Morro Bay considers building boatyard haul-out facilities

Some of the 450 boats along the Morro Bay waterfront
Some of the 450 boats along the Morro Bay waterfront

Boaters in Morro Bay – who currently have to travel miles away to make repairs on their vessels at suitable facilities – would provide enough to business to justify creating a local haul-out and boatyard hub, a new consultant’s report says.

For years, the city of Morro Bay has contemplated installing the infrastructure so boat owners can hoist their watercraft onto land to maintain and store them.

A report recently released by Lisa Wise Consulting of San Luis Obispo showed that local boat owners spend between $1.1 million and $2.3 million per year on haul-out-related services that could be provided in Morro Bay.

“This would be added revenue to the city,” said City Councilman Matt Makowetski, who pushed for a boatyard in his 2014 campaign. “It would help keep money inside the community and also bring in revenues from outside.”

As city officials continue to explore the idea, details still need to be worked out.

In some ports, public agencies lease boatyards to private companies that pay a monthly rent and a percentage of gross revenues. The report referred to that type of scenario but didn’t detail how Morro Bay could move forward with a specific arrangement.

The firm conducted a written survey that drew responses from 110 vessel operators in Morro Bay on their maintenance needs and expenditures when they haul out. The harbor is home to about 450 boats.

Local boaters now take their vessels to ports throughout the state for haul-outs and repairs, including Port San Luis, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Moss Landing.

The Lisa Wise study estimates a local facility could expect 269 vessels per year, assuming the set-up would allow activities such as cleaning, sanding, painting, replacing drive shaft and rudder parts, and maintenance.

Fifty-three percent of respondents operate sailboats, while 33 percent had commercial fishing vessels. Other categories included research vessels, motor recreational and “other commercial.”

More than half said they do their own work on their boats but may contract out for upkeep that involves electrical, fabrication, carpentry or rigging.

About 93 percent said they undertake routine haul-outs every three years or more; 78 percent do so every two years or more.

Jeremiah O’Brien, a local commercial fisherman and fishing activist, recently sailed to Moss Landing for upkeep of his vessel.

“The boats here access distant ports at the cost of burning more fuel and expense,” O’Brien said. “A round trip (to Moss Landing) is 34 hours of sea time, which is the equivalent of 120 gallons of diesel fuel and $3,000 or $4,000 spent in another port, not including our room and restaurant expenses.”

O’Brien said a local facility would help reduce carbon emissions as well from burned boat fuel.

A haul-out would be located at the edge of the water along the harbor, easily accessible to boats for lifting. A boatyard could be set up at the north end of the harbor on the “Triangle Lot” property next to the shuttered power plant.

But the Triangle Lot has neighbors who would need to be informed of a potential project — and may express objections.

A haul-out and boatyard has been widely supported, however, by groups including the Morro Bay Yacht Club, the Morro Bay National Estuary Program and the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, said Henry Pontarelli, co-owner of the Lisa Wise firm.

The report cost $30,000, with $15,000 paid by the city and $15,000 covered by the Morro Bay Commercial Fisherman’s Organization and the Central California Joint-Cable Fisheries Committee.

The City Council has recommended that harbor Director Eric Endersby work with an architectural and design professional to lay out possible configurations for a combined boatyard, maritime museum, and parking area — all of which may share that site.

“I think a new facility would bring another benefit to the marine aspect of Morro Bay,” Makowetski said. “The mission of Measure D (passed by citizens in 1981) was to support the fishing industry along the harbor north of Beach Street. This idea fits perfectly with that mission.”


Out of the 450 boats tied up in the Morro Bay harbor, 110 boat owners responded to the survey by Lisa Wise Consulting. 

Where boat owners go for haul-outs

Port San Luis: 20 percent

Ventura: 19 percent

Santa Barbara: 11 percent

Moss Landing: 7 percent

Other: 43 percent

How much boaters typically spend on haul-out projects

Less Than $1,000: 20 percent

$1,000 to $5,000: 60 percent

$5,000 to $10,000: 14 percent

More than $10,000: 6 percent