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Seastreak Plans Return

Cruise line requests at least 11 fall dockings

By Michael Turton

The boats will be back: The Seastreak cruise line has requested permission to dock on the Cold Spring waterfront again this fall.

At its Aug. 22 meeting, the Village Board of Trustees reviewed a proposed schedule provided by the company, which operates Hudson River excursions that depart from Highland, New Jersey, and New York City. It began its fall cruises to Cold Spring in 2013.

A boat would arrive at the waterfront at 11:45 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday from Oct. 7 through Nov. 11, departing at 3:30 p.m. If ticket sales warrant, a second boat would arrive at 12:45 p.m. and depart at 4:30 p.m., wrote Brett Chamberlain, the line’s director of marketing, in a letter to the board. Should a third boat be required, which has occurred in the past, it would dock at 1:45 p.m. and leave at 5:30 p.m.

Each boat has a capacity of 500 passengers.

Each Seastreak boat can carry up to 500 passengers. (File photo by M. Turton)

Mayor Dave Merandy said he opposes allowing a third boat. Unlike the number of hikers who pass through Cold Spring on weekends, he said the dockings are “something we can actually control.”

Trustee Lynn Miller, co-owner of Go Go Pops on Main Street, said that even with the staggered arrival times, a third boat would mean up to 1,500 passengers in the village for part of the day. “There aren’t enough seats in the restaurants,” she said. “Everyone ends up disappointed.”

Seastreak passengers provide robust business for Main Street shops, although for restaurants and cafés it can be a headache because within minutes of the first boat’s arrival seemingly every seat in the village is taken. Those who aren’t seated during the first wave wait impatiently outside, or go hungry. For that reason, restaurant owners suggested a staggered schedule.

Merandy said he would like each boat to leave the dock after dropping off passengers, pointing out that the large vessels block scenic views. He also would like the company to give notice of the number of passengers expected on each boat.

The mayor suggested approving one boat per day initially while negotiations continue. However, the board took no action.

The fall cruises provide revenue not only for local businesses but for the village, which charges $6 per foot each time one of the 140-foot vessels docks. Eleven dockings  would generate a total of $9,240. The rate increases by $2 per foot if the boat remains at the dock.

But, Merandy argued, “we shouldn’t just be thinking about money.” After it was noted that the first two Saturday cruises would conflict with weddings planned for the bandstand area, he added, “weddings are part of the charm of the village.” The village charges $250 for riverfront weddings.

Deputy Mayor Marie Early will continue discussions with Seastreak officials, including a request to revise the schedule to avoid conflict with the weddings.

In other business …

  • The Knights of Columbus have requested a police officer for its annual Oktoberfest at Mayor’s Park on Sept. 23 and 24. The fundraiser, which benefits the Knights, Our Lady of Loretto and Special Olympics, has drawn 1,500 to 2,000 people. Merandy said the Knights would be responsible for the cost of extra policing but promised to discuss it with Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke. He noted it was unlikely an officer would be stationed at the park for the entire event, which runs from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
  • The owners of 11 Market St. have asked to purchase an adjacent lot owned by the village. The 900-square-foot corner property at Market and New streets has a fire hydrant but is otherwise vacant. Merandy said he does not favor “selling off every bit of green space.” Trustee Fran Murphy said she supports selling small village-owned parcels to get them on the tax rolls. The owners have indicated they would store a boat on the property, prompting Trustee Steve Voloto to comment, “I don’t know how attractive it would be to have a boat parked there.” No action was taken pending completion of a survey.


Seastreak Plans Return added by on August 25, 2017
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South Carolina boatmaker adding more space, 100 jobs in latest expansion

A Summerville marine business that’s expanded twice over the past four years is at it again.

Sportsman Boats Manufacturing announced Thursday that it plans to create another 100 jobs and invest $3.5 million at its Dorchester County site to keep up with demand.

The company said it will be adding 70,000 square feet of production space to its Limbros Industrial Park site to accommodate growth in its upholstery, welding and fabrication operations.

It expects its payroll to swell to about 370 workers, with hiring for the new openings already underway.

