Looking oy at a wharf in which boats are rafted up two by two

Long term moorage in Whaletown and Cortes Bay fully booked for the summer 

As the weather turns warmer, some recreational vessels seek moorage at Cortes Island docks for periods of between one and six months. This is called long-term-moorage. On Wednesday, May 3, the Harbour Authority of Cortes Island (HACI) issued a press release stating that their docks in Whaletown and Cortes Bay are now full for long-term-moorage this summer. 

“When we’re talking about long-term recreational moorage, we’re just talking about individuals who are looking to moor a boat and not live on it,” explained Harbourmaster Jenny Hartwick

Image credit: Boater by Larry Wentzel via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

“At this point in time, both the Squirrel Cove and Mansons docks still have some long-term recreational moorage placements available  and those are available on a first come, first serve basis until they are full.”

CC: So this does not apply to boats coming in for the afternoon, or a few days. 

“For a community user that wants to come in for the afternoon, from their boat-access-only property, or a commercial user who’s using the dock for work on a regular basis, absolutely. We are only talking about recreational long-term moorage.”

“We have had to do this because we have received such a huge request for individuals looking for one month, three month or six month long-term moorage for their recreational vessels. We’ve had to look at the actual physical capacity of our docks, and what they can handle.” 

“I’d also like to remind the community that rafting is a requirement on all of our docks.”

“This means that vessels are already being rafted two deep and this policy was put in place to  prevent what we saw as potential safety issues of vessels coming into our more popular docks and in some cases rafting four, even five vessels deep down the entire length of the dock.”

“I think the first thing to reiterate is that the government docks on Cortes are all docks that are owned under the Small Craft Harbours program of the federal government. Under this program,  the Harbour Authority of Cortes Island operates these docks through an arm’s length lease agreement, but we are required to meet Small Craft Harbour’s mandate as part of this lease agreement. Small Craft Harbour’s primary mandate is to support the commercial fishing industry in BC and to support the infrastructure associated with the commercial fishing industry.”

“We recognize that we are an island and we have all sorts of short-term moorage needs.  People with boat access only properties, and there are a huge variety of other community uses for our docks.” 

“This policy of limiting long-term recreational moorage is to help us manage the increased requests for moorage that we’ve experienced over the past couple of years, while still ensuring that we have space available for those mandated commercial uses, but also the community island needs.”

CC: What about people who live on board their boats, as their primary residence?

We are not talking about living on your vessel. We have one liveaboard permitted at Cortes Bay, one liveaboard permitted at Mansons Landing two liveaboards permitted at Squirrel Cove. So those are individuals that are allowed and have signed license agreements with the Harbour Authority to be permitted to live full-time on their vessel as a primary place of residents.” 

CC: Let’s talk about the process, what is the first thing someone who wants to tie up should do?

“As of April, 2022, so over a year ago, the policy is that all recreational vessels using the HACI docks require prior permission before they arrive at the dock. This policy was put in place to help us manage the increased moorage requests that we’ve seen over the last few years.”

“This policy was also put in place to prevent what we saw as potential safety issues of vessels coming into our more popular docks and in some cases rafting four, even five vessels deep down the entire length of the dock.”

“If you’re rafted on the inside and you have to move three or four vessels simply to get your boat out, that really increases the chances of  something happening either to the individual who’s trying to move those heavy boats or to the boats themselves,  as well as damage to the docks  because they are not built to withstand that much weight.”

“Part of the reason that policy was put in place is that over the last few years, we’ve also seen an increase in the size of the vessels that are requesting access to the dock and in some cases it’s not possible for us to accommodate a 50 plus foot vessel at one of our small docks.”

“By having this policy in place, it ensures that we are able to have a conversation with every boat owner who is trying to access the docks, and that we can make sure that access happens in a safe and appropriate manner.” 

CC: You mentioned difficulties with people rafting four and five deep, is there any limit to how deep they can go?  

Absolutely and that’s a challenging question to answer because of course, it depends on the size of the vessel that we’re rafting and it depends on the dock.” 

“The Cortes Bay dock is a really good example, that dock is built entirely without pilings. The infrastructure is anchored to the sea floor bottom with anchor chains and it can withstand a lot less than a dock that is anchored with steel pilings – but that also depends on the type and size of the vessel. Two 50 foot vessels are a lot heavier than several 16 foot tinies.”

“We actually made scale drawings of every single one of our docks and as moorage requests came in, we plotted the length of every single vessel out on the dock. We’re not engineers, but we did our best to accommodate everyone up until the point that we felt that It became a safety issue for dock users and  for integrity of the facilities itself.”

“We’ve done our best to ensure that our docks are able to accommodate everyone. We have a great handle on all of our regular commercial users, they’re already added to the charts.  All of our recreational long-term moorage users have been plotted in at this point in time. We’ve made allowances so that transient and  short-term local moorage users have the space and the docks have the capacity to handle them as they come and go. That’s why we put in place the policy that we request all recreational boaters to reach out and contact us.”

“It doesn’t mean that we need to go down  and physically meet each boater, but if we’re able to have a conversation with them on their approach, and we find out that they’re a 57 foot, four story, yacht coming into a dock that doesn’t have anyone suitable for them to raft to, we may not be able to accommodate them at that particular facility. By looking at  our sheets, I may be able to say that it looks like we have an opening at another dock. They’re welcome to consider that one.”  

“Our ideal is that we’re never turning away anyone. We just may not be able to accommodate everyone at their first choice dock. We’re incredibly lucky on our island that we have five government docks  and we do have a lot  of moorage spots. The reality, however, is that some docks are more popular than others just based on their location and that some are going to be at capacity and others may not.

Top image credit: Boats rafted up at Mansons Landing – Photo by David Stanley via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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