Working Waterfronts: Jacksonville's Marina Mile

July 30, 2010 33 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The Ortega River is the recreational boating center of Northeast Florida. Along Lake Shore Boulevard and Lakeside Drive are several marinas, boat repair shops, yacht sales and similar marine oriented businesses forming a unique waterfront environment in urban Jacksonville which is known as "Marina Mile."

The Ortega River Bridge is only 7 feet above the Ortega River and as a result it is the most frequently opened bridge in Florida with 15,000 lifts a year. Pleasure boats from more than a dozen marinas pass underneath to reach the St. Johns River.

Ortega Landing

Ortega Landing anchors the east end of Marina Mile. This marina and condominium development replaced the Ortega River Boat Yard

Anchored in Jacksonville, Florida on the beautiful Ortega River, Ortega Landing is a community where boaters, members and residents enjoy the yachting lifestyle. With 38 river home units overlooking a 192-slip marina, boaters do not have to choose between a river home and a marina slip – they can have one, the other or both.

Lakeside Marina

Lakeside Marina on the Ortega River is a small private, wet-slip marina featuring 24 Deep Water Slips, 3 Lift Slips and 6 Finger Pier Slips.

Ortega Yacht Club Marina

When the real estate market improves the marina will be joined by the 12-story Ortega River Club Condominiums tower.

Welcome to the Ortega Yacht Club Marina located on the well protected Ortega River just off the St. Johns in Jacksonville, Florida.

5 miles south of downtown Jacksonville, year round boat owners appreciate the protection from strong Nor' Easters during the winter, and inland location during hurricane season. Many cruisers have tied up at our marina for the hurricane season due to the historically low incidence of Atlantic storms in the Georgia Bight area of Northeast Florida.

Floating docks, easy access to fueling and just about everything you need blocks away are just a few of the amenities here at the Ortega Yacht Club Marina.

Pier 17 Marine is the South's largest nautical store.

Sadler Point Marina

Sadler Point Marina is proud to be “Jacksonville’s Only Full Service & Do-it-Yourself Boatyard.” We are able to provide many services and support to our customers. We pride ourselves on being helpful and attentive to our customers needs as well as maintaining a high level of environmental stewardship.

We are located about one mile southwest of the mouth of the Ortega River, very near the heart of downtown Jacksonville. Our customers enjoy one of the most exciting boating locals in the southeast. The St. Johns River provides innumerable activities from sailing, skiing, and other water-sports, to downtown waterside entertainment and restaurants such as The Jacksonville Landing, Metro Park and of course sports events including Jaguars and Suns games.

Roosevelt Blvd Pier

CSX A Line draw bridge

Did You Know?

Before the marinas, the site of the Sadler Point and Ortega River Yacht Club Marinas was the home of the Gress Lumber Mill.  The Gress mill closed after it burned down in 1955.

The first Ortega River Bridge, a wooden span on the site of the present "old" also carried the city trolley line across the river on its way to what is now Venetia and the Florida Country Club, just north of the present Timuquanna CC.

"You could ride the trolley line anywhere in the city for a $4 weekly pass," Rogers said. "We used to take it to go to swim practice at the Florida Yacht Club [built in 1926]."

The present old Ortega Bridge was opened in 1927, but the old span stayed there for several years to carry the trolley tracks across the river.

The bridges were lift spans for one reason: The Gress Lumber Mill on the present sites of the Sadler point Marina and the Ortega River Yacht Club Marina .

"That mill was built in 1912," Rogers said. "They milled cypress and magnolia logs, most of which were logged up Black Creek and loaded on barges to come up to the mill. The mill-hands all lived in houses on what is now Roosevelt Mall."
Source: Ortega has rich history - Florida Times-Union - 11/21/99

Huckins Yacht Corporation

In 1928 Frank Pembroke Huckins sold his first yacht, a revolutionary Huckins Fairform Flyer, to David M. Goodrich for $15,000. Work on Hull #2 began immediately. In those days, the custom cruisers designed and built by FPH at his Jacksonville, Florida plant became the envy of the yachting world virtually overnight. Long before speed was all the rage on the water, Huckins yachts — ranging from 45-56 feet — were forging a reputation in performance.

Fortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 had little initial effect on Huckins, which possessed a number of orders already in hand. David M. Goodrich, the original owner of Hull #1, Minim, now put Huckins to work on Maxim, a 54-footer powered with Sterling Dolphin Specials. The mid-30’s proved more challenging, but FPH never lost confidence in his dream and by the end of the decade sales were coming from across the country.

PT Boat Era
Prior to America’s entry into WWII, Huckins' participation in the PT Boat development program came after vessels constructed by various builders failed to satisfy Navy requirements. FPH, having learned that the twenty PT’s already in service were experiencing severe problems, secured a meeting with the Navy Bureau of Ships.

