More on Cobourg’s Harbour

This post covers two topics – boat-lift-out and harbour repairs; first the lift-out: It’s a sure sign that winter is coming – boats can’t stay in the harbour for too long so they are all lifted out by late October. The first lift-out was done September 28 and the second lift-out was done on Saturday, October 26.  As usual, it involved a crane rented by the Yacht Club with about a dozen volunteers.  The crane came with two men – one to operate the crane and the other to direct it. Some owners elected to first have their mast removed while others left them in place.  Each owner was charged a fee determined by the yacht club but not made public – I understand it depends on boat size and whether you belong to the club or not but is in the region of $200 – $300.  Or as one person said to me:  “If you have to know, you shouldn’t own a boat”.

Boat Lift - 26 Oct 2019
Boat Lift – 26 Oct 2019

Apart from Crane rental, this year a fence was erected to keep the public away from the lift site where everyone had a hard hat.  The fence for the first lift-in cost $4000 although the fence for the second lift-in was shorter.

Once they were lifted out, they were moved to the storage compound.  This procedure is the reverse of the lift-in – see the News Blog article on that complete with video, here (Marina Boat Lift-in).

Some of the operation was done on the Esplanade and some on the East pier “entrance”.  That’s the section from the bottom of Division to the barrier just before the Coast Guard area.  See the photos below.

I spoke with some of the yacht club volunteers and they were puzzled why a crane was needed when a much better solution would be a travel lift.  This would be paid for in the same way as the Crane lift with no cost to the Town and would be out of sight at the storage compound when not in use.

Below (and above) are some photos of the Lift-out and the empty Marina – more to read below the photos.

More about the Harbour/Marina

At the Committee of the Whole meeting on October 15, Dean Hustwick, Director of Community Services presented a letter to Council recommending that council approve applying for grants from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, Community, Culture and Recreation Funding Stream for repairs in the Harbour and implementation of the Victoria Square project.  The second of these is already well known to the public (see link below) but the first talks about large expenditures not otherwise made public – although they may not be required in the immediate future (this year or next).  Dean says that Shoreplan Engineering (who did the report on the East Pier) have made preliminary findings (and estimates) about problems with the Harbour’s North Wall, East Wall, West Breakwater and East Breakwater. For the proposed grant, the total project cost would be approximately $10.6 million with the municipal share being approximately $2.8 million (subject to further review and refinement).

He also mentions deficiencies with the Marina’s electrical system – it’s under powered and subject to disruption with high water – and although he does not give an estimate, I heard somewhere that the best current estimate for this work is $600K.  However, I understand electrical upgrades will be included in projects to be done sooner rather than later – watch for it to be included in the 2020 budget.

Read Dean’s report in the Links below – note especially under the headings Background and Financial implications.

At the regular Council meeting on October 21, Council approved that an application should be made for a grant per Dean’s recommendation.  Despite being asked by Keith Oliver, they did not add his request to add an Adult Fitness Park to the application.

And in case you haven’t heard, Marina Manager Paul Gauthier is retiring effective October 31.


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Wally Keeler
31 October 2019 6:39 am

Wow! Kor Stoker recently posted a photograph of Cobourg harbour circa late 50s or early 60s on the Facebook page called, Cobourg Yesteryears. The comments below the photograph come mostly from born Cobourgers recollecting their experience of the harbour back in the day. What was noticeable in many of the comments was the resentment directed towards the presence of the harbour condos.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
11 November 2019 2:51 pm

Sometimes envy can come across as resentment.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
12 November 2019 10:13 am

… and sometimes it don’t.

29 October 2019 9:59 am

Interested to know who paid for the “fence”. The club should be On the hook for this expense…not taxpayers.

ken strauss
Reply to  cornbread
29 October 2019 1:11 pm

Considering the impact on downtown residents and businesses such as Cucina Urbana the club should have paid a fee the same as when a road is closed for movie filming. For the taxpayers to have paid a cent is unconscionable.

