Beaufort News

Beaufort council considers changes to downtown boat docking hours

Boaters who use Beaufort's downtown day dock would have to untie and move their vessels no later than 11 p.m. -- three hours earlier than the current 1 a.m. closing time -- under a new proposal that city officials said could help prevent individuals from using the free temporary docking area like a permanent marina slip.

The suggestion was one of many officials discussed Tuesday during a City Council workshop.

"(An 11 p.m. closing time) would be a little more enforceable for our police officers and make it a little more difficult for boaters to use the dock as a home base," Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

Concern arose after police discovered one individual using the dock day after day, only moving his boat occasionally and sometimes violating a city ordinance that doesn't allow boats at the dock between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., police chief Matt Clancy has said.

The offender has been issued citations and is no longer docking his boat at the day dock, city manager Scott Dadson said.

Clancy said he discussed possible solutions with harbor master Rick Griffin to prevent similar situations in the future.

Officials estimated that the day dock is between 100- and 130- feet long and said the offending sailboat was about 32 feet long.

"That dock is too small to have a boat taking up that much space every day when you have a marina where you can rent space," Councilman Mike Sutton said.

Clancy and Griffin also discussed creating a four-hour time limit per vessel per day, but after talking with boaters, felt it might be too restrictive and difficult to enforce, Clancy said.

The day dock was originally intended to accommodate "short-term dockage for small boats," Keyserling said. Boaters wishing to stay for longer periods can rent slips from the nearby marina, he added.

Officials have also said they hope to have a regulated mooring field in place in the near future.

"Long-term, I think we need to get back to more frequent turnover at the day dock," Keyserling said.

A daily time limit could be the next step, Keyserling said after the meeting. But he and other council members said more discussion is needed on how police or the harbor master would enforce such a measure.

Council likely will hear a first reading on the 11 p.m. closing time in two weeks.

They also plan to discuss other suggestions at future meetings, which included a potential size limit for boats using the day dock and the appropriate location for dinghies.