Northshore Harbormasters Association

February 28, 2004

Strict rules cut boaters from mooring wait list

By Jenni Glenn, Gloucester Daily Times

More than 100 boaters have found themselves dropped from the city's mooring waiting list as the harbormaster's office works to cut into what can be a decade-long wait for a spot in the harbor.

Harbormaster James Caulkett said his office made a point of strictly enforcing the deadlines boaters had to meet to renew their wait list positions last fall. His staff also did not contact boaters who failed to send in their renewal forms, as they have in the past, he said.

As a result, 116 names were removed from the 600-person list. In a normal year, Caulkett said, about 30 boaters lose their place on the list.

"I knew we were going to call a lot of people on it this year," he said.

Caulkett said the changes will help advance the people who have a real interest in leasing one of the city's 1,100 moorings on the wait list and cull those who are not willing to fulfill the requirements to stay on the list.

Boaters maintain their spots on the wait list by mailing a signed renewal form to the harbormaster's office in time to meet a late November deadline, Caulkett said. The forms were sent to boaters in early October.

Some boaters, however, are questioning the renewal process.

Joel Soucy, who has had his name on the wait list since 1994, said his name was eliminated from the list of those waiting for a mooring. He already has a mooring in Hodgkin's Cove, but said he added his name to the waiting list in order to obtain a better location for his Tartan 27 sailboat.

Soucy said he is positive he sent the other completed form to the harbormaster's office, but the office never received it. Soucy spoke to Caulkett and post office officials, but can't figure out what happened to his mailed form.

"If you've been on the list that long, it's a major issue," he said. "I don't want to start over again."

Soucy said situations like his could have been avoided if the renewal process had continued using duplicate forms. Two years ago, wait-listed boaters returned a carbon copy renewal form to the harbormaster's office. The office staff mailed back one of the copies to let boaters know their places on the wait list were preserved.

Caulkett said duplicate forms were eliminated two years ago when his office purchased new computers. The cost of the double mailings and the work involved was expensive for the department, he said. Wait list attrition didn't exceed normal levels during the first year with the new forms, he said.

Boaters should receive some acknowledgement that the paperwork was received, Soucy said. He also would like to see the city institute a process for boaters dropped from the wait list to appeal that decision. He made an appointment to discuss his situation with the city Waterways Board at its Wednesday meeting at 7 p.m. in the Fitz Hugh Lane House conference room.

The major difference in this year's renewal process was the staff did not follow up with individual boaters who did not return their forms, Caulkett said. Instead, the letter contained a clear warning that boaters who did not return the form could be dropped from the wait list, he said.

"It's not up to us to chase after them," he said.

Many boaters go to extra lengths to check that their forms have arrived, Caulkett said. Some boaters use certified mail to mail their forms. Others call the harbormaster's office or stop in to check on their paperwork, he said.

Neighboring communities including Manchester and Marblehead also use stringent rules to govern the renewal process due to the fierce competition for moorings.

In Manchester, boaters must fill out a form in person at the harbormaster's office or police station annually to retain their positions on the waiting list, said Police Chief Ronald Ramos, who also is the town's harbormaster. If someone fails to fill out the form during a calendar year, they are dropped from the list without any further notification.

Marblehead boaters must pay an annual $10 fee and return a form within one month to keep their names on the waiting list. Those who fail to make the deadline are removed from the wait list.


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