Old Sailor
Reply to  ken strauss
29 October 2019 5:25 pm

My understanding of the reason for all the new fencing and road closures is that the boats could no longer all be hauled out on the East pier – due to structural issues discovered in the last year or two. So much of the haul out was moved to one parking lot in front of The Esplanade. That is the cause of all of the heightened security and fencing which was decided upon by the town – not by the boaters or by Cobourg Yacht Club. Cobourg Yacht Club provided 30 member volunteers to help in the process of lifting masts of boats and boats out of the water. They put in 6 hours of work on the 2nd lift out of member and non member boats. In the past all that was required for security was an SUV parked sideways at the north end of the East Pier. That stopped pedestrian and car traffic from getting near the haul out operation. As noted below the town owns the harbour, docks, surrounding land and the marina office building. As is the case at other town marinas. Boaters just rent slips like campers rent a site at the town campground. If the town is going to spend say $1 million on improving the campground the campers don’t pay the $1 million. cost. The town pays it. Similarly if the town owned marina wants to provide a travel lift for lift out and lift in the town buys the travel lift – like at the Port of Whitby Marina.

Reply to  Old Sailor
29 October 2019 5:46 pm

Strange. The 2019 spring lift in and the 2018 haul-out took place in the same location without the aid of over the top crowd and traffic control and without any accidents or “spectator” injury. How is it then that over the summer this “event” became so dangerous that $4K worth of fencing was required for “safety”? Who exactly required protection and why? Who made the decision? Based on what metrics? John Draper comments below that marina management indicated the marina was not involved in the fall lift-out…entirely a CYC undertaking, Did the CYC order the fencing and presumably pay for it? Regarding the TL: the difference is the Whitby marina’s TL is financially viable. It pays for itself. A TL in Cobourg is not financially self sufficient as several presentations have shown. Time to stop flogging the horse…it is dead. The crane option offers the least financial risk. It can in fact, be a profitable service. Something the TL will never be. Marina management is fixated on having a TL and it is the ONLY option that marina management has ever “presented”. There has not been a proper presentation of the crane option. Marina management claims to have explored all other options. This is somewhat doubtful. Look up sailboat haul out on the internet. You will be surprised at the variety of options available $1M for the Victoria Park Campground (VPC)? Somewhat overstated I believe. Certainly significant costs are expected to do the long neglected VPC upgrades, In the order of $500K is the estimate that I have heard. For the past 8 years or more, the VPC has provided the Town with $120K-$190K profit per year. Little has been re-invested in the VPC or transferred to the VPC reserve. If the VPC profits had been transferred to the VPC… Read more »

ken strauss
Reply to  Old Sailor
29 October 2019 7:08 pm

The argument for improving the campground is that increased revenue will more than offset the costs of the improvements. I understand that campground spots are very much in demand so the town should significantly increase (double?) rental fees. Even if occupancy were to decline to 75% the profit would be significantly greater.

It is not clear how a boat lift could be justified. There is insufficient storage to accommodate many more boats so any costs for a lift would have to be borne by increased fees for current boaters. I’m uncertain who decided on installing the fence. However, whatever the cost it should be entirely paid by the users of the lift-out service together with a penalty for the inconvenience of having the parking lot closed for almost a week.

Jim Thomas
Reply to  ken strauss
1 November 2019 12:43 pm

Was this fence bought, or just rented for the occasion?

Reply to  cornbread
29 October 2019 1:15 pm

“The club should be On the hook for this”….I disagree.
The Town is now mostly responsible for boat lift in/out (as a marina service) and the CYC member boats are perhaps half of the seasonal boats affected. The marina (Town), as the one responsible for the lift out is likely responsible for the decision to put up fencing. The $4k cost is just another cost of the lift out and hopefully offset by the lift-out fees paid by the boaters. Otherwise, the service loses money and reduces the marina’s operating surplus.

Cornbread, why do you believe that the taxpayers and/or the CYC are (should be) paying for this instead of the boaters who used the service?

Perhaps the marina management will release an accounting of this service so that all can assess the wisdom of the marina’s management of this service.

Reply to  Bryan
29 October 2019 1:26 pm

Sorry for the confusion on who’s on the hook…the people who own the boats that are being lifted out of or into the water should be On the hook for the full costs of the service and supportive costs like fences, etc.

John Draper
Reply to  Bryan
29 October 2019 2:15 pm

Julie at the Marina told me that although they are concerned about the lift-in/out, their only involvement is that they insist that all boat owners provide proof of insurance. The Yacht club organizes the event and deals directly with the crane company. Doing the work were two crane company employees and about a dozen Yacht club volunteers – no Town employees were involved. I did not ask about how the transportation to the compound was organized.

