Dinghy dock space drawing complaints

Sat, 07/29/2017 - 9:30am

The reduction in available space at the dinghy dock at the Boat Basin has created a sticky situation in New Harbor. “We’re getting letters that the dinghy dock is jamming up our summer,” said Harbormaster Steve Land at the Harbors Committee meeting on Thursday, July 20.

People are also complaining at the Harbors office, where staff have been encouraging people to write letters to the Town Council as well as The Block Island Times, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Tourism Council. One staff member said that the some of the older boaters were having a particularly hard time as the half of the dinghy dock that remains open is at the shallower end and there is no water at low tide. “Boaters are a bit shocked,” she said. “People say ‘why can’t Block Island get it together?’”

One suggestion was to put the dinghy dock on floats so that even at low tide there would be water floating the dock so that people would not damage their dinghy’s outboard motors. 

Harbors Committee Chair Denny Heinz said: “If I were a marina, I’d put in a dinghy dock and bring them in.” He thought it would be a great way for businesses to attract boaters to their restaurants and other facilities. 

The Committee is particularly frustrated because they have been pursuing putting a Harbors Facility at Ball O’Brien Park for the past couple of years, and the Town Council did not fund a study for the facility in its budget for the current fiscal year that started July 1.

Member Gary Pollard said he’d like to see at least the creation of a road and parking at Ball O’Brien so that boaters could utilize the outhaul moorings the Committee wishes to put along the shore there. 

The Land Trust, which has jurisdiction over what goes on at the park, has already approved the project “in concept.” Pollard said he would like to have a boat put on an outhaul there as an “experiment” to see how the boat would weather a nor’easter. “The big question is liability.”

“As the Harbormaster said: ‘you have to be weather sensitive,’” said Committee member Carl Kaufmann.

Land said that he had already tested the outhaul mooring last year with one of his department’s boats, and that “it worked awesome.” As for a nor’easter, he “had a boat out there during Hermine — that was a three day nor’easter.”

“Maybe we don’t need the experiment,” acknowledged Pollard. 

Kaufman suggested proposing five to 10 outhaul moorings to the Town Council. “If there are only five, I don’t think there’s a parking issue,” he said.

Land thought the outhauls would be better placed between the Boat Basin and the Narragansett Inn.

“You do have public parking there,” said Kaufman.

Other than the dinghy dock situation, Land said, “Things are going awesome.” He said there were about the same number of people as last year even though the weather was “not as steady.” 

One change he has observed is that there are fewer, but larger boats. “They’re not 30-foot sailboats anymore,” he said, adding that there are many 65-foot boats. This has become a problem as those boats are too large for the moorings, and so the boats are instead setting anchors.

“Yesterday I rescued five boats,” Land said. Four were dragging their anchors, and one had a mechanical problem. “That’s my average day in the afternoon.”

Another change that Land is seeing is the use of Old Harbor by boats conducting tours of the Block Island Wind Farm. It’s an activity he said that he would like to accommodate and encourage. 

Heinz said there were four to five boats doing tours and noted that even the Block Island Ferry was offering tours.

“Some [boats] are from the mainland and some are fishing boats switching to tours,” said Land. The tours also attract a different clientele. “These aren’t crusty fishermen,” said Land. “These are people who don’t want to get wet.”

As far as shellfishing activities in the Great Salt Pond, Land reported that his “wardens are out and writing tickets.” He also reported that clam seed for the upweller would be coming the next week — later than the expected late June date, mainly due to water temperature. The department had planned on seeding the upweller with 250,000 baby clams, but can only get 150,000 from the supplier. The clams will take about two years to reach harvestable size.

There will be a Town Council work session on Wednesday, Aug. 2, with Land, to discuss the ordinances suggested by the Coastal Resources Management Council that need to be passed as part of the overall Harbors Management Plan. The meeting is open to the public, and Land said that anyone with proposed changes should attend. 

Land said the work session was part of the process and that “it will go back and forth” between the Town Council and the CRMC until complete.