SOS to boaters

I almost missed the deadline on this article. I was busy agonizing over a two-page letter to my congressman. I’ve never written him in the past, but now I’ve done it twice in a few weeks. Why? I’ve got a permit problem with Federal opposition at my little backyard yacht club (I live in the front yard).

The dock permit problem has been rumbling along for a little over two years without resolution. We had a public hearing recently, and I assumed most of our club members would show up to push for progress. It didn’t happen. They depended on me, the industry “pro.” Three of five attendees from our side were willing to speak out, and the tree huggers and other detractors turned out in sufficient force to steal the show. Many of them spent the day protesting permits indiscriminately, not knowing or caring who the permit seekers were, or even exactly what they sought.

I have silver hair, but not a silver tongue. Even with a couple of helpers, I did not carry the day. My wife described the confused event as “The Mad Hatters’ Tea Party.” Everything got so ridiculous that the chair tabled us for a month, which has been extended indefinitely.

My point, lest you think I am only whining for sympathy, is that you and I can’t do it alone. We have got to get the far more numerous and powerful boating community involved. Even though our approach to them when they buy a boat is, “We’ll take the hassle out of boating,” we can’t do it on this issue.

Permitting is a far harder problem to solve than even a blown powerhead - far more expensive too. The politicians want to help. The good ones believe in the rights of private property, private enterprise, and the “can do” nature of the entrepreneur. Many of them have boats and love them. They also have to listen to their voters. The radical environmental lobby has the manpower and money to make a lot more noise than professionals of the marine trades, whose attention is pretty divided just making a living. We need numbers. NMMA is offering marine organizations (or anybody that wants them, I suppose) static cling window signs that say, “I BOAT / I VOTE/.” This is an excellent idea, and I hope it is just the first of many.

I recently purchased 500 “clings” for my customers, and they are almost gone. Reminded that they are being discriminated against, boaters won’t stand for it. My MTA just ordered 2,000. Strangely, I was more effective in scaring them than swaying the “Tea Party.” Cost is about 35 cents each. I’m sure NMMA will allow us to reproduce the slogan any way we like. It isn’t a profit center - it’s a boater warning campaign. For info, contact Chris Keil -

Heed it, get some signs, talk to your customers, get them interested in spreading the word. Many areas (like Florida) have already reached critical levels of the boating access problem. Let's mobilize that creativity that we use so well at boat shows and in the showroom. It’s an integral part of Growing Boating.

One of the quick draw reactions is to try to get governmental bodies to set aside some choice waterfront areas for marinas only, excluding condo builders, etc. This may work, but it sort of sticks in my craw. I believe strongly that the guy who laid cash on the line for waterfront land deserves to chose its destiny (as long as the choice doesn’t create harm to the rest of the public). There are a lot of folks that would like to create or expand marinas. Many of them are small time (like me). Together, they can put a lot of boats in the water. Without them, and a permitting climate that doesn’t require the stamina of a marathoner or the wealth of Croesus, we won’t be selling boats before long. Boats look good in the driveway, if they aren’t too large, but that will last only as long as they can go back home to the water on a regular basis.

That said, I’m all for converting abandoned naval or other military bases, waterfront brownfields, etc., to public or private marinas. This will take help from our lawmakers, but it also takes good advantage of what could be a problem property - and, as with any marina, it means jobs.

Marina permitting is atrocious all over the nation. One of the first things the Water Access Task Force part of the Grow Boating initiative discovered, is that the nature of the atrocity varies from place to place. They are trying diligently to figure out what is going on where, so they can attempt to begin the fixing process. We can’t depend entirely on them, either. We need to rally every last boater. Then, access will win out - I’ll guarantee it!

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