Stephen P. Furze of Rehoboth has held a mooring permit for his boat in Scotch House Cove for three decades.
But this summer, Mr. Furze mistakenly missed the town’s deadline to renew his permit. Now he is fighting to get it back.
Caregiving for family members, working full time and battling illness, this former Navy man recently retired from working for a veterans hospital after 33 years. Mr. Furze was looking forward to boating with his 14-year-old son and teaching him the finer points of recreational boating and fishing.
September 3 marks the day he retired and September 11 marks the day that his family sent a letter to the Department of Environmental Protection to appeal the decision of Bourne’s local harbormaster Timothy W. Mullen to revoke Mr. Furze’s mooring permit.
“We go out of our way to give mooring holders an opportunity to comply with the annual renewal requirements. The last thing we want to do is take a mooring away.” Mr. Mullen said. “However, we have to be fair and equitable and sometimes we end up with no choice but to revoke a permit. We have to enforce local and state regulations across the board and treat every permit holder the same.”
As harbormaster, Mr. Mullen oversees 2,440 moorings, plus an additional 233 outhauls.
There are 40 waiting lists for the various waterways and coves, with approximately 300 people waiting for a mooring.
Three of those lists—for Hen Cove, Buttermilk Bay and Barlow’s Landing—have had individuals waiting for a boat mooring since 2002.
Scotch House Cove in Cataumet, where Mr. Furze would like to stay, has 28 spots and the next person in line for a space has been waiting since 2006.
Thirty years ago, a friend told Mr. Furze that he should apply for a mooring permit before all of the spaces were gone.
“I had no problem getting the permit, it was relatively fast and easy.”Mr. Furze said. “I have had different crafts on it over the years: a small wooden vessel, a 16-foot work boat, I even had a house barge on it at one time. Now I own a second-hand 27-foot Sportcraft. It needs a little work but I just retired so I thought I would have some time to work on it. I have always paid my taxes and had the required inspections.”
There are a few steps required to hold on to a mooring permit. State law mandates renewals to be submitted on an annual basis and processed by local harbormasters.
Bourne sends out bills and a renewal application to every permit holder in December. Individual permits cost $70. Payment must be made in 30 days but the permit holder has until July 1 to return the application with proof of boat ownership.
“Some boat owners forget to take their registrations out of the boat when they store them or shrink-wrap them for the winter, so we send them a reminder in May and wait until July 1 for them to send in the application and registration.” Mr. Mullen said.
Boat registration is one form of proof of ownership required with the permit application but an owner of an unregistered boat could send in a current copy of Coast Guard documentation papers. The owner of any boat without a motor, such as a sailboat, would send in a photograph and signed statement of ownership form.
After sending out multiple reminders, Mr. Mullen reviews all the moorings again on August 1 and only then does he make his final decisions to revoke. In Mr. Furze’s case the application and proof of boat ownership were not sent in within the time allowed, despite reminders from the harbormaster’s office.
Citing several reasons in his appeal letter for overlooking the paperwork, a plea was made to allow him to renew.
Jayne Furze, his wife, indicated in the letter, “Steve has had this mooring for approximately 30 years—longer than I have known him—we have been married for 27 years. Steve is a boat fanatic. He is a Navy veteran. He just loves them; he reads boat magazines. It is his passion. He will be so devastated if this mooring is lost because of this oversight.”
Mr. Mullen said that “with the consistent enforcement of the rules and renewal process, over the years, fewer and fewer people have forgotten to send in the required paperwork.” Roughly four permit holders a year in Bourne and approximately 30 permit holders statewide send revocation appeals of harbormaster decisions to the DEP.
Both Mr. Furze and Mr. Mullen were sent a letter from the DEP, dated October 17, and the DEP upheld harbormaster Mullen’s decision to revoke the permit. Any empty mooring spaces, including Mr. Furze’s, will be reviewed in the early spring and notices will likely go out in March and June to people on the waiting list of mooring availabilities.
“I am going to enlist help and appeal the appeal.” Mr Furze said “I will be extremely disappointed if I lose this mooring. I don’t know that I have lost it yet. I will just have to keep trying.”