there.

And I'm not limiting myself to shore-based businesses. He could be running a charter of some kind. But I want it marine-related.

I want him to be able to take in a middle-aged woman who is basically a foundling, with no real work history. She's kind of a creative type (drawing), but she also has some basic welding skills (oxy-acetylene only though). She's going to wander into his place of business at a really opportune moment for him, and he'll be able to give her a place to live for a bit, in exchange for her work. That cliche is bad enough, so I'd like to avoid the waitress/dishwasher thing if I could.

Scriptissima
09-11-2015, 02:09 PM
Not entirely sure what information you are looking for.
I live in downtown St. Pete, so I am somewhat familiar with the area, and since our downtown is adorned with the longest inner-city waterfront of any U.S. city other than Chicago, there is no shortage of boat piers, yacht clubs, and so on. The municipal marina with all of its related jobs is located smack-dab in the center of downtown, right next to a super exclusive yacht club. Part of the municipal marina stretches into a tiny peninsula called Demens Landing Park where you can find two handfuls of lived-in houseboats (might be a nice abode for your male protagonist or simply his second "home" that he lends to the female protagonist?).

A little further south, still downtown-ish, there is a bigger pier that is frequented by cruise ships; Disney cruises from here; there are also gambling cruises, dinner crises and the likes (could be helpful for the female protagonist looking for work between creative periods?). Also, opposite Bay Shore Drive (where the various marinas are located), there are two fantastic museums (maybe your creative female protagonist would take on a part-time job at the Dali Museum or the Museum of Fine Arts), and within a couple of blocks, there are literally hundreds of art galleries, museums, and additional creative outlets, including Florida's longest-standing open air concert stage, Jannus Live.

Considering the location of the marinas and museums/galleries and so on, your two protagonists could easily and believably have stumbled into one another during, say, his lunch break in one of those beautiful waterfront parks that connect both, when she was returning from (yet another fruitless?) attempt at finding a gallery to take on her paintings. Just a thought.

Again, I'm not entirely sure what you're looking for in terms of information, but maybe this helps a little.

MDSchafer
09-11-2015, 05:14 PM
The Indycar grand prix takes place along part of St. Pete's marina during that time.

cmhbob
09-11-2015, 08:48 PM
Thanks Scriptissima. You're headed down the right path for me.

I'm basically trying to find out what the marine-based industry is like down there. My perception is there are probably ton of boat-repair shops in a coastal city or region, but I've got no clue how big they are in terms of employment or work volume. And what kinds of businesses might be around to support the cruise lines?

What's the tourist season down there? Is there really an off-season where shops ramp down their employees for a few months? Thinking of some of the wave-runner rental places and things like that.

I'm also wondering about the the guys who run the harbor or marinas for some of the boat clubs down there. How likely is it that someone would be a harbor master for one place?

Where are the more exclusive and expensive places in Pinellas County? And the less-exclusive places, for that matter.

King Neptune
09-11-2015, 09:40 PM
Harbormaster is a government position. I don't know who would appoint, but there would be one harbormaster for the harbor, and he probably would have some assistants. I don't know that area, but I have been to many marinas, and they vary greatly in size, type, costs, and so on. They don't have a cold Winter there, so the marinas wouldn't have a closed season, as they do in the North. Try finding the websites for a few to see what services they offer, prices, etc. And search for the local ship brokers to see what you can buy. Marinas often sell new and used boats in addition to repairing, storing, etc.

Scriptissima
09-12-2015, 01:47 AM
Thanks Scriptissima. You're headed down the right path for me.
Phew, good. ;)


I'm basically trying to find out what the marine-based industry is like down there. My perception is there are probably ton of boat-repair shops in a coastal city or region, but I've got no clue how big they are in terms of employment or work volume. And what kinds of businesses might be around to support the cruise lines?
I am not particularly familiar with the marine industry; and while I know that there are quite a few boating shops further down the waterfront, I have no clue how many employees they have. I know of one large-ish looking marine yard as well as a marine salvage yard next to which there is a rustic little seafood restaurant called "Fish Tales," and it's fairly easy to take the wrong entrance on that compound and walk into boat storage or repair instead of into the restaurant. Your female protagonist could have wanted to eat at "Fish Tales" and ended up wandering among boats and running into your male protagonist right there. While only about a dozen or so blocks south of downtown, this is not a tourist-frequented portion of St. Pete.

