A Tale of Two Harbormasters

As they say in the movies, any resemblance to real persons in this story, whether living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

The job of Harbormaster can't be easy. No matter what, you will make somebody unhappy with everything and anything you do. If you don't have rules, then people will do stupid things and chaos will reign. If you have too many rules, everyone will call you the Gestapo and hate you. If you try to strike a balance between the two, then you'll have half the people complaining there aren't enough rules, and the other half complaining there are two many. You get the picture – no matter what you do, you will make somebody unhappy.

We've met a lot of harbormasters over the years, and like everyone in general, they can be categorized as either control freaks who hate their job, or nice people who truly want to help you. Many marinas employ both, resulting in sort of