GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Gulfport boat launch may be losing some of its traffic because of a maintenance issue. One boater wanted to start using the launch because its location saved him some time, but he ran into a snag.
Bill McDonnell has been chartering fishing trips for about a decade. Just a few days ago, he was taking some customers out into the Mississippi Sound to fish. He decided to launch from the Courthouse Road boat ramp.
"I got down here and got to the mouth, and pretty much got stuck," said McDonnell.
His 25 foot boat had essentially run aground on a sandbar at the end of the jetties. He says he was able to get himself free, after some effort. The return trip was a bit easier because the tides had risen.
"So when I came back in, I was able to get back inside this marina right here," said McDonnell.
If the tide had been any lower on the way out, McDonnell thinks he wouldn't have made it past the sandbar. He suspects that over time, the sand simply built up, creating a sandbar that extends for at least 100 yards past the jetties that could block boaters from reaching the sound.
"You'll tear your boat up, for one," said McDonnell. "You'll tear your motor up trying to get across the sandbar if you don't get stuck."
If boaters can't use this ramp to launch their vessels, McDonnell believes they will take their operations to another ramp, possibly in another city.
"When I run people from out of town out of here, that's money that's coming into the area," said McDonnell.
To keep that money in the area, McDonnell thinks the solution is regular maintenance.
A city spokesman told WLOX News dredging work is in future plans, but right now, those plans are still in the process of acquiring permits. It is McDonnell's hope that the entrance to the marina will be dredged as soon as possible.
"I mean, I would say that it's the nicest one on the Coast anywhere, but now we can't really use it, because it's not accessible getting in and out of it," McDonnell said.
City officials say there is no timeline for when the dredging work could take place.