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Winter weather puts Northeast marinas behind schedule

Marinas in the Northeast are scrambling to catch up after the weather finally shifted from the long, frigid winter into spring.

Marinas in the Northeast are scrambling to catch up after the weather finally shifted from the long, frigid winter into spring.

Now that spring is here, a lot of boat owners are thinking about getting their boats back in the water, but marinas in states such as Connecticut and New York are running way behind schedule because of damage left behind from the brutal winter.

Many marinas, such as Birbarie Marine in Branford, Conn., are still reeling from the damage done by a huge amount of ice this winter. The owner says the marina had 3 feet of ice and it caused a lot of damage.

“What happens is the ice forms landside, and with the tide cycle here, it pushes the docks out and away from land,” Skip Birbarie told WTNH in Connecticut. “It also clamps onto the pilings, which lays them over, which requires us to have them removed and reset.”

At his marina, 60 pilings will need to be reset. There is also a lot of dock damage. That means boats will hit the water there about five weeks later than normal.

“We normally have the marina open by April 1 for the early boaters, especially the early fishermen who like to get out on the water, even though it’s cold,” Birbarie said. “We just won’t have that ability. We won’t be back together again until early May.”

He said the ice damage is the worst he has seen in 30 years, and it is affecting a lot of Connecticut marinas. Damage at Birbarie Marine runs into the thousands of dollars. There is dock insurance for marinas, but it is expensive and a lot of marinas don’t have it.

Upstate New York marinas face the same challenges.

The long, cold winter, and recent high winds made readying the Sodus Point, N.Y., marina for boaters nearly impossible.

"Our weather conditions were far more winter-like," Krenzer Marine vice president Tim Habecker told WROC in Rochester N.Y. “We had the whole bay covered with ice, and then the weather changed. We had a significant amount of wind, and it pushed the ice all into the docks and the waterfronts and did a lot of damage.”

Instead of bringing boats into the water and selling new ones, the staff had to focus on repairing damage left behind from the winter's wrath.

"All of last week, we were precautionary and trying to stop ice damage, and now, in a matter of two days, because all of that wind smashed all of that ice and it melted, so now in a matter of two days we have to go completely into launching boats and delivering new boats that we’ve sold," Habecker said.

The delay is tough for charter fishermen such as Ryan Williamson, who bank on Mother Nature's cooperation.

"We're getting a little later start this season," Williamson said. "The ice finally just got out, but I start up this Wednesday, and do this full time for a living. I have a very good business. I fish April through October here."

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