August 11, 2020

Harbor Commission adopts “use it or lose it” rule for private moorings in Essex harbor

Mooring tackle out of the water at the Pettipaug Yacht Club

It’s a new day for the holders of private moorings in Essex Harbor. The town’s Harbor Management Commission has just adopted a new rule that if a boater does not properly use an assigned private mooring during the boating season, the boater’s mooring spot will not be renewed for the following season.   

The Commission’s action was in response to an informal survey taken in Essex Harbor last summer. The survey found that as many as one third of the private moorings assigned to boaters in the Essex Meadows mooring field were not being used as they should be. Some had moorings in the water but no boats were using them. Others, even more egregiously, were totally empty, with neither boat nor mooring at the assigned mooring location.

To remedy this situation the Harbor Management Commission at its October 28 meeting adopted a number of new mooring policies for private mooring holders. Among the most important is that if a boater who has been granted a private mooring permit fails to install the required mooring tackle in the water during the boating season that boater “may at the discretion of Harbor Master be determined ineligible and disqualified for renewal of that Mooring Permit for the following year.”  

Furthermore, if the “ineligible and disqualified” person wants to apply for a new mooring permit in the future “that person shall be placed at the bottom of any wait list for any area of Essex Harbor … ”

Also new “use” requirements have been put in place by the Commission. They state, “Private Moorings are intended for the regular personal use of the Mooring Permit holder.” They also provide that “it is required that the mooring shall be occupied by the watercraft for which the permit was issued on a regular basis during the boating season.” 

 The highlighted language could be interpreted to mean that if a mooring permit holder does not engage in “regular personal use” of an assigned mooring, or if the   mooring is not used “on a regular basis during the mooring season,” these could be grounds for making the holder of the mooring “ineligible and disqualified for renewal of the Mooring Permit the following year.”

Most of the vessels in Essex are now out of the water. A few remain.

However, before imposing the loss of a mooring on these grounds, a finding should be made as to what does, or does not, constitute “regular personal use,“ or, “ a regular basis during the mooring season. “ This determination, presumably, would be made by the Harbor Master.

Another new policy enacted by the Commission is that private mooring permits are “for the personal and recreational use of the Mooring Permit holder.” This would infer that commercial use of private mooring permits is prohibited.

Another new policy of the Commission dictates, “All ground tackle must be inspected every 2 years by the Essex Harbor Master or his designee.” Also, “All vessels must be registered or certified by the State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles.”

In addition, “Proof of financial responsibility (liability insurance – Certificate of Insurance) shall be required for all watercraft (boat, barge, float, etc.) for which an Application for the Mooring Permit is made.”

Yet another new policy requires, “Pursuant to U.S. Coast Guard requirements all mooring balls (floats) shall be of white color with a blue horizontal stripe around the middle circumference of same. The Mooring ball (float) shall have the Mooring Permit Holder’s Permit Number and Permit Holder’s initials with anchor weight marked on it.”

Also, all private mooring applicants should submit with their applications “evidence of a suitable means of access to a mooring.” This access requirement, presumably, would be satisfied, either by use of boats of private yacht clubs, or by use of private boats from public boat launches. 

In a new wrinkle the new policies require that each year, before the beginning of the boating season, the ten individuals at the top of the mooring permit waiting list will be advised in writing of the “possibility of available mooring space becoming available in the Mooring Area previously requested…”  These persons are also advised to get ready for a new mooring assignment by assembling all required documents.  

The full text the Essex Harbor Management Commission’s new “Private Mooring Permit Policies” can be found on the home page of the Essex town website at .  Hard copies of the new policies can also be obtained at the Essex Town Hall in the First Selectman’s office.

Jerome Wilson conducted the survey mentioned of unused moorings in Meadows Mooring field with the assistance of the Pettipaug Yacht Club. Wilson also testified before the Essex Harbor Management Commission urging the adoption of a “use it or lose it” policy in regulating private moorings in Essex Harbor. 

 Further background on private moorings in Essex Harbor

There are 112 persons holding private moorings in Essex Harbor, and 46 persons on the wait list for an assignment of a private mooring in the harbor. 

The cost of a private mooring in Essex Harbor is $50 payable to the town annually, as well as a onetime cost of $300 to $400 dollars to purchase mooring tackle, including anchor, chain, float and pennant. There could also be incidental charges for putting the mooring in and out of the water and for mooring maintenance.
By contrast the rental of a mooring owned by a commercial marina can cost over $3,000 for a single boating season. These costs included maintaining the mooring and taking it in and out of the water.

The cost difference between the two alternatives explains why many boaters are eager to be assigned private moorings in Essex Harbor. Incidentally, a person does not have to be a resident of Essex to be eligible to be assigned a private mooring in Essex Harbor.