Smiles mask a victim’s inner anguish

Posted on Written by Chris Landry

Owner of devastated marina says his upbeat demeanor helps clients and employees stay positive

A Long Island, N.Y., marina owner who suffered hurricane damage not only to his business but also to his home and his own boat says the marine industry needs to rise to the occasion and show a high level of customer service in the wake of the devastation.

“People say I keep smiling,” says Steve Stavracos, owner of Steve’s Marine Services in Amityville and            Patchogue. “I’m not happy. It’s just that if we don’t have a positive attitude we’re not going to put things back together. And a negative attitude is going to affect our customer base. They’re obviously upset. Boats are their release from the stresses of everyday life, and I understand because I am a boater.”

The magnitude of Sandy’s ruination has been almost surreal. “It’s hard to believe where some of these boats ended up,” says Stavracos, 55, whose Amityville site has 40 slips with boats from 20 to 46 feet. “The water carried a 26-foot boat from here in Amityville to Massapequa — that’s two miles away.”

Stavracos’ Amityville operation, which is west of Patchogue, suffered all of the major damage. Sandy ripped some of the marina’s 80 boats from their docks and pushed others off their blocks or jack stands. About $100,000 worth of machinery was damaged, and the main marina building filled with 6 feet of water. Fuel also escaped from some boats and saturated portions of the 1.5-acre property. “The day after the storm you could smell the fuel and gasoline all over,” says Stavracos, who has been boating since he was 13. “It’s going to be a problem for other marinas, too.”

Stavracos has nine employees in Amityville and three in Patchogue and operates a certified Volvo Penta diesel repair service, as well as three mobile repair vans. His crew was still blocking boats hours before the storm hit. “Some of my employees stayed there Monday with waders on and blocked boats with water on the property until they were forced to go,” he says.

The cleanup and rebuilding job ahead requires solid leadership. “I have 12 employees, so if I don’t show a positive attitude for them to get out there and help all these customers, we are not going to be successful,” he says. Their work will entail more than just fixing boats. “Our job is to make these people feel comfortable and let them know we’re concerned,” he adds.

Sandy also hit Stavracos’ house hard — flooding it with 4 feet of water — and may have destroyed his Sea Ray Sundancer. The storm knocked the express cruiser off its stands, and it flooded because the drain plug had been removed for winter layup. “I have a foot of water in the cabin, the generator is under water, and the fiberglass guy says I may have a stringer that separated from the hull,” he says.

Stavracos’ optimism has impressed others in the marine industry, such as Reynolds Towing and Marine Service, a TowBoatUS franchise in nearby Bayshore. “I heard about Steve from a handful of BoatUS customers in the area and a few BoatUS surveyors,” Reynolds office manager Rachel Okerstrom says. “We have worked with Steve a lot, and we tow into his place often. There’s just so much going on, and he has maintained his composure.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue.

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