Point Cadet Marina, often a place boat owners go when a storm is in the Gulf, is safe harbor from Hurricane Michael as it approaches the Florida Panhandle.
With reports of water rising at Mary Walker Marina in Gautier and parts of the Pass Christian Harbor under water Tuesday afternoon, dozens of boats are headed to Biloxi and the added safety of a “hurricane hole” up river.
Capt. Jay Trochesset said on the East Coast boat owners don’t have many places to go to avoid tropical weather but Biloxi has “hurricane hole” — up river at Cedar Lake, which he said is one of the safest places in the country to escape storms and has room for 300 boats.
For now, his boat Silver Dollar II remains tied up at Point Cadet. “I’ll be breathing a little easier when this thing turns to the Northeast,” he said of the predicted path of Michael.
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Bobby Carter, who organizes the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic that brings hundreds of boats to Biloxi each June, said at least 20 boat owners have called to see if there is space available. There is room for more big boats at Point Cadet, he said.
“We went on social media with all our contacts to tell them that Point Cadet was open,” he said. He and the harbormaster offices received calls from boat owners in Destin and Pensacola, Florida, and Orange Beach and Dauphin Island, Alabama, he said.
Larry Sablich, manager of the harbors and marinas, said the city has not raised rates.
“We’re not doing it to make money,” he said, but to help fellow boaters from the Gulf Coast.
Power went out at the Point Cadet Marina on Tuesday afternoon when high water tripped the safety switch during what he said is the first of two high tides for the day.
“The people who are coming are aware of what’s going on down there,” he said of the boat owners en route to Biloxi.
Winds from the southeast are pushing the water up the coastline of South Mississippi, he said, and that should end tomorrow. “Right now we’re not expecting worse than we’ve got,” he said.
Mike Thierry of Dauphin Island has run fishing charters for 40-50 years and comes to Biloxi most every year for the Billfish Classic. He called first to make sure the marina is open through the hurricane and there was room for his fishing charter boat the Lady Ann and his son’s boat, Escape.
The whole family, including the grandkids, made a leisurely three-hour trip to Biloxi on Monday, he said.
“You can’t wait until the last minute to leave,” he said. Tides are expected to be about two above normal in Alabama and Mississippi, and conditions can change quickly. In about 15 minutes Monday night, the water came up over the walkways at the marina in Biloxi, he said.
The beaches in Biloxi were a draw for people who watched — and in some cases stuck their feet in — the surf as the waves rolled in. Water was well above normal and in some areas like White Avenue could reach U.S. 90 by high tide at 11:37 p.m.
Local boat owners also are preparing for the storm, securing them with extra lines and watching the weather.
Although Michael is forecast to stay well east of South Mississippi, “We’re still not 100 percent sure we won’t move,” said Capt. Bobby Lewis with Southern Sports Fishing. The boats were moved from the marina through the Back Bay and into the river during Hurricane Gordon this summer.
Even with casinos and hotels within walking distance of Point Cadet Marina, out-of-town boaters likely will leave quickly after Michael passes, just as they do immediately after the Billfish Tournament ends.
Carter calls it “a third-world marina” and boaters say they hope the city will get some BP funds to make needed repairs.
“We need floating docks,” Trochesset said. “Better power. Ladders around the water,” he said, so they can get to anyone who may fall in.
“We hope they do what they should,” said his son, Dennis Trochesset.