His pitch: Building the "fastest seagoing boats in the world" in the 20's and 30's gave Huckins the experience necessary to design a PT boat capable of providing a fast platform for the Navy’s armament requirements.

In December 1940, with scant assistance from the Navy, FPH began the project from the ground up. Delivered to the Navy in July of 1941, Huckins’ prototype was run through trials and accepted with enthusiasm as PT 69. In the end, FPH’s $100,000 gamble paid off, albeit with a net profit of $28.60.

After the war, Huckins delighted a new generation of yachtsmen with a line of performance cruisers, many of which are still cherished for their speed and efficiency. Loyal customer David Goodrich launched his third Fairform Flyer, the first boat out of Huckins’ new yard on the Ortega River.

While Frank Pembroke Huckins died in 1951, key players from this era would form the company’s management team for years to come: Ray Teller, hired by FPH to lead Huckins’ postwar design; George Pillsbury, destined to become vice president; Henry Baldwin, the company’s president and salesman; and Kenneth Archibald, stepson of FPH, who later became CEO and is still active in the company today.

Present Day
Today, under the leadership of Cindy and Buddy Purcell, Huckins Yacht Corporation continues to incorporate ever-advancing marine technologies without sacrificing 80 years of tradition.

As always, the Huckins family prides itself on maintaining FPH’s insistence on patent-grabbing innovation, timeless style and custom craftsmanship that makes every yacht as unique as its owners. This philosophy has provided a heritage of success spanning eight decades, through countless financial upswings and downturns.

Looking forward, we find ourselves in the enviable position of being able to recreate our past (Huckins’ library of original drawings includes every yacht we’ve ever built), along with the design skills necessary to introduce new models that more than live up to our remarkable history.

A Little history about the founder of Huckins Yacht Corporation

Women and trouble were Frank Huckins ' constant companions.

And the latter usually followed the former.

Huckins moved to Jacksonville to get away from personal problems but found professional problems here.

His family had owned a lumber company in Boston and he became familiar with Jacksonville starting in 1908 through visits to a Panama Park sawmill owned by the prominent Cummer family. In the 1920s, Huckins sold the family business in Boston and moved to Jacksonville to escape the notoriety that followed two failed marriages, due mostly to his philandering.

"If anyone had then told me I would become a resident of Jacksonville 20 years later, I would have thought them crazy," Huckins wrote in his memoir tellingly called Boats and Women. "Two divorces in Boston in seven years was too much. It was time to leave."

A millwork business in which he had a stake went bust in 1927, and he considered yacht building because he had built boats years before as a youth. Huckins operated his boat building business on East Fourth Street, but moved to its current spot on the Ortega River in 1945.

He called the boats Fairform Flyers, known for their special "quadroconic" hulls, designed to get the boat to plane, or rise out of the water, at speeds lower than normal, making for more efficient cruising.

The first boat, a 42-footer, was sold to tire manufacturer David Goodrich for $15,000. When the Great Depression hit full force during the early 1930s, Huckins produced smaller boats at prices as low as $2,000 to keep the business going.

In the 1940s, the company was one of three contracted with the Navy to design and build nearly 600 PT (patrol torpedo) boats made famous by President John F. Kennedy's experience during World War II. Huckins designed and built 18 PT boats, but none of them saw combat, according to the non-profit historical organization PT Boats Inc.

But Purcell has letters from former servicemen who operated off Midway Island on Huckins PT boats during World War II.

Most of the boats were built by the Electric Boat Co. of Bayonne, N.J., but the company used Huckins ' hull design, Purcell said.

Kennedy made a local connection by delivering boats from a Navy training base in Melville, R.I., to Jacksonville and from Jacksonville to Miami. Huckins Yacht made only a $28 profit from the PT boats.

Frank Huckins died in 1951, and his business partner, Henry Baldwin, continued as the company's chief executive officer.
Source: Dream cruise Huckins Yacht Corporation is celebrating 75 years in business - Florida Times-Union - 8/18/03

The 21-slip Cedar Point Marina replaced Sea-Jay's Marina in the late 1990's.  Sea-Jay's was a mom and pop operation of they type that's rapidly disappearing from Jacksonville.

Lamb's Yacht Center

Lamb's Yacht Center was founded in 1936 and originally located downtown before moving to its current location on the Ortega River in 1960.  The yacht center was owned by three generations of the Lamb Family until Downing Nightingale purchased the business in 2002.

Lakeshore Dry Storage

[/quote]Lakeshore Dry Storage and Lakeside Marina are both located on the Ortega River in Jacksonville, Florida. LDS has been in operation since 1988, as Jacksonville's premier dry storage facility.  Lakeside Marina was added in 2006 to provide our customers with a wet-slip option for large sailboats, sport fishing boats and various other types of watercraft.  Our marinas are conveniently located just minutes from downtown and provide quick access to the St. Johns River.[/quote]

For more information about Marina Mile and a complete list of businesses in the area: