LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Tom Paxton looked out over the start of a new dock being built at Great Bay Marina Sunday afternoon and vowed there would be a boating season after Hurricane Sandy.
“The insurance and the government has been just horrible. But we’re working on it. It’s going to be a late season, but we’ll be ready to go by June,” he said.
When the storm ripped through the township’s waterfront six months ago, all 139 of Paxton’s boat slips in the marina and his docks were either damaged or destroyed, he said.
Paxton who has owned the marina for 40 years with his wife, Anna, said his insurance company has not yet settled with him for the damage he incurred in the marina’s building.
The only thing that survived of the boat slips were the piling that were connected to the dock, Paxton said.
“As we speak, we’ve got two floating docks being built in North Carolina. We lost one right there and the second one out there,” Paxton said as he pointed past the piling sticking out of the water.
“We cut up the pieces of the floating docks that we lost as we find them under the water,” he said.
Piles of freshly treated lumber wait in the marina’s parking lot to be laid on the new docks. The dock that is almost complete serves as the marina’s fuel dock. Days after the storm, boats were piled like toys inside the marina, but Sunday, everything seemed to be almost back in its place.
“A lot of the boats over there are waiting to go back in the water, but some are not, because the people are local and they don’t have homes here yet that they can go back to,” he said.
Stanley Mosczynski, 62, is one of those boaters who cannot return yet to his home on Navisink Drive in the Mystic Island section of Little Egg Harbor.
Sunday, Mosczynski and his brother, Ron Moll, of Medford Township, Burlington County, were cleaning their 25-foot Hydrosport boat at nearby Munro’s Marina on Anchor Drive.
Mosczynski left his boat docked at his home during the storm and took a chance, he said. It proved to be the right decision, because it stopped most of his dock from being damaged, he said.
“Usually at this time of the year, there are a lot of people out on the weekends working on their boats, but not now. They don’t have their homes to take their boats back to,” Moll said.
The boat was being stored at Munro’s Marina until the brothers recently rented a slip at Viking Yacht in Bass River Township, Burlington County, where it will be docked until construction is completed at his home.
Mosczynski settled on a modular home. Construction will start next week on the house, which will be raised 10 feet off the ground, he said.
“We’ve stored the boat at the house in the past, but we can’t this year because I am building a new house,” Mosczynski said as he ran a cloth along the boat’s silver railing.
In January, Kristi Munro, part-owner of Munro’s Marina, led the charge for a group of local marina owners who spoke out and begged for the federal government to help them rebuild.
Since then, she said, she and fellow marina owners have not seen relief.
Money has not reached them, and the Munros are waiting on state-grant funds to rebuild their 45-year-old marina, she said.
This has crippled the family as they try to salvage the upcoming boating season.
“We demolished our building in February, and we haven’t been able to rebuild, because the state is taking so long with this grant money,” Munro said.
“The small-business grant application says that if you start repairs or it is already repaired, then you are not eligible. If we would have started rebuilding, we wouldn’t get any grant money,” she said.
Where the marina’s office and repair shop stood just months ago is now a pile of dirt and debris as the family waits impatiently to revive the area.
At the start of a typical boating season of the 200 boats that are stored at the marina, about 175 would be back in the water by now, she said.
“Out of 200 boats now, we have about five back in the water,” Munro said. “Last year, we had eight employees and this year will have four, because we can’t afford to pay them.”
She said there are two public access points to the water in the township’s Mystic Island section — Munro’s Marina and Great Bay Marina — for about 5,000 homes. Many of them have boats.
“If the two of us close, you now have 5,000 people with no access to the waterways. If they can’t put their boat in the water, why would they come to Mystic Island?” she asked.
For now, the Munros are working out of a small office space and also doing boat repairs, but business is far behind where it normally is. Most of the marina’s customers are people who are also in a holding pattern because they haven’t been able to rebuild their houses or docks.
“They keep saying the shore is open. Well, maybe the boardwalks are open, and all of the high-money areas are open, where the people are who had enough money to fix their homes. But all of the working-class people in communities like this have nothing and cannot move forward,” she said.
Like Paxton, Mosczynski and Moll said they will have a summer and be on their boat.
“We can’t miss our boating season. We have to salvage this summer. This storm is not going to keep us down,” Mosczynski said as he looked down from the boat and smiled at his brother.
“Yup, some people can’t stay out of bars. Well, we can’t stay out of boats,” Moll said.
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