Sportsman Boats is headquartered on Isaac Way, off U.S. Highway 78, where it recently installed an 800-kilowatt rooftop solar power system as part of its sustainability efforts.

The company said it now makes 21 models of saltwater center-console fishing and bay boats ranging in length from 17 to 31 feet. They are now carried by about 50 dealers. The company also has started selling in the international market. 

The S.C. Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved state tax credits that Sportsman Boats can apply for in the future, based on the number of jobs it creates under the new expansion.

The company was started with six employees in 2011 by two former founders of Sea Pro Boats in the Midlands and Key West Boats in Summerville who were itching to get back into the industry as sales started to bounce back from the recession. 

Two years ago, Sportsman announced it would more than double the size of its plant by adding 116,000 square feet of space. The $3.5 million investment also called for the creation of 150 jobs.

The company announced a smaller expansion in 2013.

“Sportsman Boats is proud to have roots here in South Carolina and Dorchester County, and we are excited about our continued growth,” said Tommy Hancock, co-founder and president.

The Summerville area is a longtime hub for boat makers, a lineup that includes Key West, Zodiac of North America and Scout.

The industry, which was hit hard by the last economic downturn, is now cruising along on a rising tide. 

The National Marine Manufacturers Association estimated that sales of new powerboats climbed 6 percent to 7 percent to 250,000 units last year, a trend the trade group expects to continue through at least 2018.

“Economic indicators are working in the industry’s favor — a continuously improving housing market, strong consumer confidence, growing disposable income and consumer spending, and low interest rates all contribute to a healthy recreational boating market,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the association. 

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Boat operator could face charges after passenger dies

EVERETT — The operator of a boat that became swamped near Naval Station Everett last month, resulting in a death, could face misdemeanor charges.

Police allege that the 67-year-old man put his passengers in danger. They are seeking three counts of reckless endangerment. The offense is defined in Washington as creating a “substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.”

The man’s 16-foot aluminum boat was in choppy open water near the Navy pier. It was the morning of July 1, the first day of crabbing season. The number of boaters out crabbing added to the poor conditions on the water, according to a search warrant filed in Everett Municipal Court.

Waves poured in over the bow, and then the side of the vessel as it turned, detective Sean Barentine wrote in the affidavit. All four occupants were sent overboard. They were rescued, but Mason Alvis, 42, of Marysville, was unconscious. He was taken to the hospital, where he died of natural causes.

His death was “a result of the accident,” Barentine wrote.

There were enough life jackets for everyone on board, but they weren’t worn, investigators found. The combined weight of the passengers and their gear also was over capacity for the boat.

Police allege the operator had a duty to make sure the vessel was safe. He was not required to have a boater education card because of his age. He is not suspected of being under the influence at the time.

Boating deaths have led to criminal investigations in Snohomish County over the past decade, but they rarely go to court.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives sought manslaughter charges in connection with a 2009 death on Lake Stevens. A woman was killed when her boat capsized. Police alleged that shoddy construction of the boat was a factor. Prosecutors declined to file charges against the boat builder, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove he was criminally liable. He later served time in prison for theft related to his sales business.

In 2010, a ski boat and a racing shell accidentally collided on Lake Stevens, killing the man in the shell. After a review of the case, no charges were filed.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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Weakened dollar boosts Alaska seafood sales

The U.S. dollar has dropped in value all year against a basket of other global currencies.

While that may sound like a bad thing, it’s great news for Alaska seafood and anyone doing business overseas.

“It’s a good thing for Alaska seafood producers because roughly two-thirds of the value of our seafood comes from export markets. So when our currency is less valuable, the prices are not as high for foreign buyers,” said Andy Wink, senior fisheries economist with the McDowell Group.

It’s a turn-around for a strong dollar that has for several years made Alaska seafood very pricey for prime customers of Japan, Europe and the UK. Now they will be inclined to buy more for less.

Americans aren’t so lucky.

The weaker dollar makes the cost of imported goods more expensive here at home — including the 85 percent of seafood that’s imported into the US each year.

“A five percent swing or whatever it is in the value of the dollar will probably make seafood more expensive, “Wink predicted.

