Monday, March 2, 2009

New Marinas For Old

There is a street at the southern end of Stock Island, and it is only a block long but it is home to the two largest marinas for pleasure boats on Stock Island. Peninsular Avenue appears to be misspelled, a fact that always gives me perverse joy, but the old Peninsular Marine that used to live at the end of the street is long gone. Peninsular was a fabulous place, a slice of old Key West, that would give a bourgeois boater like me shivers of pleasure and dread. They hauled boats out at Peninsular, what landlubbers call "dry docking" and I spent many a miserable hour on the hard painting and sanding and getting sanded myself by the howling winter winds which raise dust clouds across the unpaved boatyard. A few hardy souls rented relatively cheap boat slips and lived in the marina year round. From the Florida State Library this is what Peninsular looked like in 1974 and it didn't change much until it was sold a couple of years ago. There used to be the fiberglass shop here and at the water's edge there was a sail loft where you could take a sail or a bag or a project and have someone peer down from their mezzanine space and tell you how much and how soon it could be done (that was in the white building across the water shown in the old photo above). On the other side of the sail loft there were some cranky old plastic chairs under an overhang and you could sit and look out at the boats in the slips and the travel lift nearby hauling boats out of the water.Even hardier types left their boats permanently "on the hard" and used them as apartments, as solidly aground as any house in Old Town. It was a weird place, with bathrooms that resembled Turkish prisons (as depicted in Midnight Express, at least) foul with God only knows what. That was then, Peninsular Marine was sold and a new Yuppie apparition took it's place: Now it's all spic and span, fit even for my wife's Vespa ET4 to visit:The travel lift still exists though in the former shrimp docks on the north side of Peninsular Avenue, now deserted and for sale:There was a desolate air to the whole place. The old shrimp docks used to be vibrant with all the activity one associates with the fishing industry, and the crazy lifestyles across the street at Peninsular, and now this at the old shrimp docks:And this at the gruesome new Yacht Club of the Americas, all big and clean and empty:I guess the old Peninsular was more homey for me than this place ever will be. I'm no fan of gated communities with secret passwords and all that stuff:Apparently I'm not alone. This place used to have some sort of a club house with a restaurant and they announced in the paper they were closing "temporarily" to regroup, but I doubt the world wide economic collapse has done their prospects any good. Down the street the old Oceanside Marina has been sold also and the new owners there took back the marina's old name Kings Pointe for whatever reason. And they too seem to be having difficulty adjusting to the new realities of life in the land of former abundance. $120,000 for a place to store a boat?Silly me, banksters still need places to keep their toys...and Kings Pointe isn't a bad spot though perhaps not as flash as the moribund Yacht Club of the Americas (nee Peninsular). Kings Pointe has a gateway but mercifully no locked gate:The docks here are of the fixed variety, and a few years ago you could buy one of these for something less than $200,000 as I recall. Oh happy days!During the boom years they also built a bunch of apartments on the south side of the marina visible in the back of the marina:The only good thing I can think of about this depression is that runaway development has come to a screeching halt. I just kind of wish Peninsular were still there, grody and grungy and always firm on their prices. I don't miss the haul outs at all, but now I realise I lived through an era that is gone forever.