This is a story about cognitive retention for cruisers, and possibly, a bit of a warning.
We’ll begin with a scenario. You’ve been on the water for, say, six hours, and you’ve arrived at your destination, a small port town with an anchorage area and a town wharf. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon. The anchorage is sparsely populated, and the moored boats give a visiting vessel plenty of room from which to choose a secure anchoring spot. You drop the hook, ensure that it’s secure, and begin to think about dinner. You and your crew agree that a dinner ashore might be nice. Nothing fancy, mind you, but a draft beer and some fish and chips would be mighty nice.
So you lower the inflatable dinghy and take her to the town wharf. There’s no other option, really: There’s no beach to speak of, the town is built right to the water’s edge, and the only other dock in sight is not connected to the town and clearly private. Off you go.
There’s always an odd spot to tie one’s dinghy, even if it’s on a cleat that carries someone else’s painter or dock line, but in this case, you actually find an empty cleat on the single dock, in between some larger vessels, and tie up there, ensuring that your dinghy and its outboard won’t be thrown against its new neighbors.
Alright, it’s 5:30PM now, and the crew is hungry and thirsty. Let’s get into town and find “the local” before thirst drives a mutiny. Up the ramp you go. It’s a bit of a walk into town, so turn left at the head of the ramp, and move smartly down the wharf towards the shore.
You saw the sign, right?
Well, you saw a lot of them. The bright yellow “not responsible for storm damage to boats” one stood out from the espresso sign, you remember that. The wind’s scheduled to pick up later, but we’ll be taking the dinghy back to the boat, so no worries. Let’s get dinner. Off you go.
OK we’re back. Lovely meal, nice tavern, good food, cheery wait staff, discreet television presence. Not crowded, so one was able to have a meal in the decent interval of an hour.
What’s this? Someone’s left a note on the dinghy. Did it do some damage after all? No, wait- it’s a bill for $5, scrawled onto a moorage fee envelope, which is in turn stuck to your dinghy with some cello tape. You’re a bit confused. You’ve just spent close to $60 in the local, tipped the serving staff well…. one has done one’s duty as a cruiser coming to town, why is one being billed for the privilege?
Just as you and your crew begin to discuss what one should or could do under such circumstances, a woman comes striding down the dock, and verbally demands the payment. Turns out she’s the Dockmaster, and there to enforce the town rules. It’s then that you remember the other sign:
Courtesy for boaters dining or shopping in Coupeville temporary (max 3 hrs) moorage after 5PM $5 regardless of boat length.
Dockmaster declares that this applies to one’s dinghy. If one has a problem with that, one should take it up with the Port of Coupeville directly. (One has. With stunning silence serving as reply.) In the meantime, you owe $5, and the hand of authority is outstretched, palm up. Skipper has a fin in his pocket and hands it over. Dockmaster decamps.
Now, it’s certainly courteous to allow a 30-foot or larger vessel to tie up temporarily at their own risk for as much as three hours. That’s less than a penny per hour per foot.
But that is the first time that any town, anywhere in the greater Puget Sound, has charged this skipper for the privilege of leaving his dinghy in a spare space on a designated public wharf in order to spend money in said town.
I really enjoy Toby’s Tavern. It’s a shame that it’s located in Coupeville. Or a shame that we didn’t stop there for lunch.