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Rockport Proposed Bylaw


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Here is the text of the proposed bylaw change described in the earlier post. I am planning on attending the public hearing currently scheduled for March 18 - as a private individual, not to represent the club. If you want to go with me, let me know.

Beginning of Text:


by adding to Chapter 1. General Provisions, Section 3 "Definition of Terms" the definition:

"Livery Boat", - a boat hired or available for hire from a person who offers boats for hire as a regular business. (MGL Chapt. 90B Section 1) Individually owned vessels for personal use available for occasional hire are exempt from this definition.

Adding a new section (h) to Chapter 13B (Licenses):

"Set up, operate or carry on a Livery Boat service as defined in Chapter 1. General Provisions, Section 3 "Definition of Terms for motor, sail or man powered vessels"

Renumbering Sections 12 and 13 of Chapter 9 as Sections 13 and 14.

Creating a new Section 12 to read:

Section 12. Livery Boat Service

A Livery Boat Service licensed under Chapter 13, Section (h) operating within the boundaries of the Town or the waters under its jurisdiction shall provide the following safety support:

a. A retrieval vessel or proof of contract for such services.

b. Demonstrations of the rented/leased equipment.

c. The following waterproofed decuments to be placed aboard every rented/leased vessel:

(1) Written instructions for operating the equipment,.

(2) Abbreviated Rules of the Road regarding Right of Way

(3) Chart sections of the anticipated areas of operation.

d, Such other equipment and/or training as may be mandated by Federal, Commonwealth or Town regulation.

e. Personnel certified in CPR and other first aid techniques.


The intent of the bylaw change is to reduce the dependence of commercial livery boat operators on the Town's safety resources for retrieval, search and rescue and to improve the safety of their customers, and other boaters in their proximity, in Rockport waters, by making them aware of their individual responsibility for operating their vessel under the established rules and convetions for boating safety.

End of text. (The typos are in the original.)

Liz N.

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Is there any definition of "retrieval vessel"? If not, based on this language, a CPR trained leader with a tow belt (or with a friend/relative with a power boat), who gives a two minute demo before setting off would meet the requirements of items a, b and e. Item c is a matter of putting a few photocopies in ziplock bags and item d is probably covered already. All in all, it seems pretty innocuous and makes sense. It will be interesting to see if accomplishes the desired result.

Which brings up the following questions:

What happens if a livery service fails to provide these things and requires help?

What happens if a livery service DOES provide these things and STILL requires help?

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We are way outside the definition of "livery service".

Yes, this would affect CRCK, but meeting the terms of the law would be pretty easy, since all they have to do is make sure their guides are CPR certified (I suspect that they probably are already) and contract for retreival services. The other regulations are easy to meet.

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I would think that contracting for retrieval services would have a noticable impact on CRCK. They've always claimed to lose money, or at least not make much on day trips, though their camps might be another matter. So even adding, say, $25-50 to a trip would hurt.

On the other hand, Rockport is just a sliver of their territory, not a center of it they way it is for NSPN. So, they could easily stay away. But letting something like this get started is obviously a bad idea, not only for them, but also for us, I believe. Once it got started, no telling where it would go. (Of coursde, that's the argument that the NRA uses against regulating Kalishnikovs, but I digress.)

I would think they'd try to substitute for the retrieval requirement the fact that their leaders are well trained and quite capable of towing and generally caring for their customers on the water. Trouble is, how do you measure or certify that, without opening a ~different~ can of worms.


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  • 2 weeks later...

The small town and town meetings. New England is so quaint. Gotta love it.

I went this evening to the meeting of the Rockport Town Government Bylaw Committee. The purpose of this committee is to look at proposed bylaws and make a recommendation to the town meeting.

This proposed bylaw came about through an "initiative petition" which means that someone drafted it and got 20 Rockport citizens to sign it. In Rockport, that alone is sufficient to get it on the warrant for the town meeting.

I did not speak at the Bylaw Committee meeting, but the owners of the North Shore Kayak and Outdoor Center (NSK) did. The two harbormasters were also present, as was the proponent of the bylaw.

