LEWES -- Before Hurricane Irene hit, the Rehoboth Bay Marina housed 172 boats. Now, it has 100.
At marinas all along 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 season 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."
Morris said it's normally a profitable time of year, but 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 percent to 40 percent of its customers the weekend before Hurricane Irene hit, Ashing said, most were part-time boaters who might have shown up only 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 lessen the impact of storm surge and high wind.
"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 it out of the water.
At Keenwik on the Bay, a community off Del. 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.
Read more at http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20110917/BUSINESS/109170309/Marinas-see-early-end-season