Sunday, February 12, 2012

It’s Not the Gathering That’s the Problem…

Originally posted in the Annapolis Capital: February 7, 10:43 am | (permalink) | (2 comments)

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[photo: Boats anchored in Annapolis harbor to watch the Blue Angels air show in 2009.]

…it’s what they do when gathered. SB 127, regulating raftups – or actually any gathering of 50 or more boats, whether tied together in a raft or not – has run into problems as it should have. The article in the Capital after the hearing last week highlighted two valid objections legislators had. The first is the obvious: it’s not about the gathering per se, it’s about the inappropriate behavior when gathered. Yes, excess drinking in a large crowd begets stupidity and bad behavior (noise, littering, fighting, trespass, who knows what else) that reflects badly on all boaters. DNR has a crappy job to do here when this happens, and deserves our support. But. We have tools/laws to address these things already, as has been pointed out in the article and my previous blog post on this topic. Too many boats in too small an area, congestion and safety issues, ditto – rules about blocking navigation channels already exist. “Common sense” here seems anything but common.

The other problem with the bill as currently written was also described in the article and blog post. Well, if the “official” organizer of an event is on the hook for permits and insurance, then just get together “unofficially” via social media and word of mouth. But something that came out in the hearing went beyond that and really scared me. Annapolis sailor Dave Skolnick testified against the bill at the hearing. He reported that “When asked about spontaneous gatherings of boats (they don't have to be rafted up, just ‘gathered’) the response of DNRP was ‘we would respectfully break them up.’" Really? Break them up and make them move? Just for being there? Not being rowdy, noisy, trespassing, drunk, lewd, or littering, not obstructing navigation, not doing anything except being anchored there? I really doubt that that was the original intent, but am I the only one who’s finding this scaaaar-y? Yikes!

Dave, who is also on the Board of Directors for the Seven Seas Cruising Association, went on to say, “There is no question that the drunkfests are a problem. As currently worded, the SSCA Annapolis GAM, the Island Packet Rendezvous, the trawler rendezvous, the Annapolis 4th of July fireworks, pretty much every weekend in summer at Solomons, Worton Creek, Dobbins, St Michaels, and a myriad of other places around Chesapeake Bay [would also be affected by this bill].” By the way, if you haven’t heard of them, SSCA is not exactly the kind of organization that you would associate with over-the-top raftup revelry. They are an organization supporting the liveaboard cruising lifestyle. One of their strongest traditions, that all members pledge to uphold, is to leave a “clean wake;” that is, “to show respect for others and for our environment so that those who follow in our wake will be warmly welcomed.” (I’m quoting from their website here. They’re a good group that we’re also members of.)

Dave volunteered to help with rewording the bill so that SSCA can stand in support, and has been working with Boat/US on this issue. If you would like to stay informed, you can write to Dave at

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