Blue Turtle Cruising

Why we left Snookbight Marina

It sometimes can be bittersweet when you’re moving to a new home, town or in our case, new marina. When we first moved Blue Turtle from Cape Coral Yacht Club to Snookbight Marina 4 and half years ago, we honestly thought we’d be staying there at least until Corey graduated from high school. We did extensive research on live aboard marinas in southwest Florida and found it difficult to find one in a location close to Corey’s school in Bonita Springs. We didn’t find any marinas that allowed full-time live aboards in Bonita Springs or Naples and Marco Island was just too far to drive, so we settled on Fort Myers Beach. We were psyched that we found a newly renovated marina mid-island which makes for easier access to head south to take Corey to school, avoiding the seasonal traffic on the north end of the island. So, in December of 2012 we moved to Snookbight Marina.

Our first year at Snookbight was magical. We were obviously stoked to be right on the beach and be able to walk across the street to put our feet in the sand, but we were equally excited about all the wonderful folks we met. We instantly forged great and lasting friendships and were happy to finally have a fun social environment which we had been missing on land. During season, the docks were festive and we had dock parties 2 times a week during season. Our first couple of years there were simply awesome, however, as the old saying goes, “Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”

The good ‘ole days (circa 2013): winter dock parties like these were weekly, sometimes bi-weekly

The corporate vision

In June of 2014, Snookbight was bought by Suntex Ventures, a company that owns 30 other marinas across the U.S. At first, things really didn’t change for the marina residents in the day-to-day sense, only that we were basically left in the dark about what was happening with the marina now that it had exchanged hands. Managers were fired and hired and fired again and there was no communication to us regarding anything about the marina and who we could talk to if we had a question or issue. It seems the only communication we did receive was when our rates went up. And up they went. One of those early changes was when they went from charging by the foot to charging by the slip. We’ve heard of some marinas adopting this fee schedule method but Snook Bight basically made all their slips 50’ minimum. This was a difficult pill to swallow considering the vast majority of boats in the marina were 35’-45’. Since we were on the face dock, the slips ranged from 37’ to 48’. We were in a 46’ slip so we started to pay for 6’ additional feet for our trawler. Since we loved being out on the face dock, we considered ourselves lucky and just accepted the new 46’ slip rate.

Over the course of 3 years, we also encountered per foot rate changes, live aboard fee increases which have more than doubled and went from metered electric to $95 flat fee per month which doesn’t add up in the winter when we typically have $15 electric bills. The final straw for us was when we returned from our Dry Tortugas trip in July, we found that they wanted to move us off our face dock slip so that they could put their rental boats there. They moved us to an interior slip by the fuel dock and wanted us to pay for a 50’ slip when we renewed our contract in December. This contract renewal would bring our monthly expenses up by $450/month from when we first started living there.

End of an era

We hung in there through all the changes and rate hikes, because we loved it there and it was convenient for us. However, one side effect of the rate increases is that many of our seasonal friends from the first few years aren’t coming back in the winter and going elsewhere. Many of our year-round live aboard friends are now gone as well. Gone are the dock parties, social happy hours, and folks gathering impromptu to chat and catch up. There are still a few full-time live aboards there, but it’s far from when we first started out there. One thing is very clear now: the corporate vision of the marina is only to make money, understandably, but with that new vision it has driven out many of the live aboards and it now lacks a thriving community. Things just aren’t the same anymore. It’s a shame that such a beautiful, well maintained property that once had such a lively and active community is no longer competitive in their rates and fees. For what they are now charging, you could stay in a marina in the Keys.

Salty Sam’s Marina, our new “home base”

SO, where did we move to?

Randy and I looked at a few other marinas but the only one that we agreed would be the best fit for us was Salty Sam’s Marina. You might have heard of this marina last December when I blogged about the Fort Myers Beach Boat Parade when we stayed here for the weekend. Back then, we really enjoyed our stay and so we decided to check it out again and talk to some friends of ours who lived there on their boat. With nothing but great things to say about the marina and the very attractive rates, we decided that this would be the new home for Blue Turtle. Salty Sam’s is still located at Fort Myers Beach, but they are not physically on Estero Island which we think will be helpful to avoid that seasonal traffic on the beach. We are still a short bike ride over Matanzas Bridge to the beach and the north end of the island where most the restaurants are located. I also love that this marina is so involved with all the fun activities on Fort Myers Beach that we usually attend, like Shrimp Festival, Pirate Festival and the Christmas boat parade. While we will miss our marina friends still at Snookbight and the few seasonal folks who will be there in the winter, we are looking forward to being at the hub of festive activities that celebrate all there is about Fort Myers Beach.

