Boat storage - With thousands of boats in the water, where do they all go for the winter?

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Eric VanSteensburg, yard manager at Paugus Bay Marina,  removes a boat from the water so that it may be prepped for  winter storage. (Laconia  Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — "It's a dance," remarked Michael Keegan of Irwin Marine, explaining that the pinch points of storing boats are in the spring, when everyone wants their boat in the water on Memorial Day, and in the fall, when everyone wants their boat stowed away for winter. "Our goal is to have 1,000 happy customers," he said, which requires not only sufficient but also qualified staff to manage it.

Marinas in the region store thousands of boats. Some, like Thurston's Marina, which operates on eight acres at The Weirs, have all their storage capacity on site. Others, like Lakeport Landing, which has two heated buildings and enough land for a third in Gilford, rely on remote locations. And still others follow the maxim of Kory Keenan at Paugus Bay Marina, who said simply "any little bit of heated space we can find, we rent it."

That is music to the ears of Michelle Dupont of the Opechee Inn and Spa, who has secure heated space for around 200 boats, along with recreational vehicles and automobiles, on her property off Elm, which is close to three marinas. Unlike the marinas, she said they only offer space, leaving the responsibility to winterize, service and transport the boats to her patrons, which include marinas. She said she rents for a minimum of six months and typically requires boats be trailered for between $5.50 and $7 per square foot.

Don Thurston said the marina began racking boats in three-sided, roofed buildings 45 years ago. He said the marina never liked shrink wrap and prefers cold to heated storage, believing that boats dry out and escape damp in the cold. But, boats are serviced in a 100,000-square-foot building with a radiant-heated floor where the temperature is a steady 65 degrees. "Boats are ready to go in the water in January, February and March," he said, "and our employees are working year round."

Keegan said Irwin Marine stores more than 1,000 boats, some shrink-wrapped on site and two-thirds to three-quarters in heated buildings at remote locations. Once the boats are stowed, he said, they are assessed, and every customer is sent a form with recommendations for servicing and maintenance specific to their boat and they are asked to choose a date when they wish to launch. "We do our best," said Keegan, acknowledging that while between 30 and 40 boats can be launched on a given date, not all preferences can be granted.

Everyone agreed space is at premium. "There has been a shortage of space for years now," Dupont said, "and the demand is growing." Likewise, they all said they were considering adding storage space to existing facilities or seeking to acquire land to expand. Recently the Laconia Airport Authority agreed to sell a three-acre parcel on Lily Pond Road to Fay's Boatyard in Gilford for boat storage, pending the approval of the Federal Aviation Authority.

However, Keegan cautioned that a successful storage operation requires manpower as well as space. He said that while additional space may be filled with boats, without the qualified personnel to get them in and out of the water, the result may be dissatisfied customers. Marinas, it appears, like other businesses in the Lakes Region, are challenged by the tight market for labor.

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Winnisquam marine to expand storage on Route 106

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Now that the economy is turning around and boat sales are starting to climb, Ed Crawford, the owner of Winnisquam Marine is building more boat storage along Route 106 and working to recycle the tons of shrink wrap used for boat storage.

Crawford said he has cleared most of the land and will be ready to present his site plan review to the Planning Board in October.

"People spend a lot of money on their boats," said Crawford. "They want to keep them inside."

Crawford said he has four storage facilities in Belmont, Franklin, Sanbornton and Gilford that can hold a total of about 600 boats. He expect to add 140 spots at his new site in Belmont. He has no boat storage at the marina itself, which sits on the Belmont side of the Mosquito Bridge on Lake Winnisquam.

He said that in this latest uptick in the economy, he has sold a large number of pontoon boats, which are stored differently that typical "V-hulled" crafts. He said much of his new storage will be designed for pontoon boats that are stored on racks with long pads.

"We're trying to minimize our use of shrink wrap," he said.

Along with being the owner of the marina, Crawford is also the Chairman of the New Hampshire Marine Trades Association Shrink Wrap Committee. He said that all of the marinas and boats sales companies in the association are working to reduce the amount of shrink wrap they use and to recycle as much of what they do use as possible.

"Right now we're recycling 98 percent of it," he said.

