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The Marine Council - more than 50 years in the making!

In the late 1960's and early to mid-1970's, boating in Miami was still very seasonal; the "snowbirds", as they were called - boat owners from mostly New England, the Northeast, nd Canada, plus some from the Midwest - brought themselves and their boats to South Florida (and especially Miami) in the fall, stayed down here for most (or all) of the winter, then migrated back north in the spring. The "locals" were then left with Biscayne Bay and surrounding waters (including the Bahamas) to themselves - and their boats - in the hot and humid summer months. Marine businesses in Miami flourished from October through April, then hit the doldrums during the summer right through September.

The Marine Council  -  or The Marine Council of Greater Miami, as it was originally named  -  was founded forty years ago (1968, to be exact).  To put that date in proper perspective, one should realize that:

o       Fiberglass hulls were still new to boat construction

o       Bertram had only a few models, the most popular of which had the nickname "Moppie" and were 25 and 28-ft. in length

o       Hatteras was barely off the drawing boards, and were manufactured by AMF

o       The heyday of Morgan Out Islands. Pearsons, Cals, and Underwood Marine were a few years away

o       Coast Guard sea planes still took off from Dinner Key and Monty Trainer was a virtual unknown - both the person AND the restaurant

o       Thunderboat Alley in North Miami (no one knew the name "Aventura" back then) was just a gleam in Don Aranow's eye


More importantly, MIAMI, not Ft. Lauderdale, was the center of boating in South Florida.....and the Marine Council was soon to become THE #1 marine trade organization in the area.

This began to gradually change in the late 1970's as northerners started staying in Miami year 'round. They moved to Miami in ever-increasing numbers - as did the Cubans. Both migrations significantly impacted boating and the marine industry in Miami over the next decade. More people moved down with their boats, and other people started buying boats, marinas - both public and private - started springing up, boat dealers and brokers sold more and more boats, both power and sail, and the demand for service increased in a commensurate manner, and by the mid-1980's the marine industry actually started to show up on the local economic radar screen.

This did not go unnoticed by local politicians, who actually had started to notice the positive economic impact of boats back in the 1960's. Boaters represented money, and some in local government saw any number of possibilities to generate significant dollars through various taxes. As these efforts became more and more widespread and onerous, boaters naturally began to look elsewhere - especially toward Broward County, which saw the economic advantages in a much more positive way. Thus the migration of boats and boaters north to Broward began - albeit it very gradually and quietly - in the 1970's.

Miami's boating population and local marine industry continued to boom throughout the 1980's, with the only barrier of consequence being the moratorium on building any marine facilities for several years while a county-wide Manatee Protection Plan was developed. The resulting regulations dramatically chilled the marine expansion of the previous decade, and significantly hastened the migration north to Broward - and at the same time gave their marine industry a huge boost. Broward government knew a good thing when they saw it, and welsomed boaters and the industry with open arms. The epicenter of South Florida boating was clearly moving to Broward.

With few if any new facilities coming on line after the enactment of the Manatee Plan, and with the number of registered boats continuing to grow in Miami-Dade County, the demand for slips became extreme. The number of boatyards was gradually shrinking as well, so the demand for support services remained. These factors hid the fact that more and more Miami boaters were looking to Broward for their products and services.

Then in the early 1990's came the biggest "hit" to Miami's marine community in decades - Hurricane Andrew. Close to one-quarter of Miami's recreational boats either were destroyed or damaged to a significant degree, and a huge part of South Miami-Dade housing became inhabitable, forcing the occupants to move elsewhere. Many moved to Broward County, and never moved back. It took years for Miami's boating community to "build" back in and re-engage in boating.

Miami's marine industry became increasingly splintered from 1985 to 1995, and Broward County took full advantage of it. The Miami River, where practically all of Miami-Dade's boatyards are located, became viewed as polluted and run down, housing derelict vessels and drug smugglers. The River's commercial industry was represented in many peoples'eyes by Haitian freighters loaded down with bicycles and mattresses. The Miami River was indeed the underbelly of the "Miami Vice" image.

Then with the coming of the new millenium, things on the Miami River and in Miami's marine community started to change. The commitment to dredge the River was met (with a few hiccups), development came in a tidal wave, and the image improved dramatically. The downside was tremendous economic pressure on the marine industry on the River to remain, coupled with little or no support for the industry (and boating) by local government.

Today, there is increasing appreciation for the waterfront and boating, though development pressure remains a threat in the future. The real estate market for condos has softened tremendously, with the new focus being on dry storage facilities. The recent boom in the mega-yacht industry continues, and Broward's marine industry, which has lost several boatyards to development over the past several years, has limited opportunities for future growth. The City of Miami is currently engaged in three major waterfront master plan studies. Miami-Dade County still has the largest number of registered vessels of any county in Florida. So perhaps the pendulum is starting to swing back.....