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Galveston Yacht Basin Rises From Ike’s Ashes

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Galveston Yacht Basin
Galveston Yacht Basin

Future looks bright for Galveston Yacht Basin


In the wake of Hurricane Ike in September 2008, Galveston Bay’s marine infrastructure suffered enormous damage. Many facilities are only now returning to full operation. One of the hardest hit was the Galveston Yacht Basin along the harbor side of Galveston Island.

The property includes a 480-slip marina, a small boat yard, the Galveston Yacht Club facilities and a 30-year-old restaurant. The storm’s flood surge sparked an electrical fire that consumed a 130-boat drystack facility. More than 300 damaged vessels and tons of debris were removed after the disaster.

A subsidiary of the charitable Sealy and Smith Foundation sold the property in October 2011 to fifth generation Galvestonian John “Rocky” Sullivan and his Houston partners, Stephen Swan and Greg Pappas. It includes facilities on 18 acres of land and slips over 55 submerged acres.

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“We’re face-lifting and repairing the entire property,” said David Weiss, GYB chief executive officer under the new owners. “Our goal is to re-establish it as a premier property on the Gulf Coast and a destination for boaters to keep their boats.”

Originally opened in 1969, many aspects of the property were in need of attention before Ike ravaged it. The Galveston Yacht Club, which had been closed since the storm, recently re-opened for special event rentals. The adjoining pool has been re-finished, including a wading pool and hot tub that had been out of service for nearly 15 years. The new owners also added a poolside palapa bar.

The on-site restaurant has been rebuilt and the partners are seeking an operator for it.

The marina continued operations after Ike, but the new owners have made many repairs such as replacing power pedestals and refurbishing the heads and showers along the docks. The effort has included sprucing up the post-storm appearances to help set the yacht basin apart from its more industrial neighbors in the port.

“We’re a work in progress. We’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on landscaping,” said Weiss, adding that all of the new touches are designed to fit in with the island’s historic character.

Boatyard services are once again available on the premises. The new owners leased the Galveston Yacht Basin Shipyard to Gulf Coast Complete Marine, the operator of a 20,000 square-foot facility in nearby Kemah. The company re-opened the Galveston yard in April and took delivery on a new 75-ton Marine Travelift in mid-May. Yard owner David Whelan said the lift was specially designed with a 21-foot beam to handle the wide variety of boats on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Services available at the Galveston yard include bottom jobs, shaft and prop work, paint jobs, fiberglass, minor and major refits, outboard/inboard servicing, and other yacht and powerboat needs.

The final piece of the yacht basin’s rebirth will be completion of a new drystack facility, expected to open sometime in the fall. Plans call for dry storage capacity to more than double, holding up to 300 boats. While the original facility only held boats under 25 feet, the new dry storage will accommodate boats up to 45 feet.

Along with the dry slips, the current construction project will add facilities for a ship’s store, a waterside bar and grill, and retail space.

Once completed, the marina will offer new concierge services. Dry dock customers will be able to schedule outings and arrive to find their vessel in the water ready to go – fueled and fully stocked with bait, food and beverages, if desired. Wet slip customers will also be able to enjoy the new dockside catering services.

Baytown Marina Reborn

Another victim of Hurricane Ike’s destructive forces has risen from the wreckage. The 100-slip Bayland Marina near the mouth of the San Jacinto River in Upper Galveston Bay held a ribbon cutting ceremony April 5 to celebrate its re-opening.

The storm shredded the marina, damaging all of the docks and displacing 80 percent of the pilings, leaving it looking like a pile of pixie sticks. A dozen liveaboards were among those renting slips at the marina before the storm.

After a $5.3 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant was awarded in 2009 to cover 90 percent of the repair costs, the marina was rebuilt by the City of Baytown, which leases it to a private operator.

City officials say the marina is now better than before with floating concrete docks designed by Bellingham Marine to withstand 18-foot storm surges. It also features storm surge security platforms, upgraded utilities to the slips, a new fuel dock and a renovated marina store including a yacht brokerage.

With slips up to 55 feet in length, the marina is now accepting lease applications and transient visitors.

In late April, a dozen boats from the Texas Mariner Cruising Association made the 12-mile run from Kemah to Bayland Marina for a mini-gam to help inaugurate the new facilities.


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