July10, 2004



A 'Gam,' and other dockside rumblings

By Ray Pike

Salisbury harbormaster

When we gather together at sea we often "gam." A gam is a great social event when an outgoing ship passes an incoming ship on the open seas. They will usually heave to and all hands can chat with their counterparts on the visiting vessel. The cook talks to the other cook, captain to captain, and bosuns to bosuns. The outgoing ship has much news from land, and the incoming ship has valuable information about what lies ahead.

Walking the docks recently, sharing "opportunities to catch up on fees," we heard some grumblings that led to interesting answers.

Grumbling No. 1: "Why do we pay this pumpout fee? If upriver communities don't pay, why do we pay for all their junk flowing down to us?"

Answer 1: We just haven't figured a way to turn the river's flow upstream, so all our junk could flow toward those communities. Then they'd be happy to pay to clean up the river, right? Tidal ebb and flow just isn't getting the waste distributed evenly enough, and we aren't getting enough to go back upstream. Once we figure that out, then they'll be happy to pay.

Answer 2: I can't explain why the upriver boaters are not levied pumpout fees, but I will gather information and report back to you in this column.

Consider the pumpout fees of $10 in Salisbury and Newburyport. They are levied on boats 20 feet or longer because they are most likely to carry people who may need to relieve some body weight. So carry a marine head with holding tank, a porta potty or just a bucket. Everyone agrees solid waste doesn't belong in our river waters. In fact, you need to be several miles offshore before it's legal to dump human waste overboard.

Your $10 fee covers a few things: a self-service pumpout station at Cashman Park, the operation of the pumpout boat, and the privilege to call the Newburyport Harbor Patrol on channel 12 and request that he come to your boat. Every weekend I've been around, Art Chaisson's been busy and accommodating on both sides of the river.

Be careful out there.


(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

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