Reply to  John Draper
29 October 2019 4:52 pm

This is only because the town refuses to take on the responsibility of the boat lift in and out. At other town Marinas, this is part of a full service marina.

Reply to  Evelyn
29 October 2019 6:16 pm

Is the Cobourg marina a full service marina? I don’t think so.

Compared to Whitby and other marinas, it offers limited boat storage, substandard utility facilities and no boat-works.
This is not a bad thing. Trenton and both of Kingston’s municipal marinas are not “full service”. Why should Cobourg’s marina be “full service” if these services are not profitable or at least self sustaining?

Jim Thomas
Reply to  Bryan
1 November 2019 12:46 pm

The idea that a travel lift can be tucked away somewhere out of sight is nonsense. They are far too big. Even a shed to hide them would be monstrous.
Too much of our public area at the harbour is now taken up by industrial-type yards and facilities already.

Reply to  Jim Thomas
4 November 2019 12:43 pm

Like you Jim I believe the ‘out-of-sight’ objective is unrealistic. I’d add neither (i.e. objective) is the huge concrete bunker-like facility required to allow a Lift to travel to pick up the boat.

Old Sailor
Reply to  Bryan
30 October 2019 7:36 am

There should be full disclosure of the marina operating results, including the annual revenue the town chooses to forego by leaving 30% of the slips empty and only providing winter storage for 50% of the storage demand. Someone correct me if I am wrong but that is roughly $120,000 in lost annual slip rental fees and $50,000 in lost annual storage fees. The storage facility could easily be expanded north without ruffling any feathers so to speak. The declined annual revenue per year of $170,000 would easily repay a travel lift loan over five years or be used for other capital expenditures at the marina. So any report on the marina operation should include that declined $170,000 of revenue. Fees charged to boaters at all the marinas are market driven. Fees charged for slips at Cobourg Marina are already at the top of the rates charged east of Toronto. But the other marinas are run like for profit businesses and shoot for 90% to 95% slip fill rates and maximum winter storage revenues.

Reply to  Old Sailor
30 October 2019 10:53 am

All true Old Sailor but the overarching problem is the inconvenient truth that the harbour infrastructure has now reached the end of it’s useful life and the cost of replacement runs North of $10 million. This number does not take into account the looming replacement of most of the docks which are 1980s vintage and will cost several million more. My suspicion is that there is virtually no savings for any of this as the Town has cannibalised the marina profits as well as the cash grant provided by the federal government when it handed the harbour over to Cobourg. There is no political will to remedy any of this, and probably less amongst the taxpayers, and spreading $10-12 million in costs over 166 seasonal slip renters is a nonstarter. I have now voted with my wallet by moving my boat to Trent Port, saving almost $800 a season, for a brand new marina facility run by management with 25 years boating experience and a community that fully supports its marina. They understand how to treat a “crown jewel.”

Old Sailor
Reply to  MCGA
30 October 2019 9:55 pm

MCGA A sorry state when boaters leave Cobourg marina for a state of the art facility like Trent Port Marina and save $800 per year. Cobourg Council should charter a bus and visit Trent Port Marina and Port Whitby Marina and look at the difference in facilities, amenities and pricing compared to Cobourg Marina. Both town owned marinas.

29 October 2019 9:35 am

Funny I can, fathom WHY the Yacht Club members like any other club
like a Golf club for instances —- Can’t get their own Lift — out of their own Pockets and they can all contribute by the boat inch if they wish but now they have an asset
the same way a Golf club might replace their Golf Carts every few yrs . ITS IN THE member ship fee Then if its such a cost savings they can make a few $$$ or save as the case may be
by charging a Fee to non club members and at the same time charging them selves less

I also believe the Town through Tax dollars contributed something to this years lift out for what every reason you wish to disguise it as .

Reply to  perplexed
29 October 2019 9:53 am

Why are we even having this conversation , how many times must someone be told the voters have no interest in funding a boat lift.

Reply to  perplexed
29 October 2019 1:28 pm

Why indeed. The answer is that the CYC member boats make up about half of the seasonal boats that use the service. The other, and most important, is that the service can’t pay for itself. The travelift’s lack of financial viability has been shown several times.

