Program Could Provide Moorings To Boaters On Falmouths Waiting List

Harbors in Falmouth have long waiting lists for moorings. Some applicants for Eel Pond in Woods Hole have been waiting since 1991, for Wild Harbor since 1989.

On Monday selectmen will consider a plan that would help these wait-listed boaters. Harbor master Gregg P. Fraser will ask the board to approve a pilot program in West Falmouth Harbor that would allow unused moorings to be used seasonally by boat owners on the harbor’s wait list.

If the pilot program is approved, it will go into effect at West Falmouth Harbor in the summer of 2014. If the program works well, it may be expanded to all harbors in town.

“This is something that has been suggested for years,” said Mr. Fraser. “If we come up with 25 volunteers from West Falmouth, and if the whole process is successful, we can move it on to a townwide program.”

The problem in the past, he said, is that there has not been enough administrative support. He said that the program will require a fair amount of clerical and administrative work, and he would like to assign one person to administer the program. This person would also perform physical inspection of moorings to insure compliance with the regulations.

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Volunteers, Mr. Fraser said, would help with the success of the program.

Hundreds of people now are on waiting lists across Falmouth, but the pilot program could help both wait-listed boaters and mooring permit holders, he said. In West Falmouth Harbor alone, estimates are that up to 70 moorings are vacant for much of the season. All harbors across Falmouth have vacant moorings, Mr. Fraser said.

Permit holders are encouraged to use their mooring at least a portion of the season. They must pay an annual fee to retain it and every mooring has to have a boat assigned to it. Mooring owners are allowed a one-year grace period to assign a new boat to the mooring. Some boaters who have moorings use town slips and leave their moorings unoccupied, said waterways committee chairman J. Michael Kinney.

The pilot program would allow the holder of a vacant mooring to hand it over to another boater for a season. The permit holder would retain ownership of the mooring.

Boaters “renting” the mooring would not lose their place on the wait list. Those at the top of the wait list would be contacted first for a temporarily vacated mooring.

If approved, the Marine and Environmental Services offices would mail current permit holders in West Falmouth Harbor who are known to use their moorings infrequently in order to solicit volunteers for the program.

The issue of liability has also held up the program in the past, said Mr. Fraser. The pilot program will make waiting list applicants responsible should they take vacant moorings. The wait list applicant would have to sign a waiver absolving the owner of the mooring tackle from liability. A tackle connects the chain attached on the sea floor to the physical mooring buoy. Since wind blows the boat attached to the mooring in different directions, the tackle can be worn down. A routine inspection makes sure the tackle is still durable.

Wait list applicants would be required to have the mooring regularly inspected by the program administrator as well as pay the town mooring fee, which is currently $85. 

Volunteer permit holders would be required to have their tackle inspected or provide proof it had been inspected within the last two years before temporarily donating their mooring.

Wait list applicants would be assigned to moorings of similar type vessels, meaning a power boat would be matched to a mooring with an assigned power boat, and sail with sail. Same size boats or smaller would be assigned to each mooring.

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