Mitigation Overhaul Means Smooth Sailing for Masonboro Marina in New Hanover County, North Carolina


After devastating losses from over two decades, George Lowe retrofitted his North Carolina marina to with-stand the “worst case scenario” hurricane. The investment has paid off.


The Masonboro Yacht Club and Marina experienced only minimal damage when Hurricane Matthew swept through North Carolina in October 2016.

The marina, located in Wilmington at mile 288 on the Intracoastal Waterway, has grown from 107 to 176 boat slips and in value from $24,000 in the mid-1960s to $7 million in 2017, ac- cording to David Christopher, manager/dock master. Lowe built the marina in 1965. In the 1970s, he secured a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to dredge waters for the marina and to construct docks to accommodate 107 boat slips. In 1984, Hurricane Diane’s 110 mile-per-hour winds destroyed the marina’s docks and sheds. Twelve years later, Hurricane Fran ravaged the marina.

 “We lost everything during Fran,” Christopher said. “It took us a year to rebuild.”

Lowe secured another SBA loan, this time for a half-million dollars, to build a new dock system and clubhouse. Rather than replacing existing materials and follow the original design, he decided to incorporate wind and flood resistant features coastal construction standards promoted by FEMA. Concrete floating docks replaced wooden ones. Among other improvements that comply with improved state building code standards, fourteen-inch concrete pilings (reinforced with eight steel rods) now secure the main piers (instead of 12-inch pilings with four steel rods).

The new construction added a 3,000-square-foot three-story clubhouse, anchored by pilings that extend from the rooftop to 20 feet in the ground. Steel braces and connectors secure the facility throughout. Roof deck joints were sealed with flashing tape prior to underlayment and shingle application. The lower level of the clubhouse contains only picnic tables and items that can be easily moved in the event of a flood.

Contractors used sealed roof deck joints prior to underlayment and shingle application secured the roof. Only picnic tables and removable items are in the lower level of the clubhouse, in the event of a flood.

“I’ve realized over the years that there are some benefits to hurricanes,” said Christopher. “They get rid of the old, weak structures, and that leads to an opportunity for newer and better construction.”

The damage from Hurricane Fran in 1996 totaled more than $750,000 in repairs and closed the facility for seven months. In 1999, three months after the marina reopened, Hurricane Floyd tested the new structure. The building and supporting infrastructure faced the storm without damage. The elevated utilities performed well, and the hurricane shutters prevented any interior damage.

Most importantly, there was no interruption to business. Now that the marina survived Hurricane Matthew with barely a scrape, the marina owners know their investment in mitigation, though significant, provides for a better, safer, and more prosperous future.

Key Takeaways

The Small Business Administration offers mitigation funds as part of their loans:

  • SBA offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners and small businesses impacted by declared natural and other disasters. Eligible SBA disaster loan borrowers may choose to receive expanded funding to help mitigate their home or business against future disasters. SBA disaster loans can be increased up to 20% to make building upgrades. North Carolina Emergency Management, Department of Public Safety
  • FEMA Building Science Publications
  • FEMA P-499 Homebuilders Guide to Coastal Construction  
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