Fresh Winds Blow at Fair Point Marina

Here’s an interesting question: What does a successful corporate attorney entering midlife do for an encore? Does he write a book on ethics or teach a law school course? Neither. He buys a marina. At least that’s what newly minted marina owner Tim Feagans did.

In 2007, Tim and his wife Cheryl purchased Fair Point Marina in Fair Haven. When I spoke with Cheryl she confided, “I think Tim always wanted to buy a marina. We were only on our second date when he told me his dream.”

She went on to add: “He said, ‘It’s either going to be a marina, or I’ll sell bait from the end of a pier’ (no kidding).”

A place with several distinctions
Fair Point is not only the largest aquatic facility on Little Sodus Bay; it’s also one of the largest full-service marinas along Lake Ontario’s southern shore.

It features 91 power- and water-equipped slips surrounded by a large floating breakwater and portable wave attenuators (knocker downers). When you factor in the inboard and outboard “dry” dockage available on both sides of the breakwater, the marina can easily host 100 craft. The result is an extremely secure venue where slip holders enjoy a minimum of rocking from the wakes of passing powerboats.

Located at the end of West Bay Road on the shore of Little Sodus Bay, the facility shares the long spit of land forming the northwestern boundary of the bay. Just beyond the adjacent jetties and channel, lies Lake Ontario, all 7,300 square miles of it.

For those not familiar, Little Sodus Bay is one of only three deep water anchorages along Lake Ontario’s entire southern shoreline and is a favored destination for boaters of all stripes. For a quick look at the marina, surf the web to fairpointmarina.com. The site describes the many amenities Fair Point provides, plus unsolicited customer comments. Read them for yourself. Most business owners would kill for compliments as sincere as those Fair Point receives on a regular basis.

As a full-service facility, Fair Point caters to both its own slip holders and casual visitors, providing pump-out service, transient docking and fuel. And not just any fuel. In addition to diesel, the facility also sells non-ethanol blended gasoline which is a boon for all power boaters, especially those whose engines were manufactured during pre-ethanol days. The gasoline provides more power, and it won’t damage vital engine components the way ethanol blended fuel does.

Slip holders also enjoy another terrific perk – free Starbucks coffee every weekend! And let’s not forget about the parties and the famous Tiki Bar.

Three times each summer on the weekends of the Solstice, Labor Day and somewhere in between during the legendary “Summer Bash,” Tim and Cheryl host parties, complete with free adult beverages and live music. Cocktails and beer are dispensed from beneath the palm-frond covered roof of the Tiki Bar.

Beachwear, including colorful Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts, are the dominant dress on these crazy occasions. And it’s not unusual to see a couple where she’s decked out in the Hawaiian shirt and he’s wearing the grass skirt! These get-togethers provide Cheryl and Tim an opportunity to mingle with customers while everybody has a heck of a good time.

In for the long haul
In their continuing effort to make Fair Point a financial success and a favored venue, Tim and Cheryl have invested heavily in all manner of upgrades. The main docks were lengthened, new power and water lines were installed, newer finger piers and illuminated dockside power/water pedestals were added, a unique burgee (pennant) was designed, WiFi was installed and the grounds spruced up with fresh landscaping. As a lifelong boater, I appreciate the heavy lifting and expense each of these enhancements must have entailed. Judging by the number of seasonal liveaboards, apparently I’m not alone in that assessment. Tim summed up the marina’s business philosophy as providing customers with “passionate, intuitive service.” To that he added; “I only hire people with a passion for sailing or boating, and then have them focus on delivering the best possible experience for each customer. It may sound like marketing hype but we really believe it.”

Tim repeatedly stressed: “Ours is a total team effort. Each of us does whatever it takes to make Fair Point a success.” Those endeavors have been further bolstered now that Tim’s son Bryan has also joined the manpower mix.

Make no mistake, running a facility as large as Fair Point requires a dedicated staff. While Tim and Cheryl tend to the legal, marketing and financial obligations of the marina, day-to-day operations are left to the onsite staff, recently augmented by the addition of Schyler Barnes. Schyler is a veteran blue water sailor and former part-owner of the Sailboat Shop in Skaneateles. In 2012, he earned his 50-ton Captain’s License from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Schyler is liable to turn up when you least expect to see him. While checking my boat on a sunny day last January, there was Schyler, busily plowing snow. As the marina was closed for the winter, I questioned his actions. His one word reply was, “Fire.” When I explained that snow does not burn, he scowled, proffering another one word comment: “Insurance.”

Bellwether Year
2012 marked both a corporate milestone and a new chapter for the marina. It was the 40th anniversary of Hunter Marine, and Fair Point became the exclusive upstate dealer for the vessels. Brokerage services for the boats will be provided by Empire Yacht Sales.

For the benefit of landlubbers and powers boaters, Hunter sailboats are recognized worldwide for their durability, design and superior quality. As a Hunter owner myself, I can proudly testify that while virtually any sailboat will get you “there,” a Hunter will get you back.

When I inquired about his future plans for the facility, Tim remained a bit coy but hinted, “We’re looking at various ideas – some practical; others are more fantasies. Although we have done a lot in recent years to improve the anchorage, we’d like to add a few more barriers in certain areas to improve the experience for our boaters. We’ve had folks approach us about a bar/restaurant or hotel, but we are still thinking about what we want Fair Point to be for the long term. Right now it’s got such a nice vibe, we need to look carefully at any new ideas.”

While his legal career keeps him anchored in Philadelphia, Tim grew up in Buffalo. He learned to sail early in life, and with his wife Cheryl and two sons, he spent many summers cruising the Maine coast aboard the family’s Tartan ’37. With the U.S. economy finally on the mend, my sailor’s weather eye predicts smooth sailing for Tim, Cheryl and Fair Point Marina.

BOAT SHOWS!

Central New York (CNY) Boat Show is held at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. For information on show hours, exhibitors, driving directions and boating seminars surf to cnyboatshow.com/html/bs_home.html.

The Clear’em Out Fall Boat Show & Sale will showcase hundreds of new, demo’d and clean used late model power and sail boats, including cruisers, and sport boats … all on display at the oldest and largest fall boat show in the state of New York!
Friday-Sunday, Sept. 5-7, 2014
NYS Fairgrounds – Syracuse, New York


by Rich Finzer