The marina’s overall profit for operations is affected by the net cost/profit of the lift-out service. The is no evidence whatever that tax dollars are used.

Reply to  Bryan
30 October 2019 8:18 am

Wrong a financial contribution to the lift quietly went through council this fall
as I stated it may be camouflaged as Insurance or fencing but it was given

Reply to  perplexed
30 October 2019 8:27 am

Very interesting. As it went through Council this fall, would you please provide details: date, motion/bylaw, amount.
This information would be very helpful in clarifying the issue

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  perplexed
30 October 2019 10:07 am

I follow all Council meetings and read all the agenda material. If Perplexed is certain a contribution to the Travel Lift went through, he/she should be able to identify the details of the approval. The fact Perplexed says it might be camouflaged suggests there is no evidence to support his assertion. The question still remains who paid for the fencing and who made the decision that it was necessary?

Reply to  Bryan
31 October 2019 10:40 am

Bryan, you are half right…tax dollars are not used; and half wrong…the travellift’s financial viability has been shown. In 2015, subcommittees of interested boaters did detailed research into “all things Cobourg marina.” We had members with decades of professional financial, accounting and management consulting experience; not just in Canada but worldwide and with organizations ranging from small charities and not-for-profits to Fortune 500. I have yet to meet anyone in Cobourg with better skills and technical credibility. The committees did thorough investigation and charted a travel lift developmental track that would have recovered ALL the capital costs, in a reasonable time frame, and then contributed to the marina’s annual profitability. As with any investment, earning a positive ROI begins with how much you pay for the thing. The committee responsible determined there was an enormous range of initial purchase prices, with an equal number of alternative lift types and capabilities. To the seasoned professional, it starts with doing your homework and then buying smart. And, if you can’t afford the top-of-the-line, shift gears and look at more reasonably priced alternatives. So yes, Cobourg could have purchased a travellift, recovered its costs and then made a profit.

Reply to  MCGA
31 October 2019 12:52 pm


Was a report or presentation of this study made to Council?.
If so, please provide the date and if possible, an online link.
I look forward to reviewing this information.

Reply to  Bryan
31 October 2019 3:12 pm

There was a series of presentations by the three principal committees to the past mayor and CAO. They indicated limited appetite for anything associated with the marina until post election. Your review was not considered a prerequisite to any of our presentations. That said, whatever evidence you have that established that all the forms of travellift purchase and operation were financially unviable should be shared with all the readership.

Reply to  MCGA
31 October 2019 4:44 pm

I have not claimed that ALL forms of TL purchase & ops are not financially viable, just the proposals to the Town that are available in the public domain. As the study/proposal that you mention is not in the public domain, I have not reviewed it and have no opinion on it.
If you have access to the study and can “publish” it, that would contribute additional information to the discussion.

Reply to  Bryan
31 October 2019 6:06 pm

The reason we engaged in these studies was because we concluded the format and approach could be improved upon (why buy a Rolls Royce when a Ford pickup will do?). We also wanted to give Town leadership alternatives without simply gutting marina managements’ efforts. In the end, it made no difference as the new council looks uninterested in anything resembling this sort of investment. And, four plus years on, we now recognize that there are much bigger structural problems, with much bigger price tags, that have to be immediately addressed. As to all the detail work and the reports, I know that the Chairman of the travellift committee is a regular on this blog, perhaps he still has that data collecting dust on his hard drive. I scrapped my all my financial analysis of marina profitability and reserves when the current council started their tenure by swearing an oath not to expand the marina. To make that decision first, without understanding the state of the docks and the harbour infrastructure, was imprudent to negligent. 166 slip renters can not possibly carry all that financial water…and so I am now sailing from Trent Port marina as a result.

