FROM THE HELM
Get a Permit to go Boating At first, I thought it was a joke—I even considered doing a Snopes.com search on it to find out if it was one of those fake rumors. But unless this is a major conspiracy to pull one over on me, I am convinced it’s true, hard to believe as it is. Here it is: There is a town in the United States that requires boaters to have a permit to be on their waters within the city limits. It’s actually not required. You could just keep paying the fine and not get a permit, but be prepared; it’s $100 if you get caught and if you don’t pay it and get caught again, it’s $200. There was no comment on how much the charge is for getting caught over and over. The town is Newburyport, MA, and it really does exist and this really is happening. How did I find out about this? A concerned reader named Mike Pearson, bless his soul, sent me an article written by Lynne Hendricks in a local paper, The Daily News. I went to the city Web site in search of information on the permits, but gave up after a bit. I could not find it on the Harbormaster page. I thought later maybe I should have checked the Water Department page. Therefore, everything I report here is based on that article. The article states that you can buy a waterways permit for $3 a foot. It’s a blue sticker that goes on the stern. Tickets were being handed out to any boat docked or moored within the city limits. There are no warnings given. One marina
dockmaster said that boaters new to the area are the ones most likely to get a ticket because they have never heard of a permit requirement. When another marina dockmaster, who had a boater at his marina get a $100 ticket, called the harbormaster, Ralph Steele, mentioning this, Steele reportedly said the marina operator should have warned the boaters. The dockmaster felt they should at least get a warning the first time. Sorry. That’s not happening. The article reported that 40 to 50 tickets had been issued so far this year. That’s $4000 to $5000 income to the city—depending on how many ended up paying the $200 fine because they wouldn’t pay the first ticket. The article stated that many tickets are handed out to the same boaters year after year. I can only guess why (“Hell, no! I’m not buying a permit to go boating!”). The article did not say whether there were on-thewater police who, if they saw a boat without a blue sticker, would chase it down—and what would happen if the boater crossed out of the city limits. Could the cops cross that line and chase the boat? Or would they stop at the city limits, call the appropriate enforcement authority and tell them to stop that boater, he has no permit? For some time now, I have been writing that we are becoming a “turnstile society” where user fees are being required for every little action. Anyone doubt me now?