Storm Unmoors Egg Harbor Marina

The season is over for boaters who have a slip at the Egg Harbor Marina, and neither will short-term boaters be allowed to tie-up to transient slips, not even for the Pumpkin Patch festival.

The cause of the unusual action decided by the Egg Harbor Village board, Sept. 13, was a northerly squall line of high winds that blew through the harbor on Aug. 3, busting chains on the marina’s north-south axis and shifting the floating dock system about 10 feet south away from the breakwater. 

The event didn’t cause any boat damage or damage to the marina’s infrastructure, and a temporary fix was put in place. But the village isn’t taking any chances with autumnal north winds about to bear down.

“The engineers are confident that the temporary tie-up can hold an empty dock system, but not a dock system with boats on it,” said Ken Mathys, village trustee and Harbor Committee chair, during the village’s Sept. 13 board meeting. “That’s the reason for having to act decisively on this, and boaters who can’t get out may have to move to some other marina temporarily. We have too much at risk, and we also don’t want to wreck our dock system.”

Mathys said by phone the day after the meeting that the floating dock system includes finger piers where the boats attach and the whole system is secured by chains that attach to underwater pilings. 

“Those floating docks are nothing but a light-duty system with floats and boards on top,” he said. “But there are pipes underneath that reinforce places where the chains attach. So the floating dock system is actually pretty light duty. It’s OK for boats tied up to them, but they’re not meant to be [like] a concrete pier.”

The village is asking all marina tenants to vacate as soon as possible, and canceled all transient reservations, so that work can be done to secure the floating dock system. In the meantime, until all boats are able to depart the Egg Harbor Marina, Ali Gibbs, marina manager, reduced the wind load overall by moving some of the larger boats to the concrete pier that surrounds the parking lot. Photo by D.A. Fitzgerald.

The village board decided last week to send a letter to its seasonal marina tenants, asking them to vacate the marina so that the chains that secure the dock system can be replaced. Boaters who remain between now and that work being done will do so at their own risk, the letter will indicate, according to Mathys. The marina will completely close prior to repairs being done, but not before Sept. 30.

Short-and-Long-Term Solutions

The village is working with Edgewater Resources, a coastal waterfront design and engineering firm, and local marine contractor Mike Kahr, an engineer and owner of Death’s Door Marine, to come up with both short-and long-term solutions. 

It was Kahr who the village contacted after the squall came through. 

“He was terrific in terms of responding quickly,” Mathys said. “Huge appreciation goes out to Mike.”

“I knew because the dock moved that it was serious,” Kahr said by phone. “I got my tug and pushed [the dock] back into place and lashed it with rope. It was serious enough that I told them they have a big problem.”

The Egg Harbor Marina is a year-round, floating-pier system with slips for more than 60 boats and numerous courtesy piers for short-term, transient use. The Village of Egg Harbor permitted and financed the new marina in 2009, opening it in 2010. There’s a long waiting list for a slip, according to Village Harbor Committee chair Ken Mathys, and transient traffic is always steady.

Kahr said there are 33 chains total, and eight were completely worn through. 

“There could be more [broken] because they’re still down there,” he said. 

Mathys said the chains were supposed to last 70 years, versus 13, and not even annual diving inspections of the marina system alerted them to the problem. 

“That’s a whole other part of the story,” Mathys said.

Edgewater Resources posited in an assessment of the marina that the chain corrosion could be a result of unknown biological factors in the Great Lakes. 

Microbes may be eating the steel and while it could be related to zebra mussel secretions – the chains were covered with the invasive mussel, Mathys said – that has not been confirmed, according to the report. But Edgewater Resources pointed to other marinas along the Great Lakes with similar documented steel chain and steel sheeting corrosion, including Racine, Wis. Traverse City, Mich. and Duluth, Minn.

“Edgewater did a dive inspection and determined that we need to replace all the chains in the marina system as soon as possible,” Mathys said. “They determined that there’s some type of biological thing going on, not just in Egg Harbor but in other marinas, that’s eating away at this steel and chains. So they are in the process of determining if we can replace the chains with larger chains, but we need to replace the chains as soon as possible.”

That would be the short-term solution. Over the long-term, Mathys said the village needs to consider whether “our current design is adequate,” he said. “What do we do long-term; how do we find out more about this corrosion that’s going on.”

Mathys was on the committee when the village financed and permitted the marina in 2009 and opened it in 2010. The boats moored at the marina today are far larger than they were 13 years ago, which may warrant a different marina system.

“We also have many more power boats, compared to sailboats,” he said. “This used to be a sailing harbor. The 50-60-foot yachts, when tied to the middle dock – those wind loads are tremendous.”

The village does not have a price yet on the chain replacement. If they stick with that system, Megan Sawyer, village administrator, said during the Sept. 13 meeting that they should begin budgeting annually for the next chain replacement in 10 years.

The marina has a fund balance of $208,000, which the village will likely lean on to do the chain replacement, Sawyer said.

Meanwhile, Kahr said he bought the village time with the rope lashing while options are considered for a permanent solution. 

“We’ll put our heads together and come up with a permanent fix,” he said. “I’m not going to do a patch job. I’m going to do it once and do it right.”

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