Harbormaster Kurt Bornheim is expecting another busy boating season, similar to last year’s when people took to their boats whenever possible as an escape from the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Further confirming his expectation, Bornheim told the Board of Selectmen this week: “Boat sales are extremely high, and there’s no inventory. People are trying to find boats to buy as far south as Florida.”
The harbormaster’s office has been receiving five to seven requests for moorings a day, but there are none available because of the high demand. “We had to start a waiting list,” Bornheim said. “Both marinas were sold out by the first of March. There are no slips available on the entire South Shore.”
Boat owners are becoming impatient, Bornheim reported, because after buying watercraft they cannot find a place to moor them. For those fortunate enough to have secured a mooring, there is an online payment system link on the town website.
As was the case last year, inexperienced first-time boaters are finding their way onto the water because, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, basic boating classes have been put on hold.
“We’ll be out there again teaching them about boating and explaining the rules and regulations, as well as enforcing them,” Bornheim said. “It worked out well last year.”
He is also exploring options for funding to repair the town’s boat ramps, including public-private partnership opportunities. “The cost can be as high as $1 million [each] to repair,” he noted.
As is the custom, the harbormaster’s office will work with the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies to help ensure safety on the water.
With so many people continuing to work from home, this year is expected to be busier than ever for boating. “Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are usually the busiest boating days, but because people are around more, they are taking their boats out every day,” Bornheim said.
“We’ll work through it all as we did last year. We have great maritime partners, including the environmental police and other harbormasters in the area, so I’m hoping for another safe boating season.”
Whether the pump-out boat will operate this year depends on the state’s pandemic guidelines, Bornheim told the board. “I’d like to install a pump-out station [in the future], but pumps are back-ordered,” he explained. He applied for a grant that the town was not awarded, but a Coastal Zone Management grant program might provide a funding opportunity.
The A Street pier float will not be put into the water until outdoor social distancing and masking requirements are lifted, possibly by Aug. 1, according to recent updates by Gov. Charlie Baker. “There’s not enough room out there for 50 to 60 people to social distance,” Bornheim said. “You can’t swim wearing a face mask.”
He noted that there is a little-known town bylaw in place that prohibits swimming off town piers and floats unless enrolled in a swimming program.
In other business at the meeting, Bornheim reported that he is working with Hull’s director of community development and planning, Chris DiIorio, to apply for grants to help pay for designing, permitting, and dredging town-owned Steamboat Wharf, which needs to be dredged every 10 years. State grants, if awarded to the town, could cover as much as 70 percent of the cost, which has not yet been determined.
Town Manager Philip Lemnios commended Bornheim for his efforts. “Kurt is the only full-time member of the harbormaster department, with some assistants to provide help during the summer months,” he said. “He’s friendly and has good customer service skills, which is what the selectmen were looking for when considering a replacement for our former harbormaster.”
In addition, Lemnios said, Bornheim has struck a balance between helping to keep safe those boaters from Hull and beyond, with enforcement as necessary, while providing advice and assistance in a way that “allows people to enjoy their boats without endangering themselves or others.”