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Dry-stack storage is ready for megayachts

If dry-stack storage makes sense for a 38-foot yacht, it makes even more sense for a 90-footer.

Andrew Sturner says it is the next logical step.

If dry-stack storage makes sense for a 38-foot yacht, it makes even more sense for a 90-footer. Sturner’s latest project, Vertical Yacht Club Marina Mile, is a three-story, indoor dry stack for 61 luxury yachts up to 90 feet long and weighing as much as 90 tons.


“None of this is rocket science,” says Sturner, CEO of Aqua Marine Partners and co-founder of Vertical Yacht Club Development. “We’re not putting a man on Pluto. We’re moving a boat with a bridge crane.”

And putting it into its own encapsulated “suite” with individualized air-conditioning and humidity controls, fire-extinguishing system and 250-square-foot loft for storage, refrigerator, freezer and/or small sit-down lounge. Both domestic and European power will be available, along with standard hookups — water, phone, sewer, cable T.V. Biometric security devices that read fingerprints will control access to suites.

Sturner says the dry stack is exclusively for megayachts and will offer luxury amenities: owners’ lounge, business conference center, gym and spa, concierge service and offices for captain and crew. It also will have 24-hour security and video surveillance cameras. Its construction will be tough enough to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

Sturner, who also is building Vertical Yacht Club Thunder Alley, a 211-slip luxury dry stack for vessels up to 43 feet in Aventura, Fla., says the feasibility and details of a dry stack for 90-footers emerged from focus groups with naval architects, structural and systems engineers, and service managers and technicians over the last two years.

“Can this really be done?” he asks. “The answer coming out of [these talks] is a resounding ‘yes.’ It not only can be done. We’re doing it.”

Sturner expects some initial resistance to storing a 90-foot yacht on the hard, but he says even 90 tons of boat can be stored safely on a cradle custom-designed to the builder’s specifications for proper weight distribution and hull support to prevent hull damage. He says those specifications are available in the yacht’s transport plan.

The overhead crane — similar to ones used to transfer cargo in ports — is fully automated and computer-controlled. It rolls the yacht and its cradle out of the 90-foot-long by 25-foot-wide by 30-foot-high suite onto a fixed platform, drops the platform and yacht down and takes them across the commons to the launch basin, where it lowers them into the water. Launch or retrieval takes 15 minutes, he says.

Vertical staff take the yacht out of its suite and put it in the water monthly to test its systems and make sure they are working right.

Benefits to the owner include: air conditioning and watermaker can be shut down when the boat is in its suite (dehumidified, temperature-controlled air blows into the yacht through ductwork); electronics are safe and protected from the elements; deck, hull and hardware are out of sun and saltwater; the boat is hurricane-protected; crewmembers can live aboard in the suite and use shoreside utilities; an ongoing maintenance program. Sturner says the bottom only has to be painted every four years instead of annually, and systems are maintained on a monthly schedule. All this results in lower depreciation and better resale value. “This thing is really going to open a lot of eyes,” he says.

While acknowledging that keeping the boat inside offers hurricane protection and saves on wear-and-tear, some wonder whether the logistics of a 90-footer are compatible with owning a year-round suite for it. Marina consultant Carl Straw says it sounds like a good way to protect the boat from hurricanes and weather, but he’s not sure a captain and crew would want to live on the boat in its pod-like suite year-round when the owner isn’t using it. In that 75- to 90-foot size range, 65 to 70 percent of captains are fulltime and live on the boat, he says. Others note, too, that megayachts often move around a lot and don’t spend the majority of their time in Fort Lauderdale, so an owner might not be able to justify owning a year-round suite for it.

The cost of a leasing begins at $7,300 per month for a 75-foot suite and $8,100 per month for a 90-foot suite. He says groundbreaking is scheduled for this summer.

Straw says Vertical Yacht Club Thunder Alley is a foray into unexplored territory. “[Sturner] is creating a whole new market,” he says, albeit an untested one.

He notes the success of industrialist Joseph Charles’ RiverForestYachtingCenter in Stuart, which is purpose-built to store boats when their owners are away and provide safe harbor for them during hurricane season. RiverForest is particularly attractive to absentee owners, those who keep their boat in Florida but live elsewhere most of the year. Insurers want these owners to make sure their boat is secure if a hurricane comes. RiverForest provides that security.

Sturner, a former executive with Inc. and MovieFone, says his Marina Mile marina will do that — and more. “You’re not just leasing a slip. You’re joining a club,” he says.

Sturner thinks there may be demand for megayacht dry-stack clubs around the globe — in Dubai, Turkey and Europe, for starters. He says it makes economic sense: Leasing a suite could pay for itself in five years just through savings in bottom painting and depreciation. And by building up rather than out to provide parking for yachts and cars, he can store 120 75-foot yachts on 3 acres instead of the 14 acres he would need for traditional in-water storage and upland parking.

“That’s part of the beauty of the vertical concept,” he says.

The dry stack would be in Fort Lauderdale’s Marina Mile yachting district, at the former Pago Brothers yard just east of the New RiverBridge.

Sturner’s partner, Chris Rosenburg, co-founder of Vertical Yacht Club Development, adapted the overhead crane system used in ports and automated warehouses for dry stack marinas. “It has been used for decades,” Sturner says. “It is off-the-shelf technology.”