Rockport Harbormaster
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Harbormaster & Waterfront Committee Reports

Annual Reports for year ending December 31, 2003.


The year 2003 started out with a Northeaster that did damage to all of the harbors in town. Heavy seas and strong winds moved large stones and damaged floats. This storm caused the Flat Ground buoy green #1 to break free and become hung up on the Sandy Bay breakwater. The USCG replaced the buoy and eventually removed the old buoy from the breakwater.

Harbormasters Rosemary Lesch and Scott Story continue to work with the North Shore Harbormaster Association to organize and run MCJ Harbormaster Certification classes during the winter months. The classes are conducted on Tuesday nights at the Salem Police Department and are sponsored by the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council. Each winter 30-40 harbormasters participate in the 60 hours of training to accumulate the needed 351 hours to become a Massachusetts Certified Harbormaster. Lesch and Story are Certified Harbormasters while Assistant Harbormasters Ron Petoff and Story Reed are enrolled in the training - Ron Petoff will complete the 351 hours this year.

T -Wharf and White Wharf were used in the film production of "Stuck on You" along with several of Rockport's commercial fishing vessels. Much of the shooting was done during the cold and snowy winter month of March.

During the spring the Harbormasters participated in numerous seminars and training sessions on homeland security and terrorism: Massachusetts Crime Watch Convention in Worcester, Homeland Security Conference on Preparing & Managing Terrorism of Mass Destruction in Westfield, MA and Homeland Security Training at the Black Falcon Pier in Boston. The Coast Guard and Environmental Police did seminars at the local level at the Environmental Police Headquarters on the State Fish Pier in Gloucester.

The Harbor Department, Sandy Bay Yacht Club and numerous volunteers worked with the Great Eastern Crane Company to launch and connect the Town's and SBYC floats for the summer season.

The early part of the summer was plagued with bad weather and slow boating activity.

In July Story R. Reed was appointed an Assistant Harbormaster after being an active member of the Harbor Department as a patrol boat operator for over 8 years.

By July 4th the season was on a roll with heavy boating traffic and numerous overnight visitors both in Rockport Harbor and anchored out in Sandy Bay.

At the end of July Rockport Harbor was visited by the replica of the 'Elizabeth Tilley' a Howland Shallop from Plymouth, Ma. A reception was held at the Sandy Bay Yacht Club for the crew and members of the reenactment voyage.

The minus tides in late July and early August contributed to a number of boating "May Day" calls. A 41ft Sea Ray and a 25ft Scarab went aground on the outer breakwater. Both vessels sustained hull and lower unit damage which caused them to take on water. The Rockport Harbor patrol assisted the sinking vessels to safety.

In early August the Rockport Patrol responded to a "May Day" man overboard call east of Andrew Pt. The F/V Lady Jane called to report a crew member had been knocked over the side of the 78ft dragger. Upon our arrival the man had been hoisted back onto the vessel but was in need of medical attention. We transported him into Rockport Harbor and the Rockport Ambulance took him to the Addison Gilbert hospital.

Among the visitors to our area was the Marblehead Yacht Club who made reservations for the last weekend in August. The group of 23 boats ranging from 25ft - 40ft power and sail anchored off the beaches and tied up around the Motif #1. The group enjoyed the area and "a get together" on White Wharf.

Our Pump Out boat was active during the summer months thanks to the support of the State of Massachusetts Clean Water Act (and heavy boating traffic). The State continues to fund this program to Massachusetts waterfront communities for a Pump Out boat and or shore side Pump Out facility.

September brought bad weather which created problems on Thacher's and Milk Island. Heavy fog and rolling seas contributed to an overdue vessel stranded off Milk Island for over 6 hours with one person on board while at the same time the launch at Thacher's Island was experiencing difficulties. The Rockport Harbor Department responded with its two patrol boats working on the search and rescue and medical emergency on Thacher's Island.

In mid-October the majority of the Town floats were taken out of the water at Granite Pier (by Great Eastern Crane, the Harbor Department, Sandy Bay Yacht Club & volunteers) and secured for the winter. Alert 1 and the Pump Out boat were taken out of the water and Alert 11 remained in service on a float in the North Basin.

On October 21 the Harbormasters attended continuing education at a Harbormaster Law Seminar in West Harwich, Massachusetts and on October 26 after a long day of training became "Volunteers" for the New England Aquarium to deal with seals, dolphin, stranded sea turtles and whales.

During the month of November the patrol boat responded to numerous distress calls in the Sandy Bay area.

