LEWES -- Before Hurricane Irene hit, the Rehoboth Bay Marina housed 172 boats. Now, it stores 100.
At marinas all over the Maryland-Delaware coast, employees are telling similar tales. They say customers who pulled their boats from the water at the threat of damaging winds are ending their boating seasons early, which is costing local marinas.
"A lot of people haven't been coming back since the storm," said Joe Morris, owner and manager of the tackle shop at the Lewes Harbour Marina. "Now there seems to be a string of these storms brewing out there. You never know what the weather on the water is going to be like, so people are apprehensive."
While Morris said it's normally a profitable time of year, John Ashing, an employee at the Rehoboth Bay Marina, said September is typically when business starts to take a dip. Storm or no storm, he said customers start leaving around Labor Day as their children head back to school.
"We actually had a phenomenal season in terms of boat slips and boat rentals," Ashing said. "We're looking forward to unwinding."
While Rehoboth Bay Marina lost 35-40 percent of its customers the weekend before Hurricane Irene hit, Ashing said most were part-time boaters who may have shown up two or three more times before Halloween.
Dewey Beach resident David Thomas was one of the brave boat owners who opted to leave his vessel docked. He said he wrapped a number of ropes around the boat to make sure it wouldn't be impacted by storm surges and tornadic activity.
"In a way it looks silly, but ... if you've been around down here you respect the fact that if you get a little tornadic activity, it'll start ripping stuff up," he said. "There was a tornado (in nearby Lewes), so there is some vindication."
Thomas said it can cost a few hundred dollars for boats to be taken out of the water, which includes having the boat pressure-washed and placed on blocks and paying someone to operate a lift to get the boat out of the water.
At Keenwik on the Bay, a community off Route 54 in Fenwick Island, resident Rich Leimbach chose to take his 20-foot pontoon boat out of the water in advance of the storm. Since moving it to and from the water is a hassle, he said he plans to leave it on land for the remainder of the season.
"As far as I'm concerned, the season's over," he said. "If storm wasn't there, I'd still have (the boat) out, but when the weather comes around, I respect it."
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