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Sandy inflicts heavy boat damage

Hurricane Sandy caused $650 million in damage and losses to more than 65,000 boats, surpassing Irene as the most destructive storm since BoatUS began keeping records in 1966, officials from the organization said Tuesday.

The single largest storm event prior to this was Hurricane Irene last year, which caused $500 million in damage, said BoatUS assistant vice president of public relations Scott Croft. In 2005, hurricanes Wilma and Katrina combined to cause $700 million in damage, he added.

Sandy smacked the tri-state area the hardest. In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, 32,000, 25,000 and 2,500 boats were lost or damaged, respectively, with the remaining 6,000 up and down the eastern seaboard and as far inland as the Great Lakes, Croft said.

“Like we said before — we’ve never seen anything like it,” Croft said. “Sandy was such a huge geographic area — 900 to 1,000 miles wide at one point. The topography of where the storm hit the hardest played a major role. The lowlands in the tri-state area have little elevation above high tide. So when you take that topography and combine it with a record surge of 14 feet there was no place for those boats to go except up off their blocking and out of their cradles and into yards, other marinas and neighborhoods.”

Many of the boats have been corralled and placed back on blocks, Croft said. The vessels that ended up in groups or piles have been a challenge for salvagers, he said.

“It’s like a game of pick-up sticks where you try to pull out the boats from a pile and cause the least amount of damage,” he said. And boats are sitting in some dangerous places, such as on or around power lines, Croft said, citing the situation on Staten Island, N.Y.

“It’s going to be a while for these marinas to get back on their feet,” he said. “It’s slow going for customers, compared to other storms, because the priorities are damaged homes and infrastructure, not boats, and that’s understandable.”

The salvage and surveying of boats could carry on well into December and the new year, Croft said.

The scope and magnitude of Sandy’s ruination has been almost surreal.

“It’s hard to believe where some of these boats ended up,” said Steve Stavracos, 55, owner of Steve’s Marine Services in Amityville and Patchogue, on the south shore of New York’s Long Island.

His Amityville site has 40 slips with boats from 20 to 46 feet. “The water carried a 26-foot boat from here in Amityville to Massapequa – that’s two miles away.”

Click here for a video of the BoatUS catastrophe response team on the ground in New York and New Jersey.

— Chris Landry