December brought another Northeaster which once again damaged the breakwaters at Pigeon Cove, White Wharf and Rockport Harbors. The outer breakwater sustained severe damage to both the southern and northern ends. The Flat Grounds buoy broke its mooring and made it past the northern arm of the outer breakwater into the back side of Bearskin Neck. This storm prevented the annual arrival by boat of Santa Claus. Mr. Claus chose to arrive at the activities in Dock Square via Forest Fire truck.

On December 22 at 2:30 am we responded to a distress call from a 76ft fishing dragger that had gone aground on Wet Salvages. The vessel was unsure if they were taking on water or had hull damage. Upon our arrival we found the F/V St. Elmo hard aground on the NW end of the Wet Salvages with 3 POB's. After assessing the situation it was decided to stand by for the tide to turn and see if the St. Elmo would float off the rocks. Several hours later the vessel floated free (with the assistance of the Rockport Patrol and USCG 47ft cutter out of Gloucester Station) and continued its voyage into Gloucester.

This report outlines some of the events that were not in the day to day operation of the Rockport Harbor Department in the year 2003. The Harbormasters thank all who have contributed to our busy Department.

The North Shore Harbormaster web page,, is maintained by webmaster Ron Petoff. Click on Rockport for information about the Rockport area or click on any North Shore community.

Assisted the public 105
May Day Calls 6
Search & Rescue 30
Divers in Distress 6
Medical Emergencies 4
Boat Fires 2
Investigated Flare Sightings 2
Investigated Oil Spills 4
Assisted Seal/Shark/Whale 6

Office Hours Thursday Night 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at the Harbormaster Office on T Wharf.

Rockport Harbormasters
Rosemary Lesch and Scott Story
Assistant Harbormasters Ron Petoff & Story Reed



December 2002 through October 2003 - working on Harbor Plan with Harbor Department (HD), Urban Harbors Institute (UHI), and Harbor Planning Committee (HPC).

12/05/2002 - A special meeting was held prior to the HAC meeting, which included the Harbor Planning Committee (HPC). The purpose of the meeting was a vote to reduce the number of HPC members required for a quorum from 8 to 5. The vote was passed.

The remainder of the meeting the HAC discussed items that we feel are necessary to be included in the new town leases, which is our next project.

12/18/2002 - Letter sent to Board of Selectmen (BOS) outlining required funding for FY2003 to fund the Harbor Plan both monies expended and future expenses.

1/16/2003 - Letter sent to BOS requesting BOS review two attachments: 1. Proposed town owned fish shacks and gear storage areas rules and regulations to be added to new lease. 2. Proposed lease agreement as voted at November 2002 meeting.

1/30/2003 - Letter to BOS requesting a safety change be added to "Rockport code of by-laws rev. 1 ". The safety issue to include White Wharf with the other town harbors in Chapter 9. HARBORS & FLOATS page 36 - Section 10. Scuba Diving, Swimming and Snorkeling.

1/23/2003 - A progress report as to where we are regarding the Harbormasters job classification was heard. The town still is not happy with our request to change the Harbormasters job classification from stipend to part time.

The no swimming in the harbor inclusion of White Wharf Harbor passed to make it the same as all of the other harbors. It was decided that it was a safety issue and should be done. The chair sent a letter to the BOS requesting this be added to the rules and regulations.

A list of suggestions for rules to be added to the new town leases was made. The chair was to send a letter to the BOS suggesting the items in this list be considered for inclusion in the drafting of the new town waterfront leases. The need for Summer Moorings was discussed at length. A copy of the overview for the HAC portion of the town web site, written by the chair, was reviewed and accepted.

2/27/2003 - The letters to the BOS regarding the White Wharf safety issue and rules for new town leases respectively were sent on 1/30 and 1/27 2003.

3/12/2003 - The meeting was cancelled at 8:00 PM after only the Harbormaster and chair attended with no quorum, however they discussed the float problem at the Granite Pier.

4/11/2003 - Letter sent to BOS requesting BOS review attachments and schedule for vote at a future meeting. The attachments being: 1- Proposed Town owned Fish Shacks and Gear Storage areas rules and regulations to be added to proposed new lease agreement. 2 - Proposed Lease Agreement.

4/10/2003 - Meeting - Old Business; White Wharf Safety issue is scheduled for approval at BOS 4/15/2003 meeting. Chair has to explain the rules & regulations to be added to new town lease agreement. New Business: Attendance, Summer Moorings, and Harbormasters job classification and insurance.

5/13/2003 - Old Business: Rules and regulations for new town leases was accepted by BOS. Chair met with town counsel, she made a few changes and sent it back for approval. White Wharf safety issue was approved by BOS at their last meeting.

