- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
When the Bay St. Louis Harbor officially opened last summer, dozens of boats cruised in from across the Gulf Coast join the festivities. Now, according to Harbormaster Chuck Fortin, the word has spread and the Bay is quickly becoming one of the most popular day-cruising destinations on the upper Gulf Coast.
In the past year, more than two hundred boats have docked in the harbor for one night or more. Countless other day-trippers have taken advantage of the harbor’s four-hour free courtesy docking to enjoy lunch, dinner or shopping at one of Old Town’s establishments.
These boaters are known in the marina world as “transients.” They may arrive with a 60-foot world-class motor yacht or a 15’ foot sailboat. They may stay for a few hours or several months. But they’re all attracted by one thing: the town of Bay St. Louis.
Fortin points to the Bay Harbor’s unique positioning in the town as being the main appeal. Most harbors are separated from the town areas by busy four-lane highways, but in the Bay, only a narrow easy-to-cross beach road comes between the city proper and the waterfront. It’s easy to walk or bike while shopping or exploring the streets of the popular historic district. Cruisers can also rent golf carts from a local company. Brett Ladner, at Quality Custom Carts (228.671.9851) can even deliver and pick up from the harbor if needed.
The harbor has permanently set aside 13 slips for overnight transient boats. Any slips that aren’t currently leased are also used for overflow.
The Bay St. Louis Harbor contains 163 slips, with 150 open for annual leasing. In the first year, the facility has far exceeded initial projections for occupancy with 95 of those 150 under lease. The highest percentage of occupancy is with the forty and fifty foot slips. The harbor utilizes the unleased slips to accommodate transients during busy times.
The harbor staff is taking reservations well in advance for major holidays, festivals and the monthly Second Saturday Artwalks. For this summer’s Bay Harbor Fest, slated for July 17 – 19, over thirty transient slips have already been reserved.
As the popularity of the harbor also grows with day-trippers, sometimes the courtesy dock along side the fishing pier fills up. Boaters who can’t find a space are asked to pull up to the fuel dock and the harbor staff will direct them into a slip that’s not rented. It’s still free and that way day-trippers don’t inadvertently tie up in a slip that “belongs” to someone else (who may be returning soon).
Fortin says that this summer he’s also seen a big uptick in the size of transient boats coming in and the number of people aboard.
“Some days forty or fifty people will jump on a boat somewhere else on the coast and come here just for lunch and to hang out for the afternoon.”
Click here for the Harbor's website.