Harbormaster shows off lift at convention

The fishing vessel Marcy J is hoisted by the boat lift at St. Herman Harbor during the Pacific Coast Congress of Harbormasters and Port Managers meeting last week.(Sam Friedman photo)

More harbor authorities than usual walked around St. Paul and St. Herman harbors recently.

About 20 harbormasters and other harbor staff visited the Emerald Isle last week for the Pacific Coast Congress of Harbormasters and Port Managers. Attendees came from as far as Humboldt Bay in northern California and as close as Homer.

For Kodiak harbormaster Marty Owen, one of the highlights of all the shop talk over the four-day conference was the call of the ports, where each harbormaster or office manager gives a two-minute report on what’s going on in their port.

“We try to benefit from each other’s experiences,” he said. “We all have problems with docks, with people who don’t pay, electricity, employee issues.”

As the host, Kodiak had more time in the spotlight to show off its facilities. It needed the time to answer questions from other communities about Kodiak’s new $18 million city boatyard and its centerpiece 660-ton boat lift.

Conference guests got to see the lift pull the 181-ton Marcy J out of the water and learned about how Kodiak financed the boatyard. Kodiak’s lift is city-owned and operated, but the boatyard around it is an open shop that can be used by vessel owners and other private vendors.

The lift and boatyard officially opened last October but work will continue for the next two to three years to quarry space behind the lift for an indoor boat shop.

Kodiak is not one of the most populous communities among the list of convention attendees, which includes Vancouver, Canada, and Olympia, Wash. But thanks to the commercial fishing industry, it’s the biggest in terms of the marina space, Owen said.

Kodiak has 3,000 linear feet of moorage in its harbors divided into 600 slips. The 50-foot average space is about the size of the maximum slip size at recreational marinas.

One presentation at the convention addressed the problem of shortening wait lists for boat slips in harbors.

Owen said other marinas — especially recreational facilities —are struggling with low demand, but not Kodiak.

Kodiak has historically had the opposite problem — an overabundance of people signing up to wait for a slip at local harbors, especially before the city began charging to hold a space on the wait list.

“Back in the day the list was hundreds of people and you’d start to call people and it would be hard to find someone who was still alive and who still had a boat,” Owen said.

Kodiak addressed the problem by adding a $25 annual fee to hold a spot on the wait list. There are usually about 100 boats waiting on the list, of which half are current slip holders hoping to move up to a more desirable spot.

Last week’s conference was the second harbormaster conference Kodiak has hosted in two years. Last fall Kodiak hosted a statewide conference of harbormasters.

Mirror Writer Sam Friedman can be reached via e-mail at sfriedman@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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