Like King Neptune said, harbormaster would be a government position, and while any position within the municipal marina would need to go through the city's HR department, the private yacht clubs could be options. Could your male protagonist be the head cheese at one of the exclusive private yacht clubs? The two big ones are the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and the Vinoy Yacht Club (the Vinoy being a historic luxury landmark hotel and luxury condo tower; now under the Renaissance umbrella).


What's the tourist season down there? Is there really an off-season where shops ramp down their employees for a few months? Thinking of some of the wave-runner rental places and things like that.
The tourist season doesn't have much of an impact in St. Petersburg and probably Tampa as well. The bay-side cities are resident-driven. This is probably even more evident in St. Pete, as we have a lived-in downtown that is bustling around the clock pretty much all year. The only real difference is being made by the IndyCar Grand Prix in spring; other than that, I assume only our museums really feel the tourist season. But speaking for St. Petersburg: We have three colleges here alone (the USF St. Pete campus, St. Petersburg College, Eckerd College), and we are mostly an arts-driven city. St. Petersburg has been voted the best arts destination for a medium-sized city several times in a row, and the arts aren't seasonal.

Over at the gulf-side of the Pinellas peninsula, things are different; the small gulf beach towns live mainly off of tourists and snowbirds, and I know of a few motels that basically shut down for a few weeks in the fall. But since I don't live over there, I can't really speak with authority about their seasonal change, even though it's just a 30 minute bike-ride from my downtown St. Pete home to Treasure Island on the gulf. Clearwater Beach is also tourist-focused. Which is why I avoid it as much as possible. ;-)


Where are the more exclusive and expensive places in Pinellas County? And the less-exclusive places, for that matter.
Exclusive/expensive: In St. Petersburg, that would be Snell Isle and Coffeepot Boulevard for single-family mansions, and the downtown luxury condos like the Ovation tower for condos.
Along the gulf: Any mansion directly on Gulf Boulevard (which runs pretty much from the southern tip of St. Pete Beach all the way up to Clearwater) with gulf beach access. The tourist driven beach towns such as Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, Indian Shores and so on all have some of those very expensive mansions, even though they aren't per se very expensive towns.

Less exclusive: The further from the water you get, the cheaper it gets - rule of thumb. Since Pinellas is a peninsula, point smack dab into the center of the peninsula and you have a inexpensive area. ;-) This would be Largo, for instance, and the inland-areas of Clearwater, especially near the industrial areas near the two Clearwater airports.

And then there is St. Petersburg's south side, which is dubbed "the ghetto" and where most people wouldn't want to be caught dead after dark. Definitely not exclusive.

Can't speak for Tampa.

Hope this helps a little.

cmhbob
09-14-2015, 08:06 AM
Thanks, Stef. This helps a lot. I'm going to digest it a bit, and think plotting stuff. I may ping this thread again. You've been very helpful!

KingNeptune, any idea what you call a person who is acting as a harbormaster at a private yacht club or marina? Or is there such a person? I've only been on my brother's boat for a few days in the San Juans, so my marina and marine knowledge is limited.

brswain
09-14-2015, 09:01 AM
Thanks Scriptissima. You're headed down the right path for me.

I'm basically trying to find out what the marine-based industry is like down there. My perception is there are probably ton of boat-repair shops in a coastal city or region, but I've got no clue how big they are in terms of employment or work volume. And what kinds of businesses might be around to support the cruise lines?

What's the tourist season down there? Is there really an off-season where shops ramp down their employees for a few months? Thinking of some of the wave-runner rental places and things like that.

I'm also wondering about the the guys who run the harbor or marinas for some of the boat clubs down there. How likely is it that someone would be a harbor master for one place?

Where are the more exclusive and expensive places in Pinellas County? And the less-exclusive places, for that matter.

I can't tell you about the Gulf Coast with 100% certainty. But when we bought our boat it was in Ft. Lauderdale, and we moved it to Riviera Beach and stored it there for a few months. We had a fair amount of work done on the boat, and dealt extensively with a number of marine vendors. Having owned several sailboats and lived on one for the last three years...tell me if I ramble on too much.

