You may be hard pressed to think of someone better to run a marina than a superyacht captain, especially one who’s been in the industry since 1987 when he was 18 years old. In May, Capt. Rob Crocker of 35-meter M/Y QTR closed on River Dogs Marina in Jacksonville, Florida. Alongside him was his wife Sarah Crocker, a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and First Mate Ryan Bradley, also aboard M/Y QTR, and one of the marina’s investors. Capt. Crocker is acting as president and his wife as vice president of the new enterprise.
The new marina is located at 451 Trout River Drive in Jacksonville and will initially provide berths for yachts up to 50 feet in phase one of the development. But this is just the beginning, says Capt. Crocker. Phase two, which they hope to finish within the next two years, including plans to lengthen the dock to accommodate larger vessels.
Creating a Community
In addition to selling fuel, Sarah will use her CMP credentials to host private events. They’re also focused on their watersport offerings — they plan to offer kayak, paddleboard, and Jet Ski, and small boat rentals, and a tiki hut. Plus, they want to host small boat concerts on the docks. “We’re trying to give the city more things to do, recreationally speaking,” Crocker says, adding that they’re committed to making things affordable for people in the area. It helps that the city of Jacksonville wants it to have a more recreational designation.
For First Mate Bradley, the community aspect is a big draw. “I loved the idea Rob and Sarah had to create this awesome place to hold local events, whether it be local bands, food trucks, craft shows, or all the above,” says Bradley. “It’ll be a great way to bring the local community together [while] offering a great spot to pull up dockside, hang out, fish off the dock, grab some food/drinks, and just relax when it’s all complete. Truly, it was a huge honor to even be asked to be a part of this!”
The new marina will initially provide berths for yachts up to 50 feet in phase one of the development.
Investing was the obvious move for him. “[Rob] had been telling me about his vision, the potential the property had, and some of the plans to get things rolling, so I looked into it myself, checked out the listing, and made a trip up to Jacksonville to walk the site and see it for myself. Knowing Rob, I knew whatever vision he had — along with the passion he gave when explaining everything — that it was going to be epic,” Bradley says. “Once I got to the property, it all just came together and made sense that I needed to get involved in this immediately. With the projected growth of the area and plans the city has over the next couple years, it made a lot of sense to get moving and as quick[ly] as we could.”
In addition to his superyacht skillset and experience, which stems back to mid-2014, Bradley owns Advanced Skills Landscaping, a landscape design and tree-trimming company, with his brother-in-law Angel Estrugo, who will also be involved in the ownership/investment/development of the marina.
Making the Dream Come True
For the past five years, while saving up, he and his wife Sarah were searching for any marina in the Florida area. Though Capt. Crocker says could have been on the West Coast, East Coast, or in the Keys, they ended up finding River Dogs Marina in December. He was “always on the websites, looking around, and I showed this to Sarah, my wife, saying ‘Wow, look, this is a really great opportunity. It’s literally right down the road from our house, so I could drive my boat to work.’” When they found it, they quickly realized it checked all the boxes for them, and they moved to close. Though it took several months, they finally closed in May.
“It’ll be a great way to bring the local community together [while] offering a great spot to pull up dockside, hang out, fish off the dock, grab some food/drinks, and just relax when it’s all complete."
As it might be a couple years before things really take off at the marina, Crocker says he intends to keep working as a superyacht captain, at least for the next three to five years. “And my job now is going to help finance the [marina],” he adds. Of course, at some point down the road, he does confirm that he’ll be stepping off of the superyachts and moving ashore to run the marina. “What the day is, I don't know. I do love the industry. I really, really love yachting and all the places I get to go and all the people, so, I'm going to miss it. But at the same point, my wife and I have been looking forward to this for a long, long time as well.”
Because it’s still early, River Dogs Marina does not yet have a website, but go follow their progress on Instagram at @RiverDogsMarina.