Matthew keeping marinas buzzing

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By Lisa Allen

While reluctant to taut their good fortune, local marinas along the Beaufort River came out ahead after Hurricane Matthew. 

Rion Salley, general manager of Port Royal Landings Marina, said his marina suffered more damage during Tropical Storm Hermine the month earlier than it did during Hurricane Matthew. The winds from Hermine came from the south-southeast, traveling right up the Beaufort River. The winds from Matthew were more westerly, hitting the sea islands and sweeping up St. Helena Sound toward Dataw Island.

The hurricane also spared the Downtown Marina in Beaufort and the Lady’s Island Marina any major damage. The 16-slip H dock at the Downtown Marina was damaged, but marina general manager Rick Griffin said it had been overdue for repairs before the storm. Its brand-new replacement opened in mid-May.

Lady’s Island Marina had minimal damage and was up and running within days of the hurricane, said Mary Hunt, dock master.

Dataw Island Marina is another story. Its floating docks were destroyed, driving some boats onshore and sinking others. Plans to rebuild the docks will be up to the next owner; the marina is up for sale.

Add on the many private docks that were damaged, many of them uninsured, and the demand for slips exceeds supply.

“We’re about a 140-slip marina and we’re full,” Salley said. “That’s pretty unusual, but a lot of people are moving here. We’re also down a marina at Dataw and a lot of private docks were destroyed and insurance doesn’t cover that.”

Port Royal Landings Marina hasn’t fixed a 10-slip transient dock yet, but all of its month-or-longer berths are taken with more boat owners on a waiting list, Salley said.

Hunt said her 75 slips are all but full, too. “We have quite a bit of spillover from Dataw,” she said.

The transient dock at the Downtown Marina became a popular spot for boat owners scrambling for places to tie up right after the storm, coming from Dataw and Hilton Head Island, where several marinas were damaged, Griffin said. 

Now at full strength with H Dock back on line, everything at Downtown Marina is full, with a waiting list for those looking to tie up for a month or more. In total, there is room for about 100 boats at the Downtown Marina, depending on their size, Griffin said. 

Griffin said his money-maker, the transient dock, is always busy, now that the summer season has arrived. 

“It’s 20 percent of my slips, but 50 percent of my revenue,” said Griffin, who speaks from experience. The Griffin family has been managing the now city-owned marina since 1965.

Waterfront day dock planned

The city of Beaufort is planning a Waterfront Park Day Dock.  

Engineering plans call for an 80-foot gangway into the Beaufort River from the round, bricked area near the playground at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. 

At the end of the gangway will be a 12- by 200-foot floating dock. 

An engineering firm is developing the specifications for the request for proposals (RFP). The project is expected to go out for bid in early fall and construction to start early next year. 

Ideally, it will be completed by May 2018, according to Beaufort City Manager William Prokop.