From talking to friends in FL I think things work the same way on the West coast as East, but there may be differences. The state laws, insurance regulations etc. are probably the same.

Most of the marinas we dealt with there did NOT employ many service people. They employed people to lift and move boats, and maybe wash the bottoms. Bottom painting may be by the yard, but everything else you needed a subcontractor. Most charged daily by the foot for storing your boat on dry land. Several required you to buy ALL the materials your subcontractors used at the Marina store - which of course was over priced compared to West Marine, Marine Discounters, etc. There were actual penalties you agreed to pay if you did stuff like provide your own paint for the subcontractors.

But if you wanted say, engine work done, you had to bring in your own guy. Same if you wanted other mechanical work; boat plumbing, electronics, refrigeration, etc. Very few companies were multi-disciplinary, so the Engine guys only did Engines, the water maker guys only did that. There were many individual subcontractors out there. "One man shops" working out of their trucks, the one we worked with was reasonably priced but unreliable in terms of deadlines, he cause all sorts of problems by taking months to complete a total of 40 hours of work. Didn't return phone calls promptly, lied when he said he was working on the boat, etc.


While guys like this are, hopefully, the exception they are by no means uncommon.

There are a LOT of disciplines that marine vendors could come under, including:
Engines
AC/Refigeration
Painting / Bottom Stripping
Riggers
Electronics
Electrical (different that electronics...really)
Watermaker specialists
Boat Cleaners
Carpentry/Cabinetry

There are a few other "services" that aren't necessarily fixing things on the boat, e.g. "Pump Out" services may be provided by a marina or a private service even. This is to empty the holding tanks on your marine sanitation device. This may be free if the locality has Fed grants, or cost a few bucks.

We stored the boat at Cracker Boy Boatworks which worked under these rules. There my well be "full service" marinas like we were used to in New England but none of my Florida sailing friends knew of any. We kept the boat there while the work was (supposed to be) getting done, then moved it to the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina next door.

Most marinas will have a bar/restaurant attached to them. This may be wholly sublet, though some may run it themselves. I don't know much about this one, but the "Voodoo Buckets" and Crunchy Grouper Sandwiches at the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina were first rate.

You have two sorts of marinas down there. Places like Cracker Boy, that are essentially service yards. They have waterfront access with a "Pit", and a Travel Lift. The Pit is where boats drive into, the Travel Lift (google for pictures) can drive onto both sides of the put, put straps under a boat and pull it out. They can handle pretty big boats, some of them are for 80 ton boats are larger (at 53' our sailboat weighs about 26 tons). A Service Yard like Cracker Boy won't have slips, or it may have a few, and won't maintain moorings. They focus mostly on storing, hauling and launching boats. Alternatively, instead of a Travelift, they may have rails or use a ramp and a trailer/truck to launch/haul boats. I do not know how common this is in FL.

A more full service marina will have docks and slips for boats to stay on and may even have mooring balls offshore they maintain, and a launch service to get you to them. I never visited one with moorings in FL, but I am sure there are some around. The slips may be rented out to full time local residents, some are available for "transients" moving through the area. Often permanent Resident slips are rented to Transients by the marina when the Resident has their boat elsewhere.

Full service marinas in FL may also have indoor storage for smaller powerboats. They have three or four tired racks and a large forklift that can pick up a small (20'ish) power boat out of the water and store it in the dry rack. Generally arrangements must be made to have the boat moved in advance.

Yacht Clubs are a different beast, they are generally a social organization that *might* have slips and moorings. They may or may not have other facilities - pumpouts, boat ramp, boat storage, Jr. Sailing. The services are usually for members only. They are very similar to marinas in some cases (slips, moorings, food service, etc.) but aren't open to the public. Some are very easy to join. In most cases Clubs offer "Reciprocity", so a member of one club will be allowed the privileges of members at another club, access to transient dockage, moorings, access to the bar, etc.


If you want to know about Marinas in the Tamps St. Pete area I'd suggest you check out Active Captain (http://www.activecaptain.com), it is an "Online Cruising Guide" that lists most of the marinas and marine services available, with reviews and details. You can also scroll around the bay geographically. You may need to join the website before you can use it, but it is free. I'm not sure f the Waterways Guide series covers Florida or not, but that's another resource.

