We published a story several days ago which reported a potentially alarming proposal put before the Beaufort, NC Board of Commissioners, which would require all mariners to register their vessel if they drop the hook in Taylor Creek or Town Creek (see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=94843). The results of the first look at this proposal at an August 13 Commissioner’s meeting was to table the issue for further consideration, and then bring the matter up anew at the next scheduled August 28 meeting. This welcome delay was probably due to vocal objections by local cruisers to the proposal as originally written.
As part of my editorial/introductory comments to the SSECN’s first article addressing this matter, linked above, I noted that, reading between the lines, it looked as if the intent of the proposed regulations are not so much to prevent damage by vessels which break free during really heavy weather, as to provide a way for the city of Beaufort to get a handle on the abandoned/derelict vessels moored in Town Creek and Taylor Creek.
Since I wrote these initial remarks, the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net team has checked into this situation, and discovered that Beaufort does indeed have a problem with derelicts. Some of these “vessels” will probably never move again, unless it’s in front of hurricane force winds, as some of them are not well secured at their moorings.
The tricky challenge is to draft regulations which will help with the derelict/abandoned vessel problem, while NOT IN ANY WAY PENALIZING legitimate cruisers who want to anchor and visit Beaufort for a few days to a few weeks!
First, let me ask all cruisers who can possibly do so, to attend the August 28 meeting. Captain Joe Murphy has provided details of this session:
Here’s the scoop. The Beaufort Board of Commissioners will have their meeting Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 4 PM in the Train Depot located at 614 Broad Street. The public is invited to attend. I’m assuming that based on the meeting held on Aug 13 where they postponed their decision to the 28th that this will be the topic. As additional assurance I sent an email to the Town Clerk to verify that this proposed ordinance is the subject of the meeting.
I hope to attend.
I called the Town Clerk. The ordinance will be discussed at the Aug 28 meeting. It is the first topic on the agenda.
FYI. There are some other things tied into this whole deal. Hidden agenda if you catch my drift. One item deals with the derelict boats in Town Creek that have been a thorn in the side to many folks. And for pretty good reason. They have been there for years and are obviously abandoned. They are indeed an eye sore and should be removed. I hate to see Beaufort get a black eye on this whole deal. I don’t have a problem with the registration process but only for those boats that plan to be here during the hurricane season. Then instead of giving them ultimatums and threats we could put notices to advise them of various locations where they can have their boats hauled. It seems to me that the money they would be spending to put a boot heel on the necks of boaters might be better spent patroling the waters during the danger periods and checking the moorings/anchorings. As you know, many cruiesers stop in Beaufort to wait out the hurricane season. One reason I’ve heard is that it deals with insurance coverages that prohibit taking a boat any further south during the season. It’s fun to watch everone pull anchor right after December 1 and head south like the swallows to Capistrano.
Like I said earlier, I plan to attend.
In regards to formulating sensible regulations that will address the derelict problem, but not penalize legitimate cruisers, I asked my good friend and fellow nautical writer, John Kettlewell for this thoughts. As usual, Captain John has come through with some very well reasoned ideas:
In Beaufort’s case I would recommend they start with requiring anyone staying over 30 days to register with the police and at that time provide proof of registration. I believe that technically any boat floating on the water must be registered anyway, whether or not it is being used–that’s the way it is interpreted in New England.
I think most New England harbors have this fairly well under control. First, anyone putting down a mooring, meaning a permanent anchor of any sort, must apply and register with the town, supplying their boat registration, etc., and usually paying a fee. Then there is a limited area where these moorings are allowed, so there ends up being a limit on how many may be put down. There is also a requirement for annual or semi-annual inspection of the mooring gear, with proof shown to the town upon your annual registration of the mooring. The mooring gear must meet stated specifications. However, in terms of transient boats, there are usually almost no regulations, but there is always a harbormaster keeping an eye on things. He knows instantly who is a legitimate transient and who is a potential derelict. He checks boats for registration numbers (visually), anchor lights at night, proper anchoring gear, visible activity. But in most places this means you can anchor for 30 days or more, as long as you do so safely. I think they have a catch-all law on the books that says something like boats may be asked to move at the harbormaster’s discretion if they think your boat is a hazard or may become a hazard. I think there may also be laws about leaving unattended vessels. If the harbormaster spots an unattended vessel he leaves a notice, and if nobody responds to the notice after a few days he may have the boat towed and/or removed from the water, or sometimes he puts it on a vacant rental mooring for a period of time before having it towed. Seems to work, because I very rarely see what I would consider a derelict vessel on the water.
I think the bottom line is that there needs to be a balance between space for local and permanent users, preferably on moorings and with more regulation, and transient users who basically are free to come and go as long as they do so in a responsible and safe manner.
Beaufort needs to check carefully before they try to regulate anchoring as the waters in question are tidal salt water, and therefore federal waters. It is clear to me that Beaufort does not have jurisdiction over these matters, though in recent years the Coast Guard has looked the other way when localities have enacted anchoring laws. I am confident a boater could win a legal fight in court, though he might have to take it to the federal level to do so.
Excellent suggestions from Captain Kettlewell indeed. I only wish I could attend the August 28 meeting personally. In any other circumstances I WOULD be there, but that happens to be the same day that my first-rate, first-mate is having a chemotherapy infusion treatment, and my place is by her side!
We will continue to bring you all the news concerning this breaking situation. Those of you who are able to attend the Aug. 28 meeting, PLEASE send an e-mail report on what happened ASAP, to Contact@CruisersNet.net.
Let’s all hope for an outcome that addresses the needs of the city of Beaufort, AND the cruising community!
The town, working with the Coast Guard, really needs to come up with a plan to sort things out here, it has spun out of control in our opinion. A by-product of this mess is that many boats end up anchoring right in the middle of the channel. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had also received complaints from “mega yacht” captains about the increased difficulty in maneuvering to and from the town docks. We come through here on our little Whaler frequently, and it can be a real circus in the summer and on weekends during transient season. I brought some guests through on a sight seeing tour on our big boat one Sunday and swore, never again!
George and Ann