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What is commonly known as the “big blue marina” on State Road 24 is now under ownership of a couple who were customers but now are putting their personal touch on the place.
Santa and John Blouse, who are originally from Maryland, moved to Ocala in 1994 and began a heating and air conditioning business. But John Blouse kept feeling the lure of the water. The couple would come to Cedar Key as much as possible, eventually starting Hooked-Up Charters in 2006 and storing their boat at the Cedar Key Marina.
The marina's owner, Don Smith, died in December 2010, just a month after the Blouses succumbed to his years of asking if they wanted to buy the business.
Now called Cedar Key Marina II, the facility is a full-service marina where boaters can come for all their boating needs. The couple's plan is to “make it big and nice.”
John Blouse is still running his Ocala business, while Santa Blouse operates a physical therapy business in Ocala. The couple has been married for 28 years in September (though she had to use a calculator to be certain) and they have two grown children, a boy and a girl.
A typical work week consists of John Blouse being in Cedar Key for about half the time and Santa Blouse the other half, with some overlaps of time together. John Blouse also drives back to Cedar Key many nights. They bought the “old Casson” house on 4th Street and it is now their home.
The Blouses know what it is like to be a marina customer and know what people want or need. The dry dock storage facility can house inshore or offshore boats, pontoon and even airboats — up to 30 feet.
Their customers call ahead and when they arrive to pick up the boat, it is on the trailer, gassed up, filled with bait, ice or drinks — depending on what the customer wants. They bring the boat to the marina and return the trailer back to the facility. After picking up customers, the boat is cleaned and returned to dry storage — allowing the owners to relax and cook all those fish they caught.
Personal service can also be a lifesaver. One afternoon, when the Blouses heard that a storm was heading towards Cedar Key, they knew one customer was still out on the water, so they radioed him and let him know to head back right then to avert a possible disaster.
In addition to dry storage, the Blouses also provide full-service boat repair services, bait, ice, drinks, tackle, fishing rods and licenses and now, ethanol-free fuel. For more information, call 352-543-6148 or visit www.cedarkeymarina.net.