Out on Spud Point Marina's C Dock, scores of empty boat slips attract feathered squatters who litter the concrete floating platforms with crab shells, cannibalized seagull bones and dried guano that crackles underfoot like a carpet of egg shells.
"We have tenants here but they don't pay, and they don't use the berth-holders restrooms," said Deborah Klein, the marina's current manager, pointing to boat berths that have been vacant for two years.
"I've been out here when the crunching sound is deafening."
Not counting the seagulls, the occupancy rate is 67 percent at Spud Point, which is part of the Sonoma County Regional Parks system. Two years ago, recreational berthing fees at the marina were raised 22 percent. The result was a serious decline in business.
"We lost about 22 percent of permanent berthers," Klein said.
The fee increase was only part of the reason for the decline. Other factors included the recession and three years of halted or severely limited salmon runs, Klein said.
This year's "bonanza crab season" has been a boon to the marina but more needs to be done, she said, to bring boats back to the dock.
This week, county supervisors approved changes to marina fees, including a rollback of the recreational berthing fee. The changes, which also include a number of fee increases, were done to make the marina more competitive and bring fees in line with industry averages, Klein said.
The new fees include:
-- A recreational berthing rate reduction from $8 to $6.55 a linear foot.
-- The marina's diesel gas markup was raised from 3 cents to 45 cents a gallon, and ice increased from $80 to $86 a ton.
-- The crab off-loading rate increased from 5 cents to 8 cents a pound.
An increase to the salmon off-loading rate is being considered and could be proposed to supervisors if state fish and game officials allow a significant salmon catch this year.
The reduction in berthing fees has already generated excitement among boaters who have left the marina, she said.
"The word in Bodega Bay gets out as fast as the wind blows," Klein said. "Now, we're going to be calling them on the phone and inviting them to return."
Spud Point is equipped with 244 slips. Most of the boats are 30, 40 and 50-foot vessels, with monthly berthing costs ranging from $200 to $300 a month. The drop in recreational berthing rates would mean a drop in a boater's monthly rent of $75 to $100.
The aging marina recovers only 60 percent of its operating costs, which is below the industry average, according to documents presented to the board of supervisors.
Klein told supervisors Tuesday that marina revenue went from $100,000 last July to $250,000 in January because of a banner crab year. Off-loading at Spud Point docks jumped to 1 million pounds, from 300,000 pounds last year, she said, adding that the season was "like Christmas everywhere."
The goal, she said, is to recover 120 percent of the marina's costs through increased occupancy, new fees and sales.
Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo called Klein's efforts at the marina "a breath of fresh air."
"It's the hope and the intent we're going to see an increase in berthing and an increase in revenue," he said.