With the completion of a 119-foot section of seawall west side of the E Dock at Pier Point Marina in Dewey Beach just days away, marina co-owner Chuck McKinney is looking forward to finally moving on, past the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
The damage was so bad, there were rumors around town that the business was simply going to close down, he said Oct. 28.
“We never thought about closing,” said Chuck, walking along the property's northern D Dock on a perfect fall day. “There was never a plan to shut down. But we also didn't think it was going to be fixed over night.”
The hurricane made landfall on the coast of New Jersey Oct. 21, 2011, just north of the Cape Region, but the storm surge caused by days of high winds wreaked havoc on the marina.
Chuck, whose family has owned the bayside marina on Rodney Avenue since his parents bought out a former partner in 1966, remembers the day following the hurricane like it was yesterday.
His brother Donald lives on the second floor of a house on the north side of the property, and when Chuck called him, he was told the marina was destroyed.
“I live in Salisbury, and when I got up here, sure enough it was,” he said.
Chuck said water was still halfway up the street and covering all the docks up to the very tops. When the water finally receded, he said, the marina had gone from 142 slips to seven. Pictures taken following the storm show how the storm surge uprooted nearly all five docks. A floating jet-ski dock came off its piling and floated north to Monigle Park at the end of Read Avenue.
By the following Memorial Day, Chuck said, the number of slips was back to 141, but marina offered no electricity or water. The clientele has been very understanding about the situation, he said.
The McKinney family has been the force behind the marina's restoration. Two sisters, Myra Karlik and Carla Rickards, work in the marina store. Five brothers, Chuck, Donald, Ronald McKinney, Homer Illian, and until his recent death Eugene Illian have been hands-on for every project. Watching it all from the second-floor deck of their house just outside of the marina's property, are parents Charles and Georgia McKinney.
“I think they're proud to see their kids have rebuilt the marina,” said McKinney of his parents.
The morning of the interview, Chuck and Donald were helping a crew of three young men from Millville-based Droney Marine Construction set grade for the 6-inch by 6-inch horizontal stringers that will be bolted to 16 pilings, each 25 feet tall, that had been pounded into place earlier in the day.
The pilings are treated to prevent bacteria and animals from eating through the wood, said Chuck, and are pounded 15 feet into the ground. This 119-foot section is the last of more than 740 feet of sea wall replaced since the hurricane.
McKinney said the seawall helps protect boats docked in the marina, explaining that the prevailing winds come out of the northwest directly across Rehoboth Bay.
“The wind can get fairly strong and the waves can build up,” he said.
Chuck said the boards acting as the wall were replaced five years ago, but it had been about 25 years since the pilings had been replaced, which, he said, is about the life span for the materials. The docks and seawalls were near replacing anyway, he said, but the hurricane forced the issue.
The next project the marina will tackle is replacing the bulkheads along the property's shoreline. Chuck said these are being replaced because they've aged out, and it should be done by the spring, just in time for the boats to be put back in the water and for visitors to start coming again.
The work is never done around here, Donald said.
Editor's note: The story has been modified to show Donald McKinney lives at the marina and was present during the interview.