Edgartown Harbor begins season with new rules
For boaters in Edgartown Harbor, the new season brings new regulations designed to allot the picturesque harbor's precious and limited public dock space more equitably among competing user groups.
There are two major changes confronting boaters. The dock that was formerly located in front of the Navigator Restaurant at the bottom of Main Street used by boaters on moorings and stakes to tie up dinghies was moved closer to the Edgartown Yacht Club in the space formerly used by charter boats to load and unload.
As a result, the space reserved for charter boats was moved to the finger piers at the base of Main Street, in between the Edgartown Yacht Club and the Seafood Shanty Restaurant, eliminating temporary rental dockage for visiting boaters.
The charter boat captains may only use the dock for vessel loading and unloading and boats must be manned while in a slip. Charter boats are not allowed to remain at the finger piers overnight. Violators of the rules are subject to a $50 fee per violation.
The town's small fleet of commercial fishermen continue to tie up alongside Memorial Wharf.
Edgartown Harbormaster Charlie Blair is the man responsible for juggling the needs of residents, visiting boaters, charter fishermen and commercial fishermen.
The new regulations were approved in May and followed the November 2004 purchase of the Navigator Restaurant by Gerret C. Conover and Thomas E. LeClaire. The new owners' plans included use of the area formerly taken up by the dinghy dock.
"The new Navigator owners wished to have use of their waterfront. The old owners let the town use their waterfront for dinghy dockage. So, we had to relocate the dinghy docks," said Mr. Blair.
Mr. Blair said that the new regulations were the result of much compromise. "The town had many discussions with the Navigator, and they reached a deal where the dinghies are going to take up some of the space on the Navigator's waterfront." Even though the dinghies will be tied to floats that are town property, the floats are located partially in front of the Navigator, he said.
"It's a change, so no one's happy with that," said Mr. Blair. "The biggest disappointment is that we have to give up our finger piers that we used to rent out hourly to visitors." While he acknowledged the downside of the new regulations, Mr. Blair noted that a lack of space on the Edgartown waterfront is not a new issue. "The town doesn't own much waterfront. We have to use the waterfront that we do have in the very best configuration in order to serve the most people."
Joseph Cressy, Edgartown Marine Advisory Committee chairman, echoed Mr. Blair's opinion. "We have a given problem," he said, "which is that the town doesn't own a lot of waterfront. It makes it difficult when you try to service everybody. You do the best you can. This was a good solution."
To avoid overcrowding the dinghy docks, Mr. Blair advises visitors to use the Old Port Launch Service, which brings visiting boaters into town and back out to their vessels. "The launch service really helps," he said. "Some people don't even bring their dinghies to shore, they just use the launch, and we encourage that."
In order to receive a charter docking permit, Mr. Blair said, the fishermen must supply the Edgartown selectmen with a number of items, including a copy of a Coast Guard license, a marine license, and a business certificate. The fishermen must pay a seasonal fee of $200 per vessel.
As of yesterday, six charter boats had obtained permits, according to Edgartown Selectmen's Secretary Karen Ambielli.
There are now signs posted at the finger piers indicating that the space is for charter boats only, and not for public use. In addition to posting the signs, Mr. Blair said that he was planning on stationing a wharf attendant at the docks every day this week in order to enforce the regulations, and ticket noncompliant boats if necessary.
Mr. Blair is not optimistic that the new regulations will go into effect smoothly. "When July rolls in here," he said, "it will be total chaos."
The Edgartown selectmen will review the new regulations in the fall, according to Mr. Blair, and discuss whether or not they were effective, and what modifications might need to be made. "If it doesn't change," Mr. Blair said, "we'll change it. But the fact that we had to give up our rental slips shows how little land on the harbor the town owns, and it's a shame."