Chilmark ponders where to put two 60-foot yachts
Chilmark selectmen are studying at least three options to accommodate docking two large pleasure boats on the West Dock in Menemsha Harbor, while still maintaining the harbor for commercial fishing boats.
About 25 people, including three current and three former selectmen, members of the harbor advisory committee, commercial fishermen and pleasure boat owners joined in a lively discussion at town hall Nov. 2 to discuss the matter. The two 60-foot yachts, Escapade and Banjo, extend too far into the harbor from their assigned slips at the end of the West Dock, so they were moved temporarily to the Menemsha Creek channel, or commercial, side of the dock last summer.
"I wouldn't want to lose the commercial slips forever," commercial fisherman Greg Mayhew of the harbor advisory committee said. "Once you have lost the commercial space, it's hard to get it back."
Two yachts that don't fit comfortably into spaces reserved for pleasure craft may find Menemsha berths on the creek side of the West Dock, where commercial boats are to go. Photo by Susan Safford
The selectmen lined up on two sides of the issue with chairman Riggs Parker, who chaired the meeting, agreeing with Mr. Mayhew and strongly favoring adherence to the harbor master plan with its emphasis on sustaining commercial fishing. He said he is not comfortable making a decision about changing the master plan without permission from a town meeting.
Selectman Warren Doty favored more flexibility with the dock, saying the slips assigned to the commercial boats have traditionally been used by pleasure boats. He suggested changing the terms in the master plan from commercial/transient to commercial/ recreational. "You know next summer, the boats in these spaces are going to be recreational boats," he said.
Mr. Parker provided background on the issue involving Escapade and Banjo, which had been assigned to slips 12 and 13 at the end of the west dock, commonly known as the fill dock. Because of their size, the vessels extended too far into the harbor and were encroaching into federal waters. The boat owners also were not happy with the situation and the two vessels were moved last summer to the channel side, which is traditionally reserved for commercial fishing boats.
Mr. Parker explained that slips 12 and 13 were shortened a few years ago when the west dock began to collapse, and later they were rebuilt. The Army Corps of Engineers found that the outermost pilings weren't permitted in federal waters and if moved, they would push nine feet farther into federal waters, he said.
To move them would require decertification of the waters in Menemsha Harbor from federal to town status by an act of Congress, Mr. Parker said. The issue could be attached to a current waterways bill that may come up for action after the election, he said, but even if it were passed, the Corps would likely not look favorably on extending the slips.
Selectman Frank Fenner said he felt an obligation to the slip-holders as well as the commercial fishermen.
After discussing five possible solutions, the selectmen narrowed them down to three to be considered.
Option one would leave the boats where they have been on the channel side of the dock, where they would pay more and thus would allow the town to rent out slips 12 and 13 and possibly make a third slip for residents' pleasure boats.
Option two would involve moving the concrete floats at the end of the West Dock, making the slips narrower and installing a cat walk. This would be the most costly alternative, the selectmen agreed.
Option three would shift some of the pilings between slips one through 10, in order to make space in the middle for the two large boats.
After hearing the options, Hank Goldberg, owner of Banjo, offered some conciliatory comments about the situation, saying he did not know which option would work best.
"I didn't come to Menemsha to take anything away from anyone," he said. "We're all for de-commercializing where we are and not taking away from anyone. We're not looking for a free ride."
He said he would like to see more slips available to pleasure boats. He added that Robert Congdon, owner of Escapade, would likely not be using his slip next July and August.
"If we have to move, it's OK. It's terrific. I see it as a positive," Mr. Goldberg said. "I do appreciate everybody's heritage here. We're not fearful of something good happening to the commercial fishermen." The fishermen later thanked him for his comments.
Mr. Fenner and executive secretary Tim Carroll were scheduled to measure the dock for the various options Tuesday, and then identify of the best option. The selectmen set a deadline of Dec. 5, their regular meeting date, to consider the preliminary estimates.