Dinghy dock for mooring owners discussed

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 5:45pm

As is fitting for the season, the Harbors Committee has put another item on its wish list — another dinghy dock. The new dinghy dock constructed last year under a private/public partnership between the town and the Wronowski family has been by all reports a resounding success, but it only serves transient (visiting) boaters, as dinghies are not supposed to be left at the dock overnight. 

Harbormaster Steve Land told the members of the committee that he’s gotten a lot of calls from private mooring owners looking for a place to store their dinghies. He said he’s seen dinghy docks specifically dedicated for resident boaters in other places. “I didn’t invent this,” said Land. “If I was on the Harbors Committee, that would be my next project.”

At its last meeting the committee decided to divide up its plans for a boating facility into at least two phases; the first one, which was rebranded a “Community Boating Center,” would be pursued first. Both members Arlene Tunney and Gary Pollard thought such a dinghy dock would be a good added “component” for the project.

Unlike the dinghy dock for transient boaters, one for residents would need to have parking. Member Erik Elwell estimated 20 spaces would be needed. 

Land said he thought people would be willing to pay $200 per year to use the dock. “I would do it next week if I could keep my dinghy there.”

Nobody disagreed — dinghies can be both clumsy and heavy to drag from home to the shore. Some thought people might be willing to pay even more. 

“If people had a place for their dinghies, they might use their boats more,” said Elwell, adding that the program could pay for itself within a few years. 

Not all moorings are alike, and during the public comment portion of the meeting, visitor Dick Holliday was there to make sure his moorings were, in his word, “protected” under the language of the new Harbor Management Plan, which is still being tweaked. 

Holliday isn’t the owner of the moorings. He was there as the Commodore of the Cruising Club of America (Essex, Conn., station). The CCA owns two moorings, which they maintain themselves, which, Holliday said, “puts us in a special category.” They are among the 23 or so “yacht club moorings” in the Great Salt Pond.  

Land told him that the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council, which reviews and suggests changes to the Harbor Management Plan, “does not use the term ‘yacht club mooring.’” He said the yacht club moorings are heavily used. “We are absolutely not losing those moorings.” 

The Cruising Club of America has about 1200 sailing members, worldwide, who, according to its website, “have voyaged the oceans for adventure and recreation.” They are the organizers of the biennial Newport-Bermuda Race.

“I know a lot of the members,” said Land. 

Holliday said the Club obtained the moorings in exchange for conservation land on Block Island.

The club’s website goes into more detail on the transaction. In 1959, Cruising Club of America charter member and Commodore George P.P. Bonnell bequeathed his land on the shores of the Great Salt Pond to the Club.  The Club, some time later, sold the land to the Block Island Conservancy.  Not only did the Club get the two moorings, they used proceeds from the sale to form a 501(c)3 charity called The Bonnell Cove Foundation in 1989. The not-for-profit makes grants to “other charitable organizations with a particular emphasis in the areas of safety at sea and environmental protection.”

Locally, the land is referred by many simply as Bonnell Beach. But, a few years ago, when the New Shoreham Shoreline Access Group visited the area as part of its round-the-island survey of shoreline access points, member Chris Blane told the group that George would have insisted on the full name of George P.P. Bonnell Beach.