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Rising lake lifts business
Marinas, merchants welcome weekend
port royale 6 es
Starting this Memorial Day weekend, boaters can pull up to the floating dock at Port Royale for gas and snacks. - photo by Emily Saunders
After struggling through a nearly two-year drought, the boating industry is back.

Lake Lanier, currently at about 1,065.4 feet above sea level, is closer to its full pool of 1,071 feet than it has been since July 2007.

Odd as it sounds, the only thing standing in the way of a big Memorial Day weekend may be too much rain, said William Archer, divisional rental manager for Port Royale marina.

“We’re stocking shelves as full as we can,” he said. “We’re filling up our fuel tanks, putting in rental boats in the water and getting ready for the big weekend, hopefully if the weather holds.”

Memorial Day weekend has long signaled the start of the busy summer season on Lanier. This week’s forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms over the entire three-day span.

Kenny Haddock, general manager at Habersham Marina, is hoping the rain will hold off until after the holiday.

“[Memorial Day weekend] gives us an idea of what kind of year it’s going to be with the way the economy in Forsyth is with everything else going on in the world today,” he said. “We’re in a lot better shape than we’ve been in in quite some time.”

The lake level has been climbing since December. Haddock said the marina’s business has risen with the water.

He’s already noticed boat rental numbers are up from last year.     

“We’ve even had some people who have left in the past for low water, they’ve started to return,” he said. “We’re back to operating like we had before the lake had fallen. All of our docks are at 100 percent capacity.

“You can’t take recreation away from people. They’re always going to find a way.”

Candy Hammond, owner of Hammond’s Fishing & Boat Storage, has already seen an up-tick in business. Though fishermen have been her core base even during slow times, pleasure boaters are starting to come back around.

“They are not as familiar with the lake, so they were more cautious about getting out last year,” Hammond said. “A lot of people didn’t even get their boats out of our boat storage last year.

“But they’re already starting to get their boats out a lot more. We’re seeing a lot more traffic through our boat storage.”

Port Royale will launch the season by opening a 7,000-square-foot floating facility called The Lighthouse.

The store will house gas, supplies, food and rental boats. The Lighthouse soon will feature a tiki hut, where non-alcoholic drinks and food will be sold.

The business plan is similar to the company’s Lake Allatoona location near Cartersville.

“We’ve been successful with [the Allatoona site], so we brought that business model over to this location and we’re getting ready to flip the switch on this project,” Archer said. “Hopefully, it’ll pay off here soon.

“We’re starting to see more positive news about the economy, so I think when you get more positive news, people are going to start spending money. We’re expecting a lot of business.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at