FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Ruth Baer is retiring from the glassed-in control tower at the large marina where, for 25 years, she has served as concierge to the rich and famous.
Looking back over her quarter-century at Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center, Baer says she has seen more changes in the yachts berthed there than in the people who sail them.
"The boats used to be long and skinny," she said. "Now, they are big and fat, with a broad beam. But yachtsmen haven't changed--they are still nice people."
Another difference is the diminishing number of yachts that are run by hired skippers.
"At first, the boats had captains. Now, the owners do it themselves and have a crew to clean up. Times have changed."
Another trend in yachting, she says, is that the affluent now leave their boats in south Florida after the November-through-April season.
"It used to be they took their boats up north. Now it's too expensive," she explained.
Sailed From Ohio
Baer, her husband, Bob, and their two children came from Columbus, Ohio, to Broward County in 1962 in a 28-foot boat. Her husband owns a plastics company at Pompano Beach .
Soon after their arrival, she recalled, Coast Guard Auxiliary officials asked her to run a welcoming station for yachtsmen who stopped at the marina, which then belonged to the restaurateur Patricia Murphy. When that season was over, the marina management asked her to stay on.
Every boat that spends a night in one of the marina's 350 slips is handled by Baer, whose job is called marina coordinator. Besides her welcoming function, she registers guests, explains what services are available and collects fees when they leave.
Her office, shared with senior tower operator Timothy Wood, resembles an airport control tower. From her desk she enjoys a panoramic view of the marina's 40 acres on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Winter Home to Some
"There are hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of boats there," she said. "Some are exquisite, and even have helicopters and cars on them."
Many yachting parties, she added, stay for weeks or months.
"For some, it's their winter home. Some boats never move. Others go out often to Miami, Palm Beach or the islands."
Slip fees are determined by the boat's length and beam. The maximum charge is $1.25 per foot per day, and that includes water and power.
Hookups for cable TV are available at $5 a day or $25 a month; telephone service aboard costs 50 cents per local call.
Many of the yachtsmen have been return customers for years.
"They call me from all over the world to tell me when they're coming down. Often, they want the same slip they had last year," she said.
Over the years, patrons at the marina, built in 1949, have included movie stars, European royalty and elected officials.
No matter how important the guest or how elaborate the yacht, Baer has one basic rule for dealing with arrivals:
"I get their credit card first," she said.