When the 151-foot Vitters Unfurled cruised the east coast of Florida, the crew needed to pull into port to deal with engine issues. While that might not sound like much of a concern to a smaller-boat owner, there aren’t many places on either side of the Sunshine State that can accommodate a sailing yacht of her size, especially her 16½-foot keel-up draft and masts that stand more than 200 feet above the deck.
But there was one yard: Derecktor Fort Pierce. It’s new and wasn’t officially open for business, but it had the depth, frontage and overhead clearance for Unfurled to pull in. A subcontractor made the repairs there. “She came right in and tied off,” says John Koenig, communications director for Derecktor.
In April, Derecktor signed a contract with St. Lucie County to develop a yard for megayachts like Unfurled, and others up to 200 feet. The yard is on a site that the county purchased in late 2017. “Their reputation preceded them,” says Stan Payne, executive director of the airport and seaport for St. Lucie County. “As part of our due diligence, one of the first things I did was go to the Fort Lauderdale show, and afterward we went down to Derecktor’s Dania yard. They know how to maximize a facility.”
Derecktor’s initial lease on the 9-acre facility is for 30 years, with three 15-year renewable leases for a total of 75 years. The annual rent is $1.1 million starting Sept. 1, 2020. Koenig says Derecktor expects to do $30 million to $40 million per year with the Fort Pierce business. Right now, the yard is in the permitting and approval phase.
Derecktor Dania can handle vessels up to about 200 feet with a 9-ton displacement (with power lines restricting larger sailboats). The new Fort Pierce facility will have two dry docks that can handle up to 500 tons, and more than 300 feet of dockage without overhead limits. “The attractiveness to us was the direct access to deep water,” Koenig says. “You have a channel with a controlling depth of 28 feet directly off the Atlantic, no overhead restrictions and a turning depth of 28 feet.”
The only dredging that might have to be done would be to get to the correct depth to anchor a dry dock. As of early August, Derecktor was waiting on submerged-land lease boundaries that were being rewritten to the county’s specifications. Payne says the development dovetails with the expansion of the local airport. “It’s synergistic,” he says. “Many yacht owners have a private jet or maybe corporate jets, so they fly in to visit their boats.”
The port previously handled commercial shipping and cargo but most recently was used for loading hurricane-relief supplies. It hasn’t been a consistently working commercial port for years, which Payne says makes the development welcome. “It dovetails with the desires and expectations of this community,” he says. “We’re not upgrading a marina. We already have heavy-duty facilities here. We didn’t have to scale up for megayachts, and the community has talked about this concept for quite some time.”
The county estimates Derecktor Fort Pierce will generate close to 900 jobs and have an economic impact of $105 million for the region.
At the airport, the county is upgrading the maintenance, repair and overall hangar, and is establishing an aircraft mechanics and technicians program. This is similar to the program Derecktor is developing with Indian River State College in Fort Pierce. Derecktor has its own apprenticeship program, and the course at the school will give potential employees the certifications they need to enter the workforce as marine technicians.
“It’s always a concern,” Koenig says of finding workers. “But we’re in a good market where there are a lot of people who’ve worked in the marine industry.”
Work at Derecktor Fort Pierce will start with repairing a central building that was a commercial shipping facility. It will house the offices for Derecktor and for St. Lucie County, and will get new roofing, power, lighting and ventilation. Once the main building is up to date, Derecktor will add buildings and facilities. Fort Pierce will become its headquarters. “We’re planning this fall to start bringing in dockside work,” Koenig says. “We are also actively looking for a dry dock to install.”
The facility will also need its piers to support a 1,500-ton mobile lift from Italian builder Cimolai. Derecktor is also strengthening the bulkhead and apron areas of the waterfront to transfer vessels off a dry dock onto the hard. Koenig says the ground may need to be dug up, recompacted and reinforced to support larger vessels.
The new property won’t be a marina. It will have limited slips for service vessels, and quarters for megayacht crews. And while Derecktor typically has subbed out paint and electronics jobs, it prefers to have its own employees do as much of the yacht work as possible. “There will be subs like there are everywhere, but Derecktor traditionally has done a vast majority of the work ourselves,” Koenig says.
The yard will have a slower, more small-town feel than the Derecktor Dania facility near Fort Lauderdale. “It’s mellow, quiet, and a more affordable and relaxed place to live,” Koenig says. “It’s taken a while to get here, but it’s looking good now.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.