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Prime anchorage to close for renovation

Locals and snowbird cruisers will have to find an alternative port of call to popular Florida locale

Locals and snowbird cruisers will have to find an alternative port of call to popular Florida locale

Southpoint Anchorage in Stuart, Fla., a popular cruisers’ stop on the Intracoastal Waterway, will close for 15 months to build a marina, starting April 30.

Huizenga Holdings Inc., under Wayne Huizenga, owner of the Miami Dolphins football team and the Rybovich Spencer yard in West Palm Beach, is leasing the city-owned anchorage and adjacent waterfront, and plans to build a marina with 118 slips, 54 transient facing berths, a fuel dock, marine convenience store and restaurant.

The mooring field is scheduled to re-open July 30, 2009, but cruisers will find fewer moorings — 69 instead 86 — because the marina will edge out into the north end of where the moorings are, says Southpoint harbormaster Buzz Billue.

The anchorage, located on the St. Lucie River just south of the RooseveltBridge, has been busy this winter, averaging 84 to 85 boats a day, Billue says.

“We are full from November until the first of February, with a waiting list,” he says. The anchorage is a popular layover for boats headed for the Caribbean or the Florida Keys, as well as a winter cruising destination for snowbirds.

Billue says long-term mooring customers are seeking alternative dockage at local marinas. Stuart also lets vessels in navigation anchor up to 10 days in its waters.

The city had been talking about building a marina at Southpoint for some time, but it never had the money to do it, Billue says.

“It became more viable to let a developer come in and do it and make it a nice facility,” he says.

The marina will accommodate yachts to 150 feet, but together the marina and mooring field — both managed by Huizenga — will service all-size boats, Billue says.

The anchorage charged a modest $10 a day — $240 a month — for a mooring, making it popular with cruisers. Huizenga has not said whether those rates will hold after the marina goes in, but the facility won’t be just for gold-plate customers.

“We’ll be able to service anything from motoryachts to superyachts right down to runabouts and sailboats and everything in between,” Billue says.

Billue says it was time for Southpoint to add slips. The upgrade fits with Stuart’s ongoing revitalization of its downtown and waterfront. He says the city is aiming to be not just a stopover at the crossroads of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Okeechobee Waterway, but a destination in its own right.

The mooring field, a model for other Florida cities that are squeezed between a dearth of undeveloped waterfront and demand for boat storage, opened in October 2000. The moorings took a big hit from Hurricane Frances in 2004, when 36 of 75 boats sank at their mooring or blew off it.

“We lost the winter of 2004 and spring of 2005,” he says, but after Frances and Hurricane Jeanne later that fall, Billue and his crew pulled every mooring, inspected and rebuilt it stronger than before. Southpoint lost a couple of boats the next year in Hurricane Wilma, but those were due to failure of the boat’s own lines. “We came through Wilma with absolutely zero failures in the mooring system,” he says.

Huizenga Holdings, with Wayne Huzenga Sr. chairman and Wayne Jr. president, is redeveloping Rybovich Spencer, building shops, residential condominiums and townhouses on uplands plus 149 wet slips and 125 dry — a $100 million project. Billue is looking forward to seeing the docks go in at Southpoint.

“We’re going to stay a destination, and we’ll accommodate a lot more people, too,” he says.