- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Instead of taking the boats out for a cruise, boat owners yesterday scrambled to dry-dock their vessels as Hurricane Isabel moved closer to the mid-Atlantic coast.

Dock hands at several marinas along the Potomac and Occoquan rivers in Prince William County, Va., have been working nonstop over the past several days, lifting everything from dinghies to cabin cruisers from their slips and bracing them to the ground.

“We have been getting calls [from boat owners] since last Friday,” said Howie Weadon, who works at Prince William Yacht Club in Occoquan.

The staff at Prince William Yacht Club received calls to move more than 100 of its 600 boats to shore, Mr. Weadon said.

A few miles away, the Occoquan Harbour Marina off Marina Way, had received about 40 calls by yesterday afternoon.

Boat owners said it’s safer for the vessels to be on land, rather than on water when a hurricane rolls in. After pulling them inland, boat owners perch the boats on cinderblocks and place wooden braces around them to secure them.

“I was not going to pull my boat out, but the [harbor] owner said I should,” said Billy Blaton, who owns a 62-foot cruiser. Mr. Blaton, who works at the Occoquan Harbour, will be pulling in the boats until winds pick up.

The price to protect a boat from hurricane swells ranges from $300 to $500 to lift a boat to safety, said Karla Lynn, assistant manager of Occoquan Harbour.

Owners of smaller boats save money by towing them out of the water with a trailer on their own. Owners of larger boats need special equipment to carry their vessels onto the shore.

Occoquan Harbour Marina and Prince William Yacht Club use cranes called travel lifters that can carry boats up to 25 tons.

“We are pulling out the bigger boats first, then the smaller ones,” Miss Lynn said. “Those too big for the travel lifters will be moved closer to the shore to ride out the storm.”

The town of Occoquan sustained severe damage in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes destroyed buildings and swept away the Occoquan Pratt iron-truss bridge, which was the town’s main crossing.

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