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RSW Living Magazine

‘Smart’ Marina Offers Convenience and Security: Innovation attracts boaters to Gulf Star Marina

Mar 09, 2021 07:38PM ● By KATHY MONTGOMERY

When children arrive at the beach, they want to kick off their sandals and run straight into the water. When boat owners arrive at the marina, they want to hop into the captain’s chair and head right out to sea.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Transporting a vessel from storage into the water can be time-consuming and frustrating, not to mention a lot of hard work.

When Gulf Star Marina, located near the Matanzas Pass Bridge on Fort Myers Beach, was being rebuilt, Carroll Properties sought to reimagine the boater experience through innovative technology not available elsewhere in Southwest Florida—or the world, for that matter.

It starts when boat owners decide they want to spend a day on the water. Through the Boat Cloud smartphone app, they can schedule a pickup time and order food, snacks, drinks and ice, all of which will be waiting onboard when they arrive at Gulf Star Marina.

While boaters are en route, a technological marvel is at work inside the 29,000-square-foot facility. Gulf Star Marina is the world’s first “smart” marina to feature Austrian-based LTW Intralogistics’ stacker crane technology, which uses a computer-based lifts-and-rail system instead of the traditional forklift-retrieval method.           

“It’s been compared to a high-tech vending machine for boats,” says Andrew Wagner, operations manager. “This particular technology has never been used at a marina and has drawn worldwide attention from marina developers and marine industry publications.”

Once mariners arrive on site, they can visit the ship store to purchase refreshments, clothing, fishing gear and boating accessories, according to general manager Ryan Clark. Gulf Star Marina’s team of professionals will already have the boaters’ vessel waiting in the water, fully fueled and loaded with all the preordered items. Then they can cruise into Matanzas Pass and enter the Gulf of Mexico or Estero Bay within a matter of minutes.

Upon their return, mariners will hand their vessel over to Gulf Star Marina staff who will wash it and then use the same lifts-and-rail system to return it to its designated storage bay. While that’s happening, boat owners and their guests can visit the Captain’s Club, a private lounge with a big-screen TV, computer station and fully equipped locker room with showers. Many cap their day by walking next door to Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille to enjoy a fresh seafood dinner and cocktails.

Beyond technology and convenience, the newly built marina is a concrete fortress that offers superior protection from fire, wind and rain. The facility is designed to withstand a category 5 hurricane, a significantly stronger wind rating than the former 1970s-era steel barn that once stood on the site.

“Gulf Star Marina can accommodate boats and yachts up to 40 feet in length, and when you’re talking about a significant investment like that, you want to make sure they’re protected from the elements, especially during hurricane season,” says Todd Carroll, owner of Carroll Properties.

GCM Contracting Solutions of Fort Myers was the project’s general contractor and MHK Architecture & Planning of Naples provided design services. Gulf Star Marina’s reopening in late 2020 couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Since Covid-19, boat sales are on the rise, and as a result, there is an increased demand for boat storage in Southwest Florida,” notes Carroll.


Gulf Star Marina
708 Fisherman’s Wharf, Gulf Star Marina
Fort Myers Beach; 239-463-9552
Monthly rates are based on vessel size and availability.


Kathy Montgomery has been writing for more than 30 years about Southwest Florida and the interesting people who live in the region.