BURGEO, NL – The Harbour Authority of Burgeo is in dire need of a new boatlift.
Used to lift boats from the water for repairs or storage, the 50-ton marine travel lift has been steadfastly maintained – but estimated repairs are so now costly, the Harbour Authority is looking at the option of replacing it entirely.
“It’s been vital to our service here,” harbour master June Hiscock told the Gulf News via phone interview. “The travel lift itself is old. It was put here by the provincial government.”
Hiscock believes the lift was one of 19 scattered around the province by government in the 1980s primarily to support the fishing sector. The lift was operated commercially by a business until 2004 or 2005, when it was purchased by the Harbour Authority of Burgeo, which is non-profit.
“There’s very few travel lifts available around the province these days and many of them are commercially operated,” said Hiscock. “Our understanding is that there is no travel lift service between Port Saunders on the Great Northern Peninsula down to Fortune.”
For boats in need of sudden repair, that means a wide area is left uncovered.
Recently a couple from Pennsylvania was stranded in LaPoile after their sailboat, Splice, sprang a heavy leak. Without the Burgeo boat lift to pull the sailboat from the water and lacking a feasible alternative, the much more expensive option is a full decommission of the boat and getting a crane to Isle aux Morts to lift it before it can be shipped to Halifax for repairs.
“It’s a vital service for many reasons,” said Hiscock, who has been in touch with the American couple and was frustrated by her inability to provide the lift required. “Foremost with me is the safety of vessels out there on the water. If a vessel needs to be emergency lifted there needs to be a place for these people to go.”
Demand for lift service
Now that more tourists are choosing to sail the waters on the southwest coast, Hiscock is seeing a demand in the need for the lift service. Another couple touring the area this past summer got an emergency call and had to rush home. Burgeo was unable to lift their boat and neither could Fortune, which sees a lot more commercial traffic and couldn’t do it in time. The couple ended up having to travel to Fermeuse, on the eastern shore of the Avalon Peninsula.
Even constant maintenance is not enough to slow the effects of time. Hiscock says when the tires were changed this past summer, more degradation was discovered. It’s just not financially feasible to replace all of the wheels, axles and rims.
“It took us a couple of weeks to get some quotes and we’ve been told anywhere from $40,000 to $45,000plus tax. We also had a quote for $60,000-65,000 plus tax. So that’s way too much money for us to be able to come up with on our own,” explained Hiscock.
There are a few other repairs required on top of the wheel problems, such as part of the structure itself that needs to be replaced. Owing to safety concerns, in July the Harbour Authority of Burgeo decided to shut the lift down entirely until a solution could be found.
The Harbour Authority has reached out to small craft harbours via the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), other government branches, MP Gudie Hutchings and MHA Andrew Parsons looking for financial help. Hiscock is also looking at estimates to replace the lift entirely and is trying to source a quality used lift that might fit the bill instead of a brand new one. The Harbour Authority is also looking at alternatives to a marine travel lift.
“There may be other kinds of equipment that’s a bit more modern and certainly easier to access parts when something does happen,” said Hiscock. “That’s one thing with these marine travel lifts is that they’re so old, some of the parts are not even available now.”
No services for boaters
In addition to the Harbour Authority not generating money, there is an extended impact to the town by not having a serviceable lift in the area. Hiscock says without the lift, boaters and tourists don’t drop by purchase materials for repairs or other marine supplies, or even to avail of the laundry services.
“It’s really impacting on the sustainability of our organization,” said Hiscock. “And the community by extension because all that is offshoots. They go for coffee up at our new coffee shop. They go for groceries. They buy their gas. And of course, when they’re in the community they also go away talking about the nice people and the beauty and it brings more people back here as well.”
For now, the Harbour Authority will continue working with ACOA for help in getting a proposal together. Once that’s drafted there’ll be more some more meetings with government, so it’s likely the process will continue for quite some time.
“I have no idea how soon a decision would be made,” admits Hiscock.