Ultimately, the Committee decided to recommend that the bylaw be adopted, but without Section 12.a.: "A retrieval vessel or proof of contract for such services." Although not defined, a retrieval vessel would be motorized. John Leonard wearing a tow belt would not qualify, alas. :-))

The Committee is recommending that Section 12.a. be referred to a committee appointed by the town moderator, likely to include the harbormasters, someone from the Bylaw Committee, and other relevant folk.

Everyone agreed on the need for safety. Much concern was expressed about incompetent operators on the water. Note that the bylaw does not mention kayaks. It would apply to any "livery boat." Much mention that this bylaw is not aimed at NSK, which has a good safety record and works with the harbormasters. Concern was expressed about many more livery boat operators doing business in Rockport waters in the future. The specter of a jetski rental business in Pigeon Cove was raised.

Section 12. b.-e. are pretty basic safety items. NSK did express concern about whether a bylaw was needed to accomplish these things.

Town Counsel provided an opinion that the bylaw would cover any commercial livery boat operator, whether based in Rockport or not.

The "retrieval vessel" item generated the most attention. An earlier draft of the bylaw required the company to have or contract for a vessel to perform search and rescue (SAR) in addition to "retrieval." After the harbormasters pointed out that SAR was their job, the bylaw was revised to cover only "retrieval."

No data was produced regarding SARs or retrievals, as the harbormasters are busy and barely have time to log their reports - let alone do a data analysis by boat type. Apparently the Rockport harbormasters are very accommodating to boaters in general, and to the occasional kayaker in need of assistance. Whereas in say Beverly or Marblehead they might call for someone to tow you - for a fee - in Rockport the harbormasters will do it, if they are not busy with something more important. This lead to a discussion of whether people should be charged if they get themselves into deep doo doo.

Two specific issues with respect to the "retrieval vessel" clause were raised. 1) There is no place to keep a motorized vessel in Rockport if you do not already have a mooring, and the wait list for one is about 500 years long. 2) There is no "tow company" in Rockport. The nearest ones are in Gloucester and Newburyport. No problem for a power boat out of gas on a calm day but a bit of a long wait for a more urgent problem and not at all realistic for a kayaking emergency. Thus, concern that the town would be requiring operators to do something that they could not do.

The idea of hiring "a kid with a rubber dinghy" was mentioned, but NSK pointed out that their liability insurance carrier would not approve such an arrangement.

Also, when boats are rented to individuals, as opposed to being used for group tours, the vendor has no way of knowing when they need assistance until the harbormaster calls to say "is that one of your boats banging up against the breakwater?"

What next? Town meeting. I'll post the date when I learn it. Apparently non-residents can be granted permission to speak.

If the bylaw is approved at town meeting, as written or as recommended by the Bylaw Committee, it will have to be reviewed and approved by the MA Attorney General and the Division of Law Enforcement of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement.

On the rocky beat,

Liz N., reporting

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I don't see this as the first step down the slippery slope to regulating recreational kayakers. I'd agree that the measures, especially as ammended during the meeting, are reasonable and prudent. However, the image of John Leonard wearing nothing but a tow belt is going to keep me awake tonight.

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>>"...John Leonard wearing a tow belt would not qualify,



>>read the above again, bob (or do i mean dee?): liz didn't

>>mention leonard wearing .


>Hey, don't blame me for my husband's rather perculiar


I feel I'm being disparaged here. If you reread Liz's posting she indeed does not mention that John is wearing anything other than the tow belt. Now I'd agree that something like high heels and a wool hat would qualify as peculiar.

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>>>"...John Leonard wearing a tow belt would not qualify,



>>>read the above again, bob (or do i mean dee?): liz didn't

>>>mention leonard wearing .


>>Hey, don't blame me for my husband's rather perculiar



>I feel I'm being disparaged here. If you reread Liz's

>posting she indeed does not mention that John is wearing

>anything other than the tow belt.

You are perfectly correct Bob. I don't even mention him being in a kayak. :-)) Just John, wearing his towbelt, towing in a livery boat (which is any boat for hire regardless of size) - would not qualify as a retrieval vessel. Unless he somehow added a motor.... But let's not go there.

Liz N.

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