The weakening dollar is due to uncertainties by global banks and investors about the Trump administration and its ability to accomplish promises of health care reform, raising interest rates, massive tax cuts and infrastructure spending. Many analysts also point to big question marks looming over Trump’s trade policies.

“It’s the way that investors perceive the health of the U.S. economy,” Wink said.

Still, the dollar losing its mojo couldn’t come at a better time for Alaska salmon sales.

“Where we are now,” he added, “is a lot better than where we were at this time last year.”

Cameras count fish

Cameras can now track what’s coming and going over the boat rails instead of human fishery observers.

Starting in 2018 a new law allows for electronic monitoring systems to be used on smaller boats between 40 and 60 feet, and boats harvesting Alaska halibut.

The voluntary EM option is open to longline vessels and boats fishing with pot gear, and the chance to get some extra bunk space back is a big relief for the fleet.

“Taking a human observer is simply not practical for those boats in terms of space or life raft capacity. I was really glad to see we finally got it on the books,” said Dan Falvey, program director for the Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA).

Small boat fishermen, which make up the majority of Alaska’s fishing fleet, also had a hard time with escalating observer costs, which could range from $300 to $1,000 per day.

Boats aligned with ALFA and the Homer-based North Pacific Fisherman’s Association tested the EM program and protocols for several years as part of the ‘pre-implementation phase.’ The camera system proved it could track and identify over 95 percent of species required for fishery management decisions.

Currently, more than 70 Alaska longliners and 18 pot boats are in the EM pool, and Falvey said managers have approved expanding it to include 120 longline and 45 pot boats over the next few years.

By all accounts, the on-deck camera systems are reliable and user friendly.

“They are just like any other piece of marine electronics on a boat,” Falvey explained, adding that it takes about a day and a half to install. “Skippers do a small functions test to make sure it’s working properly and if it passes the test, the vessel is free to go fishing. If the EM system leaves town working and they have problems on the water, they don’t have to end their trip. That is a really important part of the program.”

Also, the cameras come on only when you’re fishing.

“The systems turn on when your hydraulics activate. The camera is rolling continuously while you’re hauling back and for a couple hours after to watch the sorting on deck. Then they turn off until the next time you turn on your hydraulics,” Falvey said.

When a boat gets back from a fishing trip, the skipper pulls the hard drive and mails it to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission for review.

The EM systems, valued at $8,000 to $10,000, come at no cost to Alaska fishermen. Start-up funds for the hardware and installation were provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the program is covered by fishermen’s fees.

“In Alaska, the EM system is provided to the boat as part of the observer program and paid for as part of the 1.25 percent fee we all pay,” Falvey said.

All boats planning to participate in the EM program in 2018 must register with the Observer Declare and Deploy System from Sept. 1 through Nov. 1. Questions? Call 1-855-747-6377.

Dungy dive

Southeast Alaska’s biggest crab fishery has taken a dive this year with shortened fisheries for the summer and the fall.

The summer fishery, which produces nearly three-quarters of the annual catch, landed just 1.3 million pounds of dungies, the lowest in more than 30 years. Managers cut the fishery short by three weeks in late July when crab catches were not meeting set thresholds, the second early closure in 15 years.

The fall Dungeness season also will be clipped by a month. State managers announced that it will open as usual on October 1 but will close October 31, instead of running through November.

Late molting is a likely cause of the lower catch numbers, said biologist Kelli Wood at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game office in Petersburg. Large numbers of the crabs pulled up in the summer pots were soft shelled, meaning newly molted, and likely hid out from the fishery.

“It could be due to the fact that the crabs were just ‘not on the bite.’ After they molt they bury in the mud and don’t come out and they are not hungry. If it was a later molt, they probably would be buried from the fishery,” Wood told KFSK in Petersburg.

Biologists are uncertain about the timing and frequency of the crab’s molting habits because no surveys are done on the Dungeness stocks. Managers rely instead on information from commercial fisheries to track the crab.

In 2015, Southeast crabbers landed more than five million pounds of Dungeness and averaged $2.95 a pound. The crab fishery was worth $15 million to the region.

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