Local boaters dock in preparation for possible impact of Hurricane Irma

Published: Sep. 4, 2017 at 10:40 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2017 at 5:59 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Boater John Kelly has been on the waters for more than 40 years, and he said those years of experience made him take precautions preparing for Hurricane Irma's possible threats.

"We like to be hauled out and that's why we're here," Kelly said Monday. "You're a lot more safe on the ground than in the water tied to a dock."

Kelly is one of many boaters keeping his boat at the Wilmington Marine Center. According to manager Hank Hinckley, more than 20 boaters have called in the past two days asking about available docking space, worried about Irma's possible path.

Hinckley said most of the boaters are from Port City Marina, Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach.

"'Do you have space in the water? Do you have space on land? When do I have to be there?'" Hinckley said. "And then when I say I don't have space, if they're a boat that I can't fit in, it has been, 'Where else can I go?'"

According to Hinckley, boaters have been trying to seek refuge at this marina because it is what's called a hurricane hole.

"We're almost entirely enclosed inland so that there's no sea running," he said. "It tends to break the wind a little bit, but it makes it safe and that's the only way we can get away with people staying in the water."

One boater who won't be staying in the water is Kelly. He said he has been through six hurricanes as a boater, giving him reason enough to dock his boat on land at the marina. He has a slip at Snow's Cut Boating Access, but called the Wilmington Marine Center two weeks ago to dock there because he said it's safer.

"We run for shelter at the first sign of a storm because of the water," Kelly said. "Mother Nature can be very unhappy and so will its boaters be if you're in with her."

Hinckley said the marina has no space for any more boats after filling up almost 135 boat slips. He advised boaters looking for a safe place to put their boats to go up river and anchor down.

"Try to anchor both sides out and hang on," Hinckley said. "Get off the boat, but if they put out two or three anchors, they may do all right."

He also said boaters need to plan in advance.

"If they're trying to get into a marina or trying to get into a boat yard, they need to be jumping the gun on it getting going on it because if they make a decision next weekend expecting the storm to come in next Tuesday, it's going to be very hard to accommodate them anywhere," Hinckley said.

The Wilmington Marine Center charges $12 per foot per month for boats that are docked long term, and $1 per foot per night for short term docking.

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