FORT PIERCE — Don’t blame Fort Pierce City Marina dockmaster Dean Kubitschek if he’s a little harried the next few days. After all, he has a big job to do, all while trying to fight off the flashbacks.
On the night of Sept. 4, 2004, Kubitschek’s charge was converted from a well-appointed rest stop for traveling boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway into the iconic image of property loss and destruction wrought during the landfall of Hurricane Frances.
It has taken Kubitschek and the city of Fort Pierce nearly 11 years to rebuild. Boulder-lined man-made islands now protect the marina’s outer harborage. High-tech construction materials and state of the art design features offer further resiliency should Erika or the next storm buffet the Treasure Coast like Frances and Jeanne did that fateful year.
However, in his opinion, and the opinion of other area marina managers, whenever the next storm comes, it will be too soon.
BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES
Kubitschek said his staff has been busy all week getting ready for Erika whether it comes ashore in South Florida, or remains out at sea.
“We’re doing our due diligence to make sure there is nothing that will be loose and become a flying object,” he said Thursday afternoon. “We’ll have better handle on what the storm is doing Friday morning, but until then we’re working hard.”
The grand opening of the re-expanded Fort Pierce City Marina was celebrated on the western shore of the Indian River Lagoon in downtown Fort Pierce in June. The $30 million rebuild was largely funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency because of the damage sustained from the “Twin Sister Storms” of 2004.
Then, a double-digit storm surge in the lagoon caused the floating docks and concrete pilings to fail, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of lost vessels whose owners had remained tied up at the docks. Cleanup took years.
Now, 12 islands created from 93,500 tons of rock and 100,000 cubic yards of sand make up a shield for the marina of more than 21 acres. Waters still will rise with tides and storm surge — if there is one — but the materials used to make the pilings should not fail, Kubitschek said.
Thursday, many of the vessels that occupied the 137 slips east of the main bulkhead had either been hauled out at an area boatyard for storm protection, or went to a “hurricane hole” to ride out what storm conditions come.
“We recommended for boaters to leave and haul out, and many did,” he said, counting 32 boats that were still in the outer basin Thursday, with an estimated 90 or so still occupying slips in the inner basin. “We have been turning away calls to come here for protection, though. We will take care of boats that are here and can’t go anywhere else, but we cannot accept any new boats until after the storm passes.”
‘ON THE HARD’
Area boatyards filled up quickly this week. Cracker Boy in Fort Pierce, A J Boatworks and Whiticar Marine in Port Salerno and American Custom Yachts in Tropical Farms all had hauled out their respective allotment of boats being stored “on the hard,” as it is called.
When hurricanes or tropical storms approach, one method of vessel protection that is preferred by owners of larger trawlers, sportfishers and more is to store them on land. A receptionist at ACY said the facility can add would-be customers seeking hurricane storage to a waiting list, but not for this storm.
BRING IT ON
Tim Grabenbauer, harbormaster of the Vero Beach Municipal Marina, knows what it’s like to be popular. The past two days, he is receiving numerous phone calls and inquiries about space available to moor boats in the event Erika becomes a problem for Treasure Coast mariners.
“We have a total of 57 mooring buoys and for boaters who are able to, it’s first come, first serve,” Grabenbauer said.
The marina, situated on the eastern shore of the lagoon in Vero Beach, north of the Merrill Barber Bridge and behind the rather large Fritz Island, offers protected anchorage during storms. Grabenbauer said his staff has been turning away boaters who wish to dock in the 108 wet slips there, and the facility already has a 96 percent occupancy rate for its inside storage building.
Sunset Bay Marina dockmaster Sam Portolese and staff have also been going through their checklist. They met with customers Tuesday and laid out the terms for what will happen if a named storm makes landfall near Stuart.
“If they want to stay, whether in the marina or on the mooring they have to be tied up properly,” Portolese said. “So we showed them how to do it. We also instructed everyone to take anything from their boats that can blow away and secure them properly.”
Portolese said vessel customers who will remain moored on the 69 mooring buoys in the St. Lucie River are required to double their lines. Friday, those customers must also secure their dinghies to their vessels. Marina staff will transport them from their boats back to shore.
At Sebastian Inlet Marina in Micco, owner T.P. Kennedy said the facility’s hurricane club has worked very well. All 18 members have their vessels safely secured inside the marina’s state of the art indoor storage facility rated to withstand 140 mph winds.
“If we receive tropical storm warnings, we’ll haul out the remaining wet slip customers and store them inside, too, so we have no boats in the water when a storm comes,” Kennedy said.
He said boaters have been calling to inquire if they can “just tie up alongside our facility.”
“They say to me, ‘You don’t have to worry about my boat,’” Kennedy explained. “I say, ‘I’m not worried about your boat; I’m worried about how much damage to our marina your boat will cause.’”
Kennedy said the hurricane club has been invaluable to his customers’ peace of mind.
“Sign up early, because spots fill up fast,” he said.
ERIKA PREP: TIPS FOR BOATERS
Know your lines: “Have enough scope (length of anchor lines) for mooring or anchoring properly, and be sure to place chafe gear in the right position based on anticipated rise and fall of water levels.” Tim Grabenbauer, Vero Beach Municipal Marina
Clear scuppers: “Be sure to scuppers are free and clear of any debris if leaving a boat in the water prior to a storm,” said Dean Kubitschek of Fort Pierce City Marina. “If scuppers get plugged, and boat fills with water, it begins a chain reaction that could result in the boat sinking.”
Read the fine print: “Get out your boat insurance policy and understand it before the storm comes,” said T.P. Kennedy of Sebastian Inlet Marina. “Since the hurricanes of 2004-05, most policies won’t cover a boat if left on a boat lift behind a waterfront home. You could be out of luck.”
Fuel up: “Our fuel dock will remain open 22 hours a day,” said Kubitschek, of Fort Pierce City Marina, to assist boaters traveling to get out of harm’s way.
Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/franchise/indian-river-lagoon/recreation/a-port-in-the-storm-what-area-marinas-are-doing-in-advance-of-erika_56403687