New Business: Vote on draft of summer moorings, Chair sent a request for a transfer of reserve funds for $200.00 to the Finance Committee on 5/8/2003, discussed the future use of the White Wharf Building, need for an additional member of HAC to represent White Wharf Harbor, and enforcement of "Rockport Harbor Department Rules and Regulations" moorings "designated use" was discussed at length.

6/8/2003 - Letter to BOS with enclosure of final version of the Town of Rockport Master Lease for all town owned Fish Shacks, Gear Storage Areas, and Town owned land Fishermen owned Fish Shacks. To be reviewed and accepted at a future BOS meeting.

6/10/2003 - Letter sent to BOS for their information, the new Summer Mooring application and Mooring Area Rules. These documents were developed by the joint efforts of the Harbor Department and Harbor Advisory Committee.

8/21/2003 - Old Business: Harbormasters insurance and job classification, New Business: Skiff float problems mostly Granite Pier discussed and finally any other Harbor related Problems. Those in attendance were the Chair and Harbormaster. An agreement was met that a proposed sign initiated by the chair be accepted and erected adjacent to the Granite Pier float in the Spring of 2004. Similar signs will be made by the Harbor Department and erected in the other Harbors. These signs, if adhered to, will remedy skiff problems at the town floats.

8/28/2003 - Meeting with Town Administrator and chair regarding sign for Granite Pier for float, out come HAC will pay $39.00 for sign Town will make sign.

9/16/2003 - Sign was delivered to chair and will be installed in the Spring.

9/25/2003 - New Business: Readdress certain problem areas in our proposed lease policy as directed by BOS:

1. Commercial Fisherman definition
2. Number of storage shacks allowed per individual.
3. Use of fish shacks, define with specifics.
4. Items stored in shacks and use must be defined in policy.
5. Items stored or worked on must belong to lessee.
6. Applications should by screened by HAC then sent to BOS with a recommendation.
7. No Grandfather clauses.

The committee had a lengthily discussion about possible problems with the proposed lease agreements of the town owned property to commercial fishermen. It was noted that town council had drawn up agreements and BOS had accepted them. The committee decided a letter to the BOS requesting the following be sent:

1. Rescind all new leases granted during the months of August and September of 2003. HAC review these leases for compliance to new lease polices.
2. Request the BOS to delegate to the HAC authority to receive, review and grant all applications for leases of town owned property for water related purposes.
3. That any water related requests and/or disputes by citizens be heard first by the Harbor Department and if not resolved next by the HAC and if not resolved be sent to the BOS with a recommendation.

The BOS at a subsequent meeting gave a positive vote to request # 2 above.

10/15/2003 - Letter to BOS proposal that present policy requirements to new town water related lease be amended to include fire protection of town buildings.

11/13/2003 - New Business: discuss the W. Donovan problem, not qualified to renew shack lease. This took up most of the meeting, however after an equitable solution was found and voted on the chair will compose a letter outlining the conditions of the solution. The committee also voted to request of the BOS an additional member to represent White Wharf. The candidate chosen was Arthur Curry. The use of space heaters in town owned fish shacks was discussed and it was decided that this should be covered by the Fire Department and Building Inspector.

11/14/2003 - Letter to BOS requesting the addition of a full time member of the Harbor Advisory Committee to represent the White Wharf Harbor. The BOS at its next meeting voted to include A. Curry as a full time member of the committee.

12/15/2003 - Letter to the BOS was sent explaining that any water related requests and/or disputes by citizens be heard first by the Harbor Department and if not resolved next by the HAC and if not resolved be sent to the BOS with a recommendation. The letter gave a detailed explanation of how this was handled in the past.

12/16/2003 - The chair attended the BOS meeting and at the request of the BOS explained the contents of the 12/15/2003 letter. The BOS voted favorably to address water related problems as outlined in the 12/15/2003 letter.

C. Nichols, Chairman
Harbor Advisory Committee


The Harbor Planning Committee is an ad hoc single purpose committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen, December 2000, to create a Municipal Harbor Plan. Funding for the project was appropriated at the request of the Harbor Advisory Committee who contracted with Urban Harbors Institute of the University of Massachusetts (Boston) to assist the Harbor Planning Committee (HPC) in research, provide guidance and produce a draft plan of Issues, Goals and Policies incorporating input from the Committee and their own findings.

