Barbour River (Yacht) Club background story:
In 1987, the Underwoods opened Lockwood Marine to furnish the area with an outboard oriented boat yard, ship’s store and boat dealership. Along with its heavy commitment to boat service, Lockwood handled various boat lines during the Underwood’s 20 year ownership, including Boston Whaler, Grady-White, Carolina Skiff, and Regulator. It achieved recognition as one of the nation’s Top 100 Dealers. The company was sold in 2007 while producing annual sales in the 5.5 million dollar range and very high customer satisfaction scores. The Underwoods had already met and loved the local “brotherhood of the waters”. When they gave up the heavy management responsibility of this operation, they were pleased to have a way to maintain contact.
Having purchased a 10.3 acre waterfront tract on the Barbour River back in 1991, they decided to increase their efforts and friendships on the water by opening a small marina. While they were encouraged by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources along with McIntosh County and cordially received by the US Corps of Engineers, they ran into unexpected opposition from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (adjacent Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge). There was considerable debate in hearings as to whether a marina would adversely affect the then endangered Woodstork population.
In the course of the next 5 years, a fortunate compromise was achieved whereby a “membership” marina was chartered with a limit of 155 families. This membership requirement is where the word “Yacht” informally entered the name of the Barbour River Club. The legal name of the club is still Barbour River Club, Inc. “Yacht” was inserted sort of tongue-in-cheek – and stuck.
While the Woodstork controversy raged and no permit was issued, the club first launched boats with a mobile crane. Lifting the boats over the land-water interface avoided the necessity of a marina permit, but it did not afford docks, etc. Fortunately, the compromise united all parties and allowed the construction of self service traveling hoists with docks for simpler operations. The Woodstorks apparently agreed, as their numbers have grown steadily.
The Club is one of seven qualifying “Clean Marinas” in Georgia. Even though Lockwood failed to survive the recent economic unpleasantness under its new ownership, numerous useful contacts survive benefiting the Club. Technicians extensively trained at Lockwood are still available to the membership as independents.
Two storage buildings house boats for members desiring the service. A pleasant clubhouse with a free lending library and free loaner life jackets is separated only by a well furnished lounging deck from the water. Clean restrooms are also included. A large “firepit” makes gatherings on chilly evenings cozy. Neighbor, former Miami Marine Patrol Officer, and now club manager Jim Eising assists members with boat problems and maintains the facility. Congenial members aid each other in achieving a great on the water experience.
The Underwoods maintain a second home in Atlanta where John grew up, obtained a Mechanical Engineering degree from GA Tech, an MBA from Emory (and met Bunny who happily gave up her theater volunteering for the position of BRC secretary). John ran several family companies from which he retired in favor of McIntosh County and the marine business, turning the former over to family members. In his previous life, he was a licensed professional engineer in four states, specializing in air pollution control. They both firmly believe in Rat’s comment in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, “There is nothing — absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
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