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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

Emergency launch charge rankles

BY SHIRLEY LEVY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Should a private marina charge for launching when it results from an emergency?

A Toledo man says it should not.

Tom Mlynarczyk says he was looking forward to a relaxing day on his son's 20-foot Thompson powerboat.

“My sons took me out for a Father's Day excursion in my youngest boy's new boat,” he said. “We got out into the lake and the engine quit.

“Some super nice guys saw us and towed us in to the Lost Peninsula Marina, where we tied up at the ramp while the boys went back [to the original launch site at the foot of Sterns Road] to get the truck and trailer.”

End of story? Not quite.

“When we told the [attendant] at the marina that we had been towed in because the engine broke down, he said it was alright,” Mlynarczyk said. “But when the boys got back, a guy at the gate told them they would be charged a dollar a foot, or $20, to use the launch ramp.”

Mlynarczyk believes the marina took unfair advantage of his plight.

“It spoiled the whole day,” he said. “Warn other readers that piracy is still alive on Lake Erie.”

Chris Connelly of Mt. Clemens, part-owner of the Lost Peninsula marina, was unavailable for comment and did not return our call.

However, Matt Thomas, a marina employee, said the facility's launch ramp is exclusively for members.

“I wasn't there,” he said, “but we are a private marina and we do not have a public ramp.

“There are two public marinas nearby. The Michigan DNR ramp on Sterns Road is five or 10 minutes away and the Cullen Park Marina on Summit Street is about 10 or 15 minutes away.”

The stranded boat could have been towed to either one, he said.

Mary Dixon, Toledo's commissioner of recreation, says there would have been no fee at the Cullen site.

“We don't operate a rescue boat,” she said, “so if someone brought in a boat that had an emergency, we would not charge to use the ramp. As a public entity, we would provide that service.

“We deal with each situation as it comes up, but we try to work with the taxpayers.”

According to BOAT/US spokesperson Scott Croft, whether you consider the $20 charge justified or not may depend on how you define an emergency.

As public relations director of the nation's largest boating consumer organization, Croft has experience with a wide variety of marinas all over the country.

“I'm not a lawyer,” he said, “but clearly, we're talking about private property and the marina is probably legally right. They are the ones entitled to make the judgment call because they pay the taxes and have to maintain the ramp.

“You have to pay big bucks to own a marina today. Marinas are in a tough bind meeting environmental mandates, and insurance is very expensive.

“And in Ohio, they have only a short season.

“However, morally the marina did a great disservice to all boaters.

“Common sense tells me the situation was not a dire emergency, but suggesting that two public ramps were nearby puts too much burden on a Good Samaritan.

“A Good Samaritan wants to return a stricken vessel using the quickest and safest route back. This marina seems like it was both and it's reasonable to expect them to go there.”

REGATTA ROUNDUP:

Instant Karma, skippered by Josh Kerst of North Cape Yacht Club, was the runner-up in the J/24 class in Cleveland Race Week's One-Design Series, held at Edgewater Yacht Club last weekend.

George Osborne's Mosh Pit, of North Cape, placed eighth in the J/24s.

wComing up this weekend is CRW part two - the Cruising Class Division Series. Two North Cape boats - Chip Crawford's Patriot and Jeff and Marilyn Mackay's Wizard - will compete in the Evelyn 32 national championships, held concurrently with the regatta.

wOrganizers of Bayview Yacht Club's Bacardi Bayview Mackinac Race have relaxed the life-raft regulations for older boats racing on the 204-mile Shore Course.

“We are trying to make getting into the race as easy as possible,” race chairman Paul Falcone said.

Boats taking the Shore Course, which follows the Lake Huron coastline to Mackinac Island, are generally older or smaller than those sailing the longer Southampton Course up the middle of the lake.

Since 1999, they have been required to carry a new-style raft that resembles “two doughnuts on top of each other and costs about $5,000 to $6,000,” Falcone said.

“The boats sail close to shore and the coast guard follows them up the coast, so this year, we're going to let them use the older style, with two bladders, that most of them already have.”

About 263 boats in 20 classes, including a new Turbo Class for “rocket ships” will sail in the 2003 race. About two-thirds will compete on the 253-mile Southampton course, Falcone said.



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