Changing of the guard at OBX Marina  

By on March 2, 2022

Texas-based Safe Harbor Marinas is new owner

OBX Marina at the Wanchese Marine Industrial Park is now under different ownership. Safe Harbor Marinas, the Dallas-based company which advertises itself as the largest owner and operator of marinas in the world, has purchased the business and assumed the leases of the state-owned land where the marina is located.

Safe Harbor is a subsidiary of Sun Communities, a fully integrated real estate investment trust (REIT) listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The sale was between Safe Harbor and Wayne Umphlett, who held the lease on the property that he developed into the marina.

“This is a good thing for the employees,” said Edward Lee Mann, chair of the marine park’s authority. “The [OBX Marina] employees have received raises and now have benefits such as a 401K plan and paid vacations – something they didn’t have in the past.” Currently there are three or four employees at the marina, but more will be hired for the season coming up.

Bob Peele, the director of the park, said the company has indicated that it has committed $1.5 million for repairs and to improve the infrastructure.

Safe Harbor closed on the sale a couple of months ago after being approved by the authority and then getting a thumbs up by the North Carolina Council of State that approves leases of all state properties.

Opened in 1981, the park is governed by an 11-member board — the Wanchese Marine Industrial Park Authority — that oversees leases and other park issues such as infrastructure that includes both water and a waste treatment plant.

The park is in Wanchese on the southern end of Roanoke Island and includes 53 acres of land and a 15-acre basin. Companies that operate there are marine-type ventures and include commercial fishing, marinas, boat building and supply stores. The park enters into lease agreements with tenants who are responsible for erecting their own buildings, piers, etc.

“They’ve worked hard to get the marina and its subleases under control,” said Peele, of Safe Harbor. “Some of the charter boats didn’t have any paperwork showing that they were leasing. So now everyone who has chosen to remain there has a written three-year lease,” said Peele.

Mann said that the company is talking about trying to help with affordable housing for their employees and wants to possibly partner with the College of the Albemarle to offer marine trade training.

In addition to OBX Marina, the company is working on acquiring Blue Water Outer Banks Yacht Service and its subsidiary H&H, as well as Broad Creek Boat Works.

“Those sales have been approved by the authority and are now waiting on action from the NC Council of State which is set to meet in April,” said Peele.

Safe Harbor did not respond to requests for comment.


  • Paul

    Safe Harbor buying up all these marinas is blatantly anti-competitive. They have been doing this around the country and once they dominate the market they raise prices and evict the lower-end boat owners.

    Wednesday, Mar 2 @ 1:47 pm
  • Lorri Chambers

    It’s the start of taking over for the entitled people. They started talking about this in 2012. Look out commercial fishermen

    Wednesday, Mar 2 @ 3:56 pm
  • Obxer

    Selling out to corporations is greed selling out to greed. The revenue created won’t be spent locally. Should have sold local and keep the revenue local it’s all bout the dolla

    Wednesday, Mar 2 @ 9:50 pm
  • Lucas

    Safe Harbor recently bought out Jarret Bay and most of the property around there. Safe Harbor and Suntex are the two big players in buying many large marinas across the country. Both groups have been pretty aggressive over the past 3-4 years.

    Thursday, Mar 3 @ 8:34 am
  • Rosie

    This is the way capitalism works, the big money always wins. Our system works against the little guy. It’s sad.

    Thursday, Mar 3 @ 1:53 pm