Boat sales have gone up since the pandemic began, which means more people need a place to store them – and businesses in Southwest Florida are getting creative to keep customers.
Gulf Star Marina on Fort Myers Beach is one of them, and the business is launching a new, fully automatic storage system – the first of its kind on Earth.
“Two years and three months ago, we tore down an old rusty metal building,” said Todd Carroll, owner of Gulf Star Marina.
The razing made way for a unique $20 million system.
“This just blows them all away,” said Jim Limotta, a boat owner who stores at Gulf Star Marina.
Limotta, a 20-year boat owner, said he has never seen anything like the automated system.
“It’s incredible what they’ve done with technology now. They bring your boat up for you, they put ice in whatever compartment we want,” he said.
“That uses a series of shuttles and a crane that runs on a rail to launch and retrieve these boats and to store in an automated situation, which is just a totally different concept,” Carroll said.
Limotta appreciates it. “I’ve had forklifts injure boats before, and usually the marinas won’t be responsible for it and this is just so much better.”
Now that we’re at the peak of hurricane season, “the way they constructed this building, it’s 180 to 200 mph wind-resistant, so that’s good because we’re coming into our storm season and I feel a lot more comfortable over here,” Limotta said.
When you bring back your boat, the team washes it by hand before it’s loaded onto the shuttle and taken back to its storage bay.