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Changes to daysailer license in the wind

By Susan Mustapich | Nov 22, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Town officials are hoping to update and streamline licenses for commercial passenger boats in Camden Harbor.

CAMDEN — The newly reconstituted harbor committee made recommendations on updating the town's daysailer license, sparking discussions about a tangled web of rules and arrangements between the town and the commercial passenger boats.

Harbor Committee chairman Mark Siegenthaler introduced the recommendations to the Select Board Nov. 19.

The proposed license applies to commercial daysail and windjammer vessels that use town-owned piers and floats in Camden Harbor. Camden is home to a large fleet of historic sailing vessels, which operate commercial passenger cruises.

The Harbor Committee is seeking to create a single license that applies to both types of boats, with specific rules for each type, as well as other requirements spelled out in various addenda to the license.

The committee's most significant recommendations are to increase the term of the daysailer license to three-years, from the current one-year term, and to sync license renewal periods, so all boats renew at the same time.

In a previous Select Board discussion on this topic, it was explained that the longer term will help daysailer businesses with multi-year planning. Windjammer license terms are already three-years.

Another recommendation is to require that the boats carry a minimum of $500,000 in insurance coverage. This is already the minimum for daysail boats, but would reduce the current $1 million dollar minimum for windjammers. Numerous board members questioned whether $500,000 is the right amount.

Harbor Committee member Elliot Thompson stated that the town of Rockport requires the Heron, which sails from Rockport Harbor, to carry $1 million in insurance.

Daysailer owner Aaron Lincoln explained that the insurance policy for carrying six passengers or fewer is very different than a policy for carrying six or more passengers. He said a smaller boat would have difficulty affording a $1 million policy.

Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell said she will seek the opinion of the town's insurance broker on appropriate insurance coverage minimums.

Daysailer owner Ramiro De Acevedo Ramos pointed out that commercial charter boats are using the town-owned Steamboat Landing to load and unload passengers, and asked officials if they have thought about requiring insurance for those boats. He hopes the town will require insurance for these boats, as this is town property, he said.

Caler-Bell clarified that Steamboat landing is intended for public recreational use, and not commercial use.

The Harbor Committee looked at three options for the annual license fee: keep fee as it is, increase fees and an a-la-carte fee structure. Siegenthaler said the a-la-carte option is complicated and the committee has backed away from recommending it.

Discussion turned to regulation of quirky practices that have developed over the years to manage the daysail and windjammer businesses.

One practice is the selling of tickets from tables set up on the town pier. Each daysail owner has a table with employees who sit either on the town benches or on their own chairs, and access electricity and phone lines at the pier for credit sales.

The perception that the daysail businesses crowd the available benches or inadvertently block public use of the benches is a perennial topic for Select Boards through the years. Recently daysail businesses were told they could not use the benches and have brought their own chairs, according to daysail owner Jeff Beck.

Lincoln described the proliferation of ticket sale tables as a progression of the windjammer business in Camden Harbor, which started with one boat owner, Captain Frank Swift and one table. Lincoln donates to the town to maintain a bench on the landing, that was used by the “wharf rats,” the group who over the years sold tickets for Captain Swift's three windjammers, the first to take passengers on cruises from Camden Harbor.

Select Board member Alison McKellar stated that regardless of donations to maintain benches, the daysail owners are not entitled to use any particular bench.

Board member Marc Ratner sees the daysail boat tables on the pier as a convenience to visitors who can stroll around Camden Harbor and book a cruise onsite.

Lincoln explained that any attempt to rearrange the boat owner's tables would be stymied because the businesses have uniquely dedicated phone lines, run from the utility pole on the public landing.

Another much-discussed and contentious topic – use of daysail and windjammer parking spaces on the public landing – was raised. Board members agree the issue of employees of all downtown businesses occupying limited parking in downtown Camden, intended for visitors and shoppers, goes beyond the commercial boats in Camden Harbor.

The challenges of running a commercial business at the harbor, especially for a family, were described by Dominic Gioia, who talked about he and his wife carrying babies on their backs and changing diapers in their car.

Beck mentioned he does not have a parking space or a place to stow gear at the public landing, so setting up to sell tickets for his daysailer boat requires dropping off his table and materials, driving to a public parking lot and walking back to the harbor. He then does the reverse trip at the end of the day.

This brought up another quirky arrangement regarding equipment storage. One windjammer business has a portable storage trailer located in a parking space, and two daysail boats have 'lockers' attached to the Harbor Master's building. Select Board members were not aware these storage arrangements existed.


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Comments (1)
Posted by: Margaret Jones | Nov 22, 2019 13:31

Sorry to be picky, but I'd hate to have history take a tun in the wrong direction. Regarding ticket tables on the Public Landing:. Not relying on my own memory, I checked my facts.  Captain Swift never had a ticket table on the Landing.  The office for his windjammers was on Bayview Street. Originally he ran from the lumber yard and then from his own wharf which is now Bay View Landing.  At the height of his business he also had vessels on the public landing, but there  never was a table. In the mid 1950's when his fleet downsized to the Mattie, Mercantile & Mabel, they again only ran from his wharf. At that time the only other windjammers operating from Camden were the Taber and the Wentworth.  Both ran from the Wayfarer side of the Harbor.  My first memory of  ticket tables is from the 50's.  Those were the Betselma run by Capt. Wooster and the Richard T run by Capt. George Roundy.  Both were power boats that ran scenic tours along the coast.


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