Crawford said that as a marina owner, he considers himself a "shepherd of the water" and has tried to make the environment and the health of the lakes one of his company's priorities.

When he rebuilt his showroom, he said he used some special rain gutters designed to take all storm water runoff and direct it into some water gardens planted in front of the building.

As for shrink wrap recycling, he said the biggest buyer of shrink wrap is Trex Company Inc., which specializes in wood/plastics building products including materials for decks.

Crawford handles all of the recycling of shrink wrap for the Central New Hampshire marinas and said he gathers it three times a year and arranges for it to be stored in Rochester. This past spring, he said, 47 tons of recycled plastics, mostly shrink wrap, were purchased by Trex.

He said he is getting ready for another gathering and the last one this year is usually done in December.

"Marinas usually store it in one bay and just before Christmas, when we are wrapping up for the season, it gets taken away and that last bay is used for storage," he said. "Everyone needs to get the most out of his or her storage space as possible."

Crawford also said that the color of shrink wrap is gradually going from blue to white because, once recycled, blue can only be used to make brown boards, whereas white shrink wrap can be used to make decking of any color.

The new storage lot along Route 106 will be next to First Student properties.

Belmont Town Planner Candace Daigle said Crawford has already come before the Application Review Committee with a tentative site plan. She said that, for the town, working with Crawford and Winnisquam Marine is great because his contractors "do excellent work."

Crawford said he expects the first building to be up by November and the second one to be up by early spring.

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Things to think about when thinking about storing your boat

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Paugus Bay Marina stores nearly 700 boats each winter. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The boating season is drawing to a close – and what a season it was, with warm temperatures and blue skies rarely interrupted by rain. Boat owners now are faced with a question – what to do with the boat before the snow starts flying.

If the boat is going to be stored outside, Rick Niquette, co-owner of Ship Shape Marineworks, in Gilford, said it should be shrink-wrapped, shrouded in plastic sheeting that is tightly fitted around the hull. And, while it may seem tempting to go with the lowest bidder when it comes to shrink-wrapping, he urged boat owners to utilize someone who is experienced and who is likely to still be around when the wrapping comes off in the spring. If done improperly, shrink-wrapping can result in damage to upholstery or mold growth under the wrap.

"As simple as shrink-wrapping looks," Niquette said, "like in most cases, when things are cheaper, there's usually a reason for it."

But before forgetting about the boat until Memorial Day comes, he suggested boat owners consider whether they want anything done to their boat while it sits, such as new carpeting, upholstery repair or a new bimini top. Come May, businesses like Niquette's will be swamped with work orders and many customers will be frustrated by having to wait for their turn, but there's plenty of time in January or February for work to be done.

"It's better to get (work) done in the off-season than trying to get it done in the spring when we're overwhelmed," said Niquette.

At Paugus Bay Marina, Kory Keenan said he and his staff will be similarly swamped, with trying to get customers' boats out of storage and into the water. Paugus Bay Marina stores nearly 700 boats over the winter, in various indoor, heated buildings throughout the Lakes Region. With a limited number of employees and boat slips, it can take weeks to get all of their boats out of storage and into the customer's hands. Keegan said that customers should have a date in mind that they want to collect their boat, and be sure that the company they're storing the boat with knows it.

"One of the big things is the return date to have it summer-ized," he said. "If you don't have a clear date on when you're going to return, you're not going to get it."

Storing a boat at through a marina can cost $30 to $60 per foot, and for some seasonal residents with larger boats, it makes economic sense to hire a service to transport their boat to their winter home. Wayne McLean, of McLean Mobile Marine in Laconia, said he ships boats all over the eastern half of the country, from Wisconsin to Texas, Florida to Maine.

McLean transports between eight and 10 boats each spring, and again each fall.

Each delivery, there and back, takes about a week, "You can chew up a month-and-a-half pretty quick," he said.

When he's not shipping boats for snowbirds, McLean performs a wide range of marine services. Like Niquette, he said boat owners should consider more than just the cost when selecting which business to trust with their boat.

"You want to be sure you have someone doing it who knows what they're doing and is insured ... Sometimes the cheapest isn't always the best."

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Rick Niquette uses a heat gun to shrink plastic around a pontoon boat. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

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