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Local harbors seeing slow rebound

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The number of seasonal boat slips being rented at the harbor in Alpena is down somewhat, as the stay at home order for COVID-19 kept people off the water. Other harbors in the area also saw less business early in the season, but it is now beginning to pick up.

ALPENA — Area harbors may have gotten off to a slow start in terms of seasonal slip rentals and boat launch use sales because of coronavirus-related shutdowns, but some have picked up recently as the weather has warmed and people seek to spend more time outdoors.

In Alpena, motorboats and sailboats of many sizes line the docks in the harbor and anglers and recreational boaters are utilizing the boat launch a great deal.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order that Michiganders stay home unless absolutely necessary did impact the number of people who have used the harbor, Thunder Bay Shore Marine owner Rich McTaggard said. He said season slip rentals are down, as are boat launch ticket sales, and the 55 seasonal slips that are rented are people from close by.

“People are staying pretty close to home, and we do have more local people than we normally do,” he said. “At this point, I don’t know what the rest of the summer will look like, and I don’t want to make any predictions on how we’ll end up.”

Thunder Bay Shores Marine is contracted by the city to manage and operate the harbor. In all, there are 135 slips in Alpena.

In Rogers City, about 60% of the 148 slips are filled, which Harbormaster Wayne Saile said is down from last year. He said the stay-at-home order forced people to keep their boats on shore and things are lagging, still.

However, he expects things to rebound and is pleased with how things are going to this point.

“It’s a little slow, but, when you consider everything that has and is going on and take all of that into consideration, I think we are doing well,” Saile said. “There are some signs that things are going to pick up as we move more into summer and early fall, so I believe we’ll be pleasantly surprised when everything is said and done.”

Harrisville Mayor Jeff Gehring, who is an active fisherman and boater, said that, so far, between nine and 11 seasonal slips are occupied, on pace with previous years. He said there are 50 slips, but many that have been damaged by record-high Lake Huron water and storms last year. He said he isn’t sure when they will be fixed, but that may impact how many customers the harbor sees

Gehring said he has noticed the state-owned boat launch has been a bit busier than it was a few weeks ago and the number of people bringing their boats to Harrisville from out of town is also about where it typically is.

“The transient traffic is on par or about normal, I would say,” he said. “We are getting people who are stopping in and getting gas and then zipping back out, but that is still good. Overall, I think people just got off to a little slow start and I think it will continue to pick up.”

Saile said he’s received calls from participants in the Detroit to Mackinac Sailboat Race, and he suspects that, when the race is complete, some competitors will backtrack to Rogers City. He said the annual Fat Hogs Fishing Frenzy on Labor Day Weekend, as well as the Fat Hogs Ladies Classic in July, could also boost harbor numbers.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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