14 thoughts on “Why we left Snookbight Marina”

  1. Sorry to hear that you guys were essentially forced out of your previous home. Our marina recently went to the slip length charge with the notion that it is the industry standard. There are really no other marinas near here that offer anything close to what we have, so we will pay the extra…for now. This is the closest to our home, plus there is an entire downtown full of things to do in walking distance. If you guys ever want to visit the area, let us know and you are welcome to stay on “Rowan”, or at our house in Raleigh! South Florida is our destination in about 3 years, so we could be neighbors if you are still around there!

    Reply
    • Hi Doug,

      Yeah, sometimes you have no choice in marinas. In our situation at least we had options. Even though it might make the drive time a little longer to get Corey to school, it’s worth it not to endure any more of those rate hikes. We should still be here in 3 years since Corey will still be in school. When you guys make your way down here give us a holler!

      Kim & Randy

      Reply
  2. After 18.5 years of being at Snook Bight Marina ( Mid Island Marina, Mid Island Beach Marina) and 4 separate owners, I, sadly, also had to leave. The value just wasn’t there. We are now happily keeping “Anejo” in Gulfport, Fl and hope to see old friends there.

    Reply
    • Hi Dave!

      We were sad to see you guys go. You’re absolutely right, the value just isn’t there to justify the crazy rates. This is southwest Florida not the Keys. I think we will be very happy at our new place paying the same rates we started out with at Snookbight 4.5 years ago. Say hello to Claudia and Lucy for us!

      Kim, Randy, Corey & Sophie

      Reply
  3. Wow! What a bummer! I cannot see us coming back to Snook Bight with all of those corporate changes . The live aboard community we had was so magical and infectious . I think it attracted boaters to want to home and stay at the marina because everyone was so happy . Happiness is infectious . It’s a shame the corporate folks only care about the $$. You guys were like a staple of the community. You knew all about boats, how to raise a family on a boat and how to run a business while living on a boat . That’s a major interest attraction if you ask me . Snook Bight lost something good when y’all left !
    Salty Sams will most likely been our new home too ! Thanks for the update .

    Reply
    • Hi Beth,

      It really is kind of sad that the marina won’t attract the same type of fun-loving and social group as before. Our first couple years there were so fun but the last couple of years, folks started leaving and our group there started to thin out. It just doesn’t have the same feel there anymore. We still hope to see you guys and anyone else who comes down for the winter. Regardless of where you guys end up lets get together!

      Kim & Randy

      Reply
  4. Fondest of memories. I agree with Beth, you two were a shining example and hung in there as long as possible. Unfortunately the sense of community was exchanged for the love of money on the ccirporation’s part. We may stay a month at Salty Sam’s. If not, we will visit for sure! God bless you and all of your new adventures, Kim, Randy and Corey!

    Reply
  5. We are in the process of looking for a marina to live aboard, as well. We are currently on a lake in Oklahoma and will be heading south… preferable someplace warm! Since we will be full-time live aboards, we are looking for a fun , with some social aspects, but too expensive. That seems to be the major issue. It is amazing to me to see such large discrepancies in rates. I really appreciated your candid remarks and will keep all of them in mind while looking. We hope to be in that area by Spring. Maybe our paths will cross!

    Reply
  6. Hi Kim,

    I found your blog while searching for some leads on live aboard slips in the Fort Myers region. You see, my boyfriend and I just closed on a 37′ Tayana sailboat and have been looking for a place to call home. The boat’s previous owner has been keeping her in Tarpon Point over in Cape Coral but, sadly, they don’t allow live aboards. We checked into Salty Sam’s but the lady we spoke with over the phone said that they no longer allow live aboards either. I was wondering if you could shed some light on this if you are still currently located there.

    Reply
    • Hi Becca,

      We’ve heard that Salty Sam’s isn’t accepting any more full-time liveaboards as well. It’s getting more difficult to find affordable liveaboard slips in this area. The best thing to do is make a list of marinas and start calling them one-by-one. Many marinas availability and policies are constantly changing.

      Kim

      Reply

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