'Tempers fray' as boaties feel squeeze

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:00 28/12/2012
Nelson marina
MARTIN de RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

EARLYBIRDS: Boaties launch their boats at 6.30am today at the boat ramp at the Nelson Marina, where there are often long queues.

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Log-jams of boat trailers at Nelson's marina are causing frustration and angry words but most boaties are being patient, harbourmaster Dave Duncan says.

Fishermen are enjoying the best Tasman Bay fishing season in years. The word went out in November and ever since the 60 trailer parks haven't been nearly enough to cope at weekends.

Even those arriving as early as 5am to launch their boats have faced long queues. On peak days trailers have been parked on both sides of Akersten St for some distance. The tidal boat ramp in the old boat harbour beside the Anchor Bar and Grill is enjoying a new popularity, creating congestion and frustrating berth-holders trying to get in and out in their keelers and launches.

Assistant marina manager Mark Gale said he had counted 120 or more trailers at weekends, with the official area quickly filled and the spillover covering every available spot outside it.

"Most of the people have been well-behaved."

Boaties did get frustrated when cars without trailers occupied the double parks designed for boaties.

"It certainly does create a bit of tension sometimes. It would be nice if we had a car park that fitted over 130 trailers, but we just don't have it - and 99 per cent of the time we don't need it," Mr Gale said.

The addition of two new marina fingers beside the three-lane ramp has proved a mixed blessing, allowing more space for boaties to tie up while parking trailers and retrieving their boats, but also resulting in some of the trailer parks being taken up by berth-holders and their visitors.

Totally Boating owner Michael Dobson said the extra marina fingers had made the existing problem worse, and customers were grizzling about the queues and the lack of trailer parks. One of his staff had arrived to go fishing at 4.45am on a recent weekend and still had to wait 30 minutes to reach the front of the ramp queue.

"Sitting in line for half an hour is a bit of a pain in the arse, isn't it?" Mr Dobson said.

Captain Duncan said the ramp use - which increases after Christmas when holidaying boaties from out of town arrive in numbers - was "pretty phenomenal". "Tempers are getting a bit frayed, because people have got to wait, and there are some inconsiderate people who do silly things," he said.

"I'd like to congratulate those who are still being patient. I think it's only going to get worse. I've got video footage of 18 boats queued up at 5 o'clock in the morning."

He said when launching, boaties should get their boats well out of the way of the ramp and then park their car and trailer, so others could continue to launch.

People occupying trailer parks without trailers were part of the problem and a notice was being put on cars doing so. He hoped that it would not be necessary to go to the "extreme" of issuing fines or wheel-clamping the offenders.

The Nelson City Council and Port Nelson had been looking at ways to ease the congestion.

One possibility was to move the enclosed yard for trailer boats and yachts to a vacant area further away, creating much more parking space. Another was to put in an additional boat ramp with its own parking.

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"I do know there's a lot of thought being put in to what we can do to improve it for people. It's just a matter of all being on the same page."

Captain Duncan said he and his staff had been doing frequent patrols on the water and behaviour had been "pretty good".

"It's great to see lifejackets being worn by 90 per cent of the people, instead of just carried. It's those other 10 per cent - I don't know what we've got to do to get the message across."

- The Nelson Mail

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