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When less is more in rack configuration

Whether you're planning a new facility or redesigning your existing site, you should consider the sizes of boats, your number of parking spots and exactly how much revenue you can get from various types of boats you intend to include in dry storage. Tim Blankenship of Coastal Systems International in Florida, USA, presents a compelling argument for tweaking the standard rack and storage systems.

Two and four level racks
Two-level racks store a maximum of six boats and four-level racks a maximum of 12. These racks are under-utilised but, even if full might not bring in as much revenue as fewer - but larger - vessels.

First and foremost, Blankenship stresses, "Obtain permits for as large a site as possible. Review all equipment options."Don't design for today's customer; design with an ability to accommodate tomorrow's customer. "Understand the market today and in the future", he says. Plus, think about your customer or potential customer and build your site in phases to adjust future construction to reflect the market. "Are you storing large go-fast boats or a PWC?" he asks, "or,in many cases, both?"

Standard drystack, according to Blankenship, includes 20ft to 30ft (6m to 9m) bays with two or three boats per bay and a clear height for fire spr1nklers and bunker boards. But you could adopt such techniques as angling cradles within rack storage and really utilize the space available in each bay. A two-or three-tiered rack can hold, say, three boats per bay while accommodating only two boats at an angle. But, angled bunker racks can hold a longer boat and potentially increase the revenue from one rack system.

Four level rack
The middle tier is adapted to store a 28ft wakeboard ski boat. The boat weighs 6,500 lbs and has a 9ft 5in beam.

Of course, in Florida, where manatee populations abound and regulations allow for only a certain number of wet slips, you really need to think intelligently about your dry versus wet slip configuration. For this, Blankenship recommends reducing your number of wet slips by keeping all larger boats in water while putting smaller boats in dry slips. Again, by reconsidering your slips, you can raise revenue without raising the number of slips or using too much upland property. By way of example, he offers the following case study: A development area of 100,000 sq ft (9,290 sq m) with approximately half that space allowed for building a structure limited to 45ft (14m) high but designed to house over 200 racks. It is to be operated with a marina fork lift and could be designed as either a single- or double-alsle system. Forty-five feet is a pretty common zoning code, Blankenship cautions, referring to US standards. But these analyses are pretty conservative, he admits.

First case: A 49,000 sq ft (4,552 sq m) single-aisle building at 350ft (107m) long by 140ft (43m) wide built to allow for 35ft (11m) boats with a 70ft (21m) aisle for a forklift. The building has three levels.

Ground stands
Ground stands are currently the only option for this boat but if you store higher, wider or larger boats for greater revenus in the drystack you can boost profits and free up your parking space too.

With two boats per bay on ground racks, the total comes to 184 boats with 6,440ft (1,963m) of leasable length. At three boats per bay, the total is 204 boats with 7,140ft (2,176m) of leasable length. This leaves a remaining 51,000 sq ft (4,738 sq m) of outside space.

Second case: Increase the building footprint by 3,200 sq ft (207 sq m), for a resulting 52,200 sq ft (4,850 sq m) building with 65ft (20m) and 70ft (21m) double aisles in a 197ft (60m) long by 265ft (81m) wide structure. The resulting bays would accommodate 30ft (9m) and 35ft boats on three rows of racks.

With two boats per bay on ground racks, the total would be 208 boats and 6,760ft (2,060m) of leasable length. At three boats per bay on ground racks, the total is 228 boats with 7,41Oft (2,259m) of leasable length. This leaves 47,000 sq ft (4,366 sq m) of outside space.

The 3,200 sq ft increase in building size allows for potentially 370ft of more leasable length. Keep in mind, more boats mean more parking spaces at a ratio of about four to six extra spaces per 20 boats, so increasing boat storage might lead to more zoning headaches for marinas without upland space.

Finally, when you consider the rest of the outdoor space, outdoor ground stands could then hold 50ft (15m) vessels with beams to 15ft (5m) and unlimited height for towers and radar equipment. Your storage footprint expands to include another 80-110 boats with a leasable length of 4,OOOft to 5,500ft (1.219m to 1,876m).

If on the same 100,000 sq ft development area, your drystack structure could be taller· up to 90ft to 110ft(27m to 34m) - It's worth considering a crane system over a standard marina forklift. In this case, "a single-aisle [building] essentially doubles your option to 400 boats; he says. The aisle width drops tc 40ft (12m), thereby reducing the building's footprint 36,500 sq ft (3,577 sq m) while leasable length grows to 14,OOOft (4,267rn) and you still have 62,000 sq ft (5.760 sq m) of outdoor area.

"Customers pay a premium to store longer, taller and wider boats," Blankenship says. "Plus, the lease rate may be higher per linear foot for this market". So, although it may seem counter-intuitive to reduce the number of boats in dry and upland storage, catering to larger, wider and taller boats can bring in more revenue in many cases. Some marinas are charging per cubic foot rather than linear foot, which would change revenue numbers even further.
Ground stands
Angled racks on the second tier stack just two boats per section in contrast to three boats on the third tier. But the angled boats are bigger, have biminis and bring in higher drystack revenue.

In the end, Blankenship says. "Drystack is more than just putting racks into a building. Do not apply a 'parking concept' to planning,- By considering boat configurations, optimizing rack volume, considering all equipment options and thinking intelligently about where you put certain boats, you might realize that size does matter but that, perversely, less can also be more - and you can increase revenue without adding slips.

This article is based on a presentation given by Tim Blankenship, PE, at the 2010 International Marina Institute Drystack Conference, FT Lauderdale, Florida

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