Dec 132015

Last year about this time, when I was living in Sunset Marina on Stock Island, we, the few, the proud, the lowly liveaboards, got a nice holiday gift from said marina.  Namely, a rent increase.  It hurt, the timing sucked, and it left a very bad taste in everyone’s mouth.  I wrote a post about it here if you want to read up on it.  Well, guess what?  Here we are a year later and what do you suppose said marina has done?   Go ahead.  Guess.  Time’s up.

Yup.  They did it again. (Note: requires you buy the edition to read the whole article).  Well, let me save you some cash and ‘splain the gory details.

As I have noted in the past, corporate warlords love to run on schedules.  And for many, the end of the year is prime time for making changes.  Cut staff, cut payroll, roll some heads, new policies, and of course price increases.  Make some examples so the worker bees will fall in line.  All in the name of the almighty bottom line.  Do whatever you can to make more profits.  Drive out those who cannot afford your goods or services, and cater to a more better clientele.

Last year at this time the marina announced a significant increase in dock rent.  A long term 30 foot dock which rented for $600 a month went up to $720.  Along with came a slew of new rules, any one of which individually was no big deal, but thrown at everyone all at once gave one the impression the marina was looking to force people out.  This year, the same 30 foot dock rent has been increased to a whopping $880 a month.  For short term, the by foot rate is also increased to $27.50 a foot.  For the long term, also add in a mandatory $75 a month electric fee, no matter how much or little you use, and $5 per pumpout and now living on a 30 foot boat or less in said marina is approaching $1000 per month.  I haven’t heard what the larger docks are renting out for but I suspect the cost is proportional.

$1000 a month to dock a boat and live on it is getting pretty unreasonable, I don’t care what port it is.  The owners are quoted in the article with the usual bullshit.  Supply and demand.  Still cheapest on the island.  Makes no difference.  Spin it anyway you want, it comes down to greed and the bottom line.  The marina wants more money and will get it.  And if it means a few poor saps have to leave, so be it.  There will be more wealthier boat owners more than willing to come in and pay the price.

For those who cannot afford the rent, and there will be many, the options are simple.  Go to the mooring field, or leave Key West.  Living on the hook is not going to be a viable option as things move forward.

Now the person interviewed in the article, someone I am personally acquainted with, did point out his slip and many others are privately owned and therefore not subject to the rent increase.  The owner of said marina said the same thing and pointed out as an aside how if they did indeed want to get rid of liveaboards, they could do so.  But, it won’t take long for the private owners to see how much the marina slips are renting for before they decide to follow suit and raise their rents.  Not all will but I suspect the pressure from the HOA, all in the name of higher property values, will force their hand and all rents will go up.  And while the owner says liveaboards are ok, it’s the class of live aboard which is the issue.  In other words, my crappy little 23 footer which used to house me and the furry crew is not the sort of boat they want in an upscale marina.

This really doesn’t surprise me all.  The marina owner is asshole buddies with HWSNBN, and as I have mentioned countless times in the past, with Cuba opening up and Key West being so close, every available dock in the area is going to be prime real estate for any vessel which can make the 90 mile crossing to the south.  There just ain’t gonna be any room for dirty liveaboards.  So, every marina in the area has been upgrading, raising prices, and generally getting ready for all the money about to run through the island on it’s way to Havana.  Those who want to live here on the water are simply going to be in the way.  What was once a viable and affordable way to live here at the end of the world is now no more better than renting a place on land, if one can find such a place.

It just keeps getting worse for the average person who wants to at least try to make a go of it here.  Affordable rv living is long gone.  Now boat living is quickly being squeezed out.  Finding an affordable place on land is about unpossible.  Unrealistic rents, first/last/security, winding up in a shit hole like I am in now, makes land living difficult for us on the lower end of the spectrum.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the 8 years I have lived in the Keys to never have paid more than $700 a month for a place.  Three different boats in three different marinas.  A couple of rv rentals.  A crappy apartment, and my current digs where there is always the exciting chance encounter with a bedbug, drunk, or crack head.  I’ve been willing to put up with the garbage because I still love living here but it’s getting more and more difficult.  I was looking at boats again even though I can’t afford anything, but now, with this recent news, I’m not so sure a boat would be the best option.

I am becoming more and more convinced my original cunning plan of digital nomadism, spreading my charm and wit between here, Hawaii, and possibly points in between is the more better way to go.  Keep as minimal as possible.  Stay mobile avoiding long term leases or commitments.  Eventually keeping a reasonable sum of money available so if things are not working out, I can hop a bus, plane, train, or whatever and move on to the next adventure.  Keep doing so until age or other factors prevent me from doing so.

If it gets to the point where Key West is no longer affordable, as much as I love it here, I will move on to someplace else.  It’s just a shame it has to be like this.  The rich continue to gain control and dictate who can live where.  The city and county will bow to their wishes because they control the money and as we all know, money is the one true god above all others.  Make no mistake about that.  Anytime you run into some situation which defies explanation or seems to run against all common sense, just follow the money to get the answers.

I hope Sunset achieves what they are looking for.  It’s a beautiful marina and I was quite happy living there.  There was even a time when I considered buying a dock there.  But no more.  It’s just one more place I will scratch off the list of possible places to live in the Keys.  Two years running of rent increases.  What are the odds of a third next year?  And more rules?

I feel for some of the residents who live out there, some who have become good friends.  Many of them were struggling to make the rent and they were in way more better shape financially than me.  Now they face yet another rent increase and decisions will have to be made.  I watched the exodus a few years earlier from the marina from hell as regular people were forced out by rent and fee increases and now I am seeing the same thing happening at this marina.  It’s going to be rough sailing for many in the coming year.

Capt. Fritter