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First phase drystack opens in Charleston

Family-owned company Ross Marine has opened a 160-slip drystack at newly-built Clark Island Marina. The facility delivers desperately needed boat storage just a short drive from the vibrant US city of Charleston in South Carolina. Charlotte Niemiec reports.

Phase one of the project, which opened in April, aims to provide a solution to the dearth of storage space in and around the city. Ross Marine general manager, Paul Speights Jr, explains: “There’s a big need for drystack here,” he says. “If you go to any public boat ramp in Charleston – especially the south side on a busy weekend – you can hardly get into the boat ramp to launch your boat, it’s a logjam. So we’ve looked at ways to provide residents with another option.”
The project is being developed over two phases. The first phase, now complete, comprises 160 drystack spaces installed by local company SJ Hamill. Using a Marine Travelift, the marina can haul and launch up to 35ft (11m) outboard boats. Phase two will seek to double the number of drystack spaces available, Speights confirms. “If it fills up like everyone’s telling me it will, phase two will come quickly!” he adds.
Boats are transferred to and from the water by a Marine Travelift machine.

Boats are transferred to and from the water by a Marine Travelift machine.

“So far, we’re ahead of expectations and we’re starting to put boats under annual contracts for dry storage. We have about 12 exclusive wet slips as well, which we’ll also rent under annual contracts.” Over the next ten years, Speights envisions a full, 300-slip bustling marina with a ship store and amenity centre, hosting plenty of community events.
40 years of repair experience
Ross Marine is a well-known shipyard operated by the same family for 65 years. Speights’ grandfather purchased Clark Island in the late 1960s and ran a sandblasting contractor business that eventually became an army/navy contractor shipyard. “In the 1980s, after the navy left town, the shipyard business became less lucrative and the family started Ross Marine in 1986,” Speights explains. “This is our core business, offering private yacht repair, refits, storage, engine repairs at a full service boatyard, with a 70-ton Marine Travelift, where we can haul up to 75ft (23m) boats.”
Plans for the marina site, which should see double the number of drystack spaces.

Plans for the marina site, which should see double the number of drystack spaces.

The company’s extensive repair history helps separate it from other drystacks in the area, Speights says. “You drystack with us and there’s nothing we can’t do from a maintenance and service point of view, so it’s a one-stop-shop, a maritime village where we have tenants that do custom carpentry and diesel engines, electrical/electronics, canvas … We’re looking to create a service where you can pull in and get everything done.”
Long in the works, the project received its first permit in 2007 and has since seen two extensions – one during the economic recession of 2008/09 and the second during the Covid pandemic in 2020. However, the delays have ultimately worked in their favour, Speights says. “A lot of things have changed in the Charleston area since 2007 – we’ve become a boom town, we’re on a barrier island called Johns Island and it is one of the fastest growing parts of Charleston, a lot more populated and with a much larger demand for dry storage and marinas.”
The first-phase drystack for 160 boats.

The first-phase drystack for 160 boats.

Along with the rest of his family, Speights helps run all the services on Clark Island. “We’re not a big marina group,” he says. “A lot of the industry has shifted to a corporate set up and private marinas are becoming less common, but our roots are here, we’ve been in this industry and community our entire lives, grew up on the water. We intend to continue to do just that.”

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