The members of the HPC were drawn by the Selectmen from nonaffiliated citizens interested in waterfront usage problems, members of Town committees and other local organizations whose jurisdiction or interests were concerned with harbor use and facilities. At the time the Plan was accepted by the Board of Selectmen, (9/30/03), the HPC was composed of the following members: Toby Arsenian, Michael Clay, Sam Coulbourn, Don Johnson, John Krenn, Phyllis Krenn, Rosemary Lesch, Jack Lucas, Alex McKenzie, Cynthia Mallette, Charles Nichols, Steve Ouellette, Jay Reed, Benton Story, Scott Story and Michael Tupper.

The foundation for the planning process was provided by the following vision statement developed by the Committee: Rockport's harbors and waterfront are the defining assets of the community and central to its history, economy, image and quality of life. The harbors are what attracted residents past and present and continue to be a major attraction to visitors who are vital to the Town's economy. The harbors provide a livelihood for fishermen, inspiration for artists and visitors. These qualities underlie the goals of the Rockport Harbor Plan and shape the plan's principal objectives which are to: increase and enhance access to the harbor for commercial and recreational purposes, protect the quality of the harbors' resources and preserve the scenic and historical elements of the harbors and adjacent land, for this and future generations.

The Plan provides a summary of existing conditions including a description of Rockport's physical setting, our natural resources, regulatory conditions and existing uses; it defines the harbor area as extending from Andrews Point to Straitsmouth Light and landward to the first public roadway.

The remainder of the Plan addresses the issues, then the goals and policies. All the goals and policies come from these primary themes:

  • scenic value
  • public access
  • water use
  • natural resource protection
  • use of municipal waterfront facilities
  • harbor administration

The goals endorsed in the Plan:

  • Preserve and protect the scenic qualities of Rockport harbors and coast as viewed from both the land and water.
  • Preserve, increase and enhance access to the Harbor Plan study area for water-dependent commercial and recreational purposes, including public and pedestrian access to and along the waterfront.
  • Identify, protect and recover historic Rights of Way.
  • Protect and maintain existing commercial and recreational water-dependent uses.
  • Protect and improve the quality of land and water resources of Rockport harbors and Sandy Bay.
  • Minimize the impacts of recreational boating and boat-related activities on water quality. Town waters should be clean enough for safe swimming.
  • Ensure that land within the scope of the Harbor Plan is used appropriately for the greatest public good.
  • Improve the condition and function of Town-owned waterfront lands and structures.
  • Assign all mooring and Town slip facilities to vessels of appropriate size, draft, hull configurations and similar means of propulsion.
  • Pursue the goals and policies of the Rockport Harbor Plan.

The Harbor Planning Committee finalized and presented the first phase of the Municipal Harbor Plan to the Board of Selectmen on September 30, 2003; it was unanimously accepted at that time.

There are hard copies and CDs of the complete text of the Plan on loan at both the Town Clerk's Office and the Rockport Public Library. In addition the document can be viewed on the internet through the Rockport Town web site at under the Reports section of the Harbor Planning Committee.

Phyllis Krenn, Chair


This Committee consists of 11 members who have responsibility for the oversight and stewardship of Thacher Island for the Board of Selectmen. It works in tandem with the Thacher Island Association which is the fundraising component for the Island.

2003 was an eventful year. The first priority was to restore electrical power to the Island as the cable had become inoperative in the winter of 2002. A group of volunteers headed by Billy Lee and his use of the Ocean Reporter found, fetched and facilitated the re-splicing of the cable by a professional cable company and power was restored on 2 July 2003. Immediately the keepers took up occupancy for the next four months. Martha and Greg Fox of Rockport were the keepers for July, Darlene and John Fulton of Georgia for August, Kathy and Andy Heinze of Rockport for September, and Alan Tomasca and Ann Hernandez of Illinois for October. The keepers provided oversight, help, support and information to the over 1,000 visitors, campers and apartment renters who used the Island this past year.

Special events on the Island included the Rockport Boy Scouts overnight in July, the Artists Day in August and the Sails and Trails event in September.

Throughout the season volunteer work crews spent each Wednesday working on the Island. A new porch was built on the assistant keeper's house, all windows were refurbished and new storm windows installed, and weekly trail maintenance and upkeep and enhancement continued.

This year the use fees for the apartment on the Island for weekends generated $5,110 to the general fund. It was also used to house the contractors during September and October.

Joe Napolitano, the general contractor who was selected to work on the principal keeper's house, began work with re-roofing and refurbishing the exterior and has 75% of the job completed. Much of this work was funded through the $75,000 grant awarded to Thacher Island by the Community Preservation Committee and has been matched by the Thacher Island Association.

The Island closed for the season on October 25th and will re-open in June of 2004.

Sydney M. Wedmore, MD, Chair


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