HARWICH — Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the summer boating season. With work continuing on the new docks and buildings at Saquatucket Harbor, however, there may be some delays and inconvenience to boaters.
Harbormaster John Rendon said this week the dock construction project is going well, but he added BTT Marine Construction Inc., the waterside project contractor, is continuing to work on the east side docks, which won't be ready for boaters on Memorial Day weekend.
“There have been a lot of people itching to get in,” Rendon said of the impending boating season. He said a number of sailors who will be participating in the Figawi race over Memorial Day weekend have been asking about accessing the harbor. “I understand the problems boaters have had. I appreciate the patience and understanding the boaters have shown.”
The access ramp at the harbor will be open Friday through Monday of the Memorial Day weekend, allowing slip-holders who are seeking to put their boats into the water to do so. But Rendon said the access ramp will be closed during the following week to allow the contractor to work on that side of the harbor. The ramp will the open the following weekend, he said.
The west side docks will be used to locate the boats on a temporary basis. Rendon said power and water will be available for use at those docks while the contractor is working on dock placement and connecting power and water service on the east side. The hope is the east side work can be completed the week after Memorial Day and that ramp access and slips will then be available throughout the harbor.
There will be limited use over Memorial Day weekend along the east side of the harbor where the Freedom Ferry and a few of the head boats will be docked, Rendon said. But new handicapped ramp facilities will not be in place. The contractor doing the aluminum ramp work has had some delays, and the ramp will not be in place until mid-June, he said.
“It's going to be a disruption and we'll not try to take transient boaters until the work there gets done,” Rendon said. “The main focus is for our slip-based boaters, and once the work gets done we'll open for transients.”
With the bass running and boaters wanting to get on the water, Rendon said the ramp at Allen Harbor is open for use. But that ramp may not be suitable for vessels with a deep draft, he added.
The four new large septic tanks for the bathrooms and showers will be installed this week at the Saquatucket Harbor parking lot. The hope was the restrooms would be operational for Memorial Day, but it does not look like they will be ready. Rendon estimated it could be the end of June before the facilities are available.
Porta parties will be used to meet the public needs. The entire new septic system will not be completed until next fall, he added, but the showers and restroom facilities for boaters should be operational later in the summer.
With selectmen signing the change of work order based on the town meeting vote last week to use funds from the $1 million Seaport Economic Council grant for the landside project, Rendon said there will be heavy equipment in use at the site into Memorial Day weekend installing pilings for the snack shack. He said the exterior sidewall panels for that building will be built off-site, so they should go up quickly.
“I hope we get to the point of having that building in place by the July Fourth busy season and then we can chip away,” Rendon said. He made it clear there would not be a snack shack in operation this summer. The temporary harbormaster's office will also remain at the cultural center into the summer.
The first building expected to be completed is the maintenance facility along Route 28 there. Rendon said the ticket booths to be located near the pathway from the proposed new parking area and the six artisan shacks proposed behind the harbormaster's office and snack shack will not be in operation until next year.
Rendon said the new docks are exactly what was expected and include greater walkway width, an increase from six to eight feet and10 feet at passenger boat access, adding the docks are very stable. There are also 11 new slips in the harbor.
“But it's still a construction site. It's not going to be beautiful,” Rendon said, urging people who will be in and around the harbor over the next couple of months to use caution.