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Where are all the boats?

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Vol. III, No. 23

A submurged mooring in Westport. Photo by John Kantor.

An abandoned mooring in Westport. Photo by John Kantor.

 

A recent informal boat count in the mooring field in Westport revealed that 80% of the moorings were unoccupied. Memorial Day is long gone. The summer solstice is behind us. Independence Day is just around the corner. So where are all the boats?

Such a low occupancy rate is highly unusual for the popular mooring field off Longshore Club Park, known locally as “The Hole”.  Normally, by this time of year, even the most persistent procrastinators have launched their vessels.

It is difficult to survey people who have gone AWOL.  So we can only guess about what is going on. There is an assortment of theories and conjectures.

Some attribute the low attendance to Storm Sandy (weather media people have discontinued calling it a hurricane). Whatever you call the history-making event, most boats had been hauled for the season by the time it made landfall in late October, 2012. You would think that boats would be safe on shore in cradles, stands, and on trailers. Not necessarily so. Many boats were damaged on shore by strong winds, flooding and fallen trees.  We know of a trailered 30-foot sloop broken in half by a fallen tree.

Some say that insurance companies have been slow to pay claims on damaged vessels. Others say that some vessels were completely uninsured, and the owners chose not to repair or replace them. Another

A yellow tag on a mooring is a request for the owner to contact the harbormaster. Photo by John Kantor.

A yellow tag on a mooring is a request for the owner to contact the Harbormaster. Photo by John Kantor.

theory is that, though technically there is no longer a recession, there is a lingering economic slump. Discretionary recreational spending is not what it used to be. Some people haven’t launched their boats for several seasons due to the high cost of maintenance, insurance, not to mention the oppressive cost of highly taxed marine fuel these days.

Quite a few of the unoccupied moorings appear to be simply abandoned.  This is not unusual. It has been reported in this blog before.  When boat owners move away from the area, all too many indifferently abandon their moorings without a word. Astonishingly, there is no legal penalty for abandoning a mooring. A mooring owner actually has a financial disincentive to have it hauled.  It costs hundreds of dollars to remove an embedded mushroom anchor and chain weighing up to half a ton. Even if the ground tackle were hauled, it then would become a heavy rusty storage/disposal problem. Used moorings are hard to sell too.  It is no wonder moorings are abandoned.

The Harbormaster, an uncompensated agent of the State, has no funding to remove abandoned moorings.  So there they sit, empty and unused. Eventually mooring balls slump just below the water’s surface from the weight of accumulated marine growth and then they become navigational hazards.  Moreover, their location cannot be recycled for use by another active boater until the chain finally rusts away and the mooring ball is set free to drift off somewhere.  Derelict mushroom anchors remain as litter on the sea floor. There are plenty out there for an enterprising individual interested in salvage.  The Harbormaster would love to hear from you.

-JK

Categories: WaterViews

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