Golden Isles Marina Rebuilds After Hurricane Damage

Although it’s been a long road to recovery from hurricane damage, Morningstar Marinas’ Golden Isles Marina on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, has completed the first phase of its renovation and will be launching the final phase this fall.

The marina, which has 133 in-water slips and just under 200 dry covered storage slots, is located just off the Intracoastal Waterway along the Frederica River. It was slammed by Hurricane Hermine in September 2016, Matthew a month later and Irma in October 2017.

“The entire marina needed to be replaced,” said Bill Young, director of marina services for all nine of Morningstar Marina’s properties. “Even though everything was still floating, every 16-foot section was basically twisted beyond repair.” Not a single boat was damaged, however, because of the staff’s on-site preparation before the storms.

The aluminum floating dock system were developed to work around the existing piles.

To accommodate its boaters while it was waiting for insurance funds for rebuilding, the marina spent almost $50,000 to install new wood decking that would allow it to continue to operate. “We never missed a beat. We were probably down for a total of about two weeks until we could get the electric back up,” Young said.

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The final insurance settlement didn’t come through until December 2018, but the marina was able to start rebuilding half of its structures in December 2017.

Morningstar handled the demolition and the installation work inhouse. “We’re going to replace the entire marina for $3.5 million instead of the $5 million quote that we were quoted for a complete turnkey project,” Young said. “It was extremely difficult, but we feel that it’s been a very valuable experience.”

One of their first decisions was to keep the 140 undamaged piling rather than pulling them out and installing new ones. Replacing them would have cost between $2,500 and $3,500 for each pile.

The demolition started in December 2017 with the marina’s rack storage dock. Crews were able to demo a dock in just two days, cutting it up into 16-foot sections. Morningstar found a creative way to save on disposal and landfill fees for the old dock sections, which would have been as high as $200,000 if a contractor had done it.

“We put ads on craigslist and offered 16-foot sections of floating docks to whoever wanted them,” Young said. They disposed of some docks this way—people taking them by land and by water. The remainder went to a person who sold them as reclaimed wood. They paid $25 a section for him to haul it away, what Young called a “super bargain.”

Wahoo (now part of Meeco Sullivan) designed and built the CAT5 aluminum floating dock system, working with Morningstar to develop a dock system that could be installed around the existing piles. “It was an amazing engineering feat; they took GPS readings from all 137 piles and developed an insert that we could put on the piles,” Young said.

“We would take delivery of the docks, bolt them together into sections between 50 and 100 feet long, and then use our workboats to pull them out into place. We would then use currents and our people to move them into place, lock them onto the piles and move onto the next section,” he continued. Installation of each dock section took about a week.

The longest part of the installation was putting all of the boards down and installing a rub rail. “There’s a lot of linear feet of dock,” Young said. The drystack dock is about 440 feet long, and the other docks that Morningstar rebuilt at this time—B, C, D, E and most parts of M—were all about 300 feet.
This work was completed in time for the 2019 boating season.

Renovations of Dock A and the long, 650-foot face dock at its end—used for transient boaters and the fuel dock — will start in December 2019. To help pay for this work, Morningstar was successful with three funding applications for Boating Infrastructure Grants: one for the electrical work, one for the fuel dock and one for the demolition and construction of the new transient docks.
“This will be a $1.5 million project, and we will get almost $700,000 of that through BIG funding,” Young said.

The expected completion date for this work is April 2020.

During the demolition and construction, Golden Isles Marina was able to serve all of its customers by moving them around to different parts of the marina and by renting slips from an adjacent marina. Despite the renovation activities, the marina was down only five percent in overall net operating income in 2018 compared to 2017.