Reading the Signs

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 thIMG_0015e 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.

Before 5PM.


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8 Responses to Reading the Signs

  1. John says:

    Thank you for the heads up. Nickel and dime’ing not a good idea.

  2. DT Charlie says:

    Marina facilities are expensive to develop and to maintain. Any money you spend at an establishment doesn’t go to maintain the dock. So its irrelevant how much you spend in town, the marina facility is its own business. And has it’s own bottom line to manage to stay viable (else it gets closed down, then what?). You think the tavern sends a percentage of their revenue to the marina?

    C’mon – its $5 for you to use it. It’s about the price of a Starbucks fancy coffee. I’m sure somewhere/somehow you have your own vice where spending $5 is spent readily. Stop being cheap, appreciate the privilege to use the docks and know that you’ve left a little behind to ensure it’ll be there the next time you come back.

  3. DT Charlie says:

    forgot to add….it’s not nickle and dime’ing when you’ve PAID NOTHING to start with. If you were a guest moorage tenant and they nicked you for every little thing (filling your water tank, pumpout, etc), then you’d have some basis to complain. But to expect something for nothing is being a… (I chose “sailboater”)

  4. Mike says:

    You spent how much on your boat, maintenance, and fuel this year? It cost you how much fuel just to get to Coupeville? Yet you complain about $5 because you feel somehow entitled to park for free? And you feel that entitlement because you donated a few pennies to their taxes?

    The dockmaster probably didn’t even have the authority to make an exception for you, yet you went out of your way to make her day a little bit worse. I’m astounded you admit to this behavior in public.

    I also no longer visit Coupeville, but it’s because I find the town uninteresting. Every town dock has slightly different policies and rules. Read those signs – they’re all different. Honor them. Complain about them if you must, but don’t feel entitled to special treatment.

  5. thom says:

    The wind is free as should everything be?

  6. HELEN T says:

    There has been a trend over the past years of public marinas charging for short stay moorage. Shilshole Bay, Langley, Coupeville to name a few. The trend seemed to increase after Bell Harbor opened with it’s $15 for 3 hour rate.

    HELEN T has greatly reduced her frequency of visits to locations that charge for short stay moorage. Reduced from several visits a year to a visit every few years. We’ll cruise on by or just stay on the hook. Saving our shore fun money for the overnight moorage communities.

    Public Marinas are public funded facilities built to encourage tourism and increase revenue for the local businesses. If the controlling government body provides free car parking for visitors then there should be free short stay moorage . . . it’s good business and fair to all visitors. The ‘port’ might benefit from the fees but the business community does not as boaters avoid the stop.

  7. jon says:

    Dt Charlie – et al: There’s no marina there – it’s a dock that’s been there for probably well over a century. Obviously Coupeville is not really interested in cultivating boating customers. Poulsbo has a free dinghy dock that is heavily used by anchor-outs who come ashore to spend money.

  8. Linda says:

    Some of you are missing the point… is not the cost but the poor communication…. the poor signage that made it confusing resulting in an awkward situation. This story was meant to let others know and thus not have the same bad experience of being confronted by an irate employee of Coupeville when returning after a great time on shore. Just trying to help get accurate/complete info out there. Sorry to have brought out so much judgment of motive and ill will. Disappointing.

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