“. . . Need a Bigger Boat”
The $38 million Palm Beach Town Marina Project was approved in response to a call for facilities better equipped to handle larger vessels. Keeping in mind that this is Palm Beach, a city with more than 30 people on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, larger vessels meant those 275 feet in length or better. According to David Logan, the trend for marinas like the one at Palm Beach is for bigger vessels, so the town is simply reacting to the demands of the market.
“Before the renovation, there were already yachts over 200 feet that had berthed here, but there will undoubtedly be many more of that size and larger after this is complete,” he said. “It is a tremendous revenue source for the Town of Palm Beach; that was really the driving force behind the upgrade.”
And a significant uptick in revenue it will be. In the past, the Town relied on the marina to pump about $3 million to $4 million into its coffers annually. However, once the new marina opens with its world-class Bellingham concrete floating docks, larger slips and more modern facilities, officials estimate it will generate net annual revenue in the $10 million to $12 million range.
Work on the marina began with the demolition of the three fixed concrete piers — named Brazilian, Australian, and Peruvian Docks— which had come to define the facility. They, along with a new 250' dock called the Palm Way Dock, will be rebuilt as concrete floating docks to provide 84 state-of-the-art, expanded and enlarged superyacht slips.
“When we demolished the three piers, we took the resultant 2 million pounds of concrete debris offshore where it was used to construct artificial reefs,” said Logan. “Then, after starting construction of 1,500 feet of new seawall, we prepared to begin the excavation process.”
Excavation of the marina sea floor was dictated by a need to provide three additional feet of water depth, deemed ample for mooring larger vessels in the marina. Logan said that the difference between excavating on land and beneath the water’s surface could not be starker.
“On land, you can put stakes in the ground, and you are good to go,” he said. ‘Out here, where we are dealing with a large site that changes with the tide going one way for six hours and then the other way for six hours, and water elevations that change by about two feet every day, twice a day, things aren't that easy. So, we needed a way to accurately cut the necessary slopes and various elevations — without seeing them.”
A Better Approach
Traditionally for MLC, underwater excavation would have entailed working off a bathymetric survey, followed by locating the barge/excavator to an area where a high spot was identified, then an effort to accurately locate it. Occasionally, they would have to resort to sending divers down to mark an area with a buoy.
“When dealing with 14.5 acres of work area, however, that isn't very practical — we needed a better approach,” said Logan. “I did some research to see what other contractors in the area were using for land-based excavation work and got good feedback from Steve Eakins of D.S. Eakins Construction. Around the same time, one of our key subcontractors Marc Kleisley of Burkhardt Construction happened to be going to a trade show, so I asked him to find out what he could about machine control while there. When he came back, everything seemed to point us toward the Topcon X-53i excavator system.”
The attraction for Logan was the fact that, with the machine control system, his operators could know at all times — even with their bucket 15 feet below the water’s surface — exactly where that bucket was, the depth it was at, and its horizontal and vertical location.
“It gives our operators a level of confidence they’d never had before,” he said. “There is no longer uncertainty about whether they've gone deep enough or whether they’ve done an area or not — it's right there on the screen in the cab.”
Having no prior GPS experience, Logan relied upon Wade Cook and Brent Hays from Lengemann Corporation, their regional Topcon dealer, to get up and running. The combination of Lengemann’s expertise and the inherent ease of use designed into the solution allowed Logan’s operators to be proficient within only a couple of days. “We quickly felt like we'd been using the system for a long time; that helped us a lot.”