And, with this week's warm-up and upcoming Coast Guard Festival, more will be motoring into the Grand Haven area.
It's the perfect success storm for seasonal boaters — improved economic conditions, higher water levels and warm weather.
“This last weekend, we were full Saturday and Sunday, and Friday was just about full,” said Mike Thoma, harbormaster at Grand Haven Municipal Marina. “We're definitely right there since the weather has been nice.”
Because of early-season construction and summer weather that needed building up, the city marina got off to a slow start with vacancies in its 54-slip fleet.
“It's almost been a summer without a summer,” Thoma said. “This last weekend was the best of the season for number of boaters and phone calls to try to get in. We have Coast Guard coming up, so we're filled up for that. We just need this weather to hold on and be good for everybody.”
Across the river, North Shore Marina's 180 in-and-out racks are 85 percent full, and 90 percent of its 200 slips are occupied, according to owner Chris Lisowicz. Barrett Boat Works on Spring Lake, also owned by Lisowicz, is at capacity with all 150 slips and 320 racks full.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently denied a request by Lisowicz to add more slips at Barrett's due to navigation concerns. Lisowicz would not say if he planned to submit a revised plan for the marina’s expansion, but did acknowledge a strong need and renewed sense of boater optimism.
During the economic tailspin, Lisowicz said many boaters left the area and moved to regions with better employment opportunities — such as Texas, Florida and the East Coast.
“It was bad for about seven or eight years,” he said. “I'm sensing there's a lot more optimism. I don't hear the stories of doom and gloom and the economy crashing.”
But the economy isn't the only factor. Occupancy is rising with water levels and higher temperatures.
“We've had some really nice weekends when it's spectacular to sit on your boat and drink beer or go fishing,” Lisowicz said. “The water is up, too. Some sailboats are going in that hadn't been in in the past because it was too shallow for them.”
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