Reply to  MCGA
31 October 2019 7:55 pm


Several points:
– it is unfair and irresponsible to lay the marina’s current woes at the current Council’s feet. The prior council killed marina expansion into the west harbour in 2015.
– expansion within the current footprint is possible, but marina management has not brought forth any such proposals.
– the marina’s sad state is due, for the most part, to the marina management’s failure to provide sound financial and business management
– for a number of years, non-marina expenses such as the EP sink hole repairs were charged to the marina. Dir. Hustwick indicated this was in the order of $4-500K.
Had this amount been allocated to the marina reserve, the marina would have the funding for extensive repairs
– all operations, including running and maintaining the marina, is the responsibility of STAFF, not Council.
– about a month or two ago, DM Seguin and Clr Chorley toured the marina, guided by several boaters, to view first hand the condition of the marina
– the work of the various “boater” committees has not been brought to Council and is not in the public domain.

Reply to  Bryan
31 October 2019 9:43 pm

I see it differently:
– a good number of the current council members were around before, they knew the issues then, or should have.
– there were various non- marina expenses charged to the marina and that was a political decision to mitigate tax increases to the Town taxpayers…this was well understood at all levels.
– to rule anything out, including expansion, when you see the shape of the harbour is financial lunacy.
– marina management put in numerous requests, some more reasonable than others, virtually everything was discarded…too many rich boaters whining.
– In my five years in the marina that was the first time any council member showed up…good managers worry about their “crown jewels;” bad ones don’t and don’t ask questions.
– In well run organizations everyone is responsible, including the Board of Directors, or in this case the Council…ignorance is not a defense.
As I said, it is not my problem anymore. I have moved my boat to a superb location, that costs significantly less for better docks, no loss of hydro in high water conditions, adequate free parking, great dock security, experienced management and the full support of their Council. I will not have to worry that the Town will try to recoup its past financial and maintenance missteps on the backs of 166 boat slip tenants.

Old Sailor
Reply to  MCGA
1 November 2019 10:16 am

MCGA You are a seasoned boater and are well versed on the history of the Cobourg marina issues and how past councils have run away from solving these issues. And you know how the marina/Town never stick up for boaters. They just let those who have it in for boaters pile on the abuse. Even though many of the abusers don’t have a clue about boating or how successful marinas are managed. Instead, they crunch numbers, check past Council minutes, look for old consultants reports etc. etc. The big picture question is whether the Town, meaning the majority of the taxpayers, want boats in the harbour or would they prefer marsh, mosquitoes and cormorants. Because that is where this is all quickly headed. For the same reasons you have expressed I moved my boat from Cobourg marina a few years ago and saved $800 a year at a better facility – in a town that cherishes their harbour and the boats in the harbour. Still I support the 166 remaining few who continue to keep their boats at Cobourg marina. Does the Cobourg really want boats in the water? It does not seem that way to me.

Reply to  Old Sailor
1 November 2019 2:29 pm

I concur Old Sailor. There are moments in time when action, or lack of it, pushes something over the tipping point. My sense is we, as a Town, have arrived at one of those points regarding the future of the harbour and its marina. The majority will decide if we follow in the footsteps of Port Hope or Trent Port. $10 to $12 million is a big pill for a small town to swallow. My view is they will collectively shrug and let the harbour slowly drift away. Apparently, crown jewels can lose their luster. On the bright side, the Town council did award itself a raise justified, no doubt, by the quality of its management and problem solving skills, while working 40 plus hours a week on our behalf.

Reply to  perplexed
29 October 2019 4:51 pm

The Cobourg Yacht Club is a social organization. It doesn’t own any land or any docks. The boats and all related lift outs are the responsibility of the Cobourg Marina. Just like at most public marinas (Whitby, etc) The Marina is responsible for the lift out. It just so happens that the club members VOLUNTEER to do the lift out here in Cobourg. The Town of Cobourg has long since avoided the responsibility of handling the lifting in and out of boats.

29 October 2019 8:59 am

As a former boater who has used a “boat lift” for several years, including for an emergency “lift out” in the Thousand Islands , it is such a cost effective, timesaving , convenient , and SAFE method of lifting, that I can’t fathom why the Yacht Club or the Town , doesn’t get a lift!!!.
As for comments re “if you have ask, you shouldn’t own a boat”….that’s an elitist attitude that , fortunately, is only exhibited by a few.

Reply to  Art
29 October 2019 9:19 am

I can’t fathom why the Yacht Club or the Town , doesn’t get a lift!!!.


Jim Thomas
Reply to  Dubious
1 November 2019 1:08 pm

It’s because they are ugly, industrial installations that don’t belong in our harbourside park.