Looking at charts of Tampa Bay the water looks very shallow there, and there are some bridges to contend with. For example I couldn't really consider taking my boat into Old Tampa Bay. It is very shallow, and there is a 43' high bridge there that doesn't open. (We need 80' minimum, but would prefer more) So it would be small sailboats and power boats only in there.

It looks like a very busy harbor with lots of shipping, restricted channels and shallow water outside the dredged channels. It looks like there are some artificial canals and marinas around Ybor city. You've also got Boca Ciega Bay, Isle of Palms, etc. etc. on the barriers of St. Pete. Those seem to run all up the coast. Boca Ciega alone looks like it has at least fifteen marinas around it.

Harbor masters, etc. all tend to be municipal or state run. You will also have a US Coast Guard presence - they do NOT rescue boats with mechanical problems unless lives or the vessel are at stake. There are private companies - SeaTow, Boat/US, etc. that will handle these sorts of non life threatening emergencies. The latter tend to be subscription/member based. They will tow you if your are a member for a charge, if you are not a member the charges are not so reasonable. By way of comparison, we needed Boat/US to pull us off a sandbar that filled in a channel that was normally clear. I think it cost just under $1,000 - and we got the member rate.

So if your engine fails and you are two miles off shore, the boat isn't sinking and no one is hurt and you call the coast guard they generally will ask you if you have a Seatow or BoatUS subscription, and give you the number for one of them. Those guys may have one or two people on board usually.

Some marinas cater more to Super Yachts rather than small boats, they may do things differently - e.g. have mechanical employees of their own they bill out.

Good luck, hopefully that was helpful and not to rambling. I know I wandered into general marine industry stuff, but its germane.

brswain
09-14-2015, 09:03 AM
Thanks Scriptissima. You're headed down the right path for me.

I'm basically trying to find out what the marine-based industry is like down there. My perception is there are probably ton of boat-repair shops in a coastal city or region, but I've got no clue how big they are in terms of employment or work volume. And what kinds of businesses might be around to support the cruise lines?

What's the tourist season down there? Is there really an off-season where shops ramp down their employees for a few months? Thinking of some of the wave-runner rental places and things like that.

I'm also wondering about the the guys who run the harbor or marinas for some of the boat clubs down there. How likely is it that someone would be a harbor master for one place?

Where are the more exclusive and expensive places in Pinellas County? And the less-exclusive places, for that matter.

Forgot to add - there IS some seasonality. While you can boat all year round, there are some guys from the marine industry up North that winter in FL and head to cooler climes for their summer jobs.

Every marina or yacht club will have a manager, they won't be affiliated with the "Harbor Master", who is a government official, but the HM office may be located in a private marina.

King Neptune
09-14-2015, 03:58 PM
KingNeptune, any idea what you call a person who is acting as a harbormaster at a private yacht club or marina? Or is there such a person? I've only been on my brother's boat for a few days in the San Juans, so my marina and marine knowledge is limited.

Marinas that I have to have general managers, but I think that you have a lot more to go on from what brswain wrote.

As long as you don't go too far overboard, you can make up a marina that provides the services and position that you want.

In Flying Dutch Tom Holt dreamed up Jeane's Shipyard in Bridport England. It had everything that Holt needed, and it seemed like an interesting family business that had been around for several hundred years.

WeaselFire
09-14-2015, 04:31 PM
I'm basically trying to find out what the marine-based industry is like down there.

I'ts everything from recreational to charter fishing to commercial fishing to cruise industry to manufacturing to shipping and transportation to sponge harvesting to growing corals for biomedical research. Pick any job remotely relates to water and you've got it in a fifteen mile radius.

If you need him to be a harbor master, make him one. Hit the library or internet for back issues of Cruising magazine to get into the lifestyle, Google the licensing and employment requirements for Coast Guard certifications and other aspects of the job. Find a copy of Chapman's book on Piloting to get the basics and terminology. Hit the city website and the web sites of all the various clubs and associations to understand the area.

There is such a variety in the St. Pate/Tampa Bay area that what he does really depends on what you need for your story.

Jeff