A Happy, Happy Day

Port St. Joe celebrates redeveloped marina
Point South Marina
Point South Marina in Port St. Joe opens onto St. Joe Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Destroyed by Hurricane Michael in 2018, it has been rebuilt and is newly reopened. Photo by Steve Bornhoft

One more than half expected the Port St. Joe Sharks cheerleaders to show up at any moment. Harold Hill the Music Man or an equivalent along with a troupe of youthful horn blowers would not have been out of place.

Here was a celebration reflective of the small bayside community in which it took place.  Folks began to show up a half hour or more before the event’s announced start time. Women wore white jeans and gold sandals, men favored guayabera shirts and Bermuda length shorts — semiformal attire for folks around here.

They gathered for a Friday afternoon grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly opened Point South Marina in Port St. Joe,  a city, like others along the northern Gulf Coast, that was beleaguered by the Michael/COVID-19 double whammy.

Folks inspected several mighty fine boats on display, some commenting that they could scarcely afford to gas up the largest of them, and watched as a boat body mounted on a truck chassis moved about the grounds. The novel vehicle is to the Freedom Boat Club as the Weinermobile is to Oscar Mayer.

“We are thrilled to have this marina here where we can enjoy St. Joe Bay together,” said the facility’s general manager Preston Sutter as the proceedings began, then yielded the microphone to Port St. Joe Mayor Rex Buzzett, who commented, “It is a great day to open this marina that was a long time coming on the rebuild.”

Buzzett offered onlookers a history lesson, recalling that the property where today’s marina is located was a Hess Oil terminal in the 1960s. The terminal was abandoned as port business started to decline and was acquired by the City of  Port St. Joe. Subsequently, the St. Joe Company purchased from the city a portion of the old Hess property.

In the mid-1990s, the mayor said, the St. Joe Company submitted a proposed order providing for marina development to the city, and commissioners approved it with a 3-2 vote.

“What a catalyst to this area it was,” Buzzett said.

Then, in 2018, Michael wiped it out.

“The St. Joe Company doubled down and said we’re gonna rebuild it,” a grateful Buzzett continued. “The city got a grant to replace sewer and water lines downtown. The first part of that project was to extend lines to this (marina) area, which is going to be an economic engine for years to come.”

Buzzett introduced U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Panama City), who had recently toured Port St. Joe, the mayor said, to assess its storm recovery progress. Dunn approached the microphone on three legs, having recently had a hip replaced.

The marina, Dunn said, “shows you that people with a vision who work persistently and hard can build this kind of future for a city. I have never seen downtown Port St. Joe look any better than it looks today, and we all remember how bad it looked after the storm; it was devastation.”

Dunn was effusive in his praise for the people of Port St. Joe and Gulf County and their elected officials.

“No matter how strong a Category 5 hurricane is, the people of the Panhandle are stronger,” Dunn said. “This is a happy, happy day.”

Point South Marina Port St. Joe is a full-service marina and boat storage facility with 252 dry slips for boats up to 45 feet in length; 48 wet slips; a fuel dock; Outfitter Store; and a 300-foot transient dock. The St. Joe Company owns and operates the marina.

Rates for barn storage start at $17.50 per foot per month with a 25-foot minimum. For more information or to reserve space at the marina, people may visit PointSouthMarina.com; send an email to info.portstjoe@pointsouthmarina.com or call 850.227.3030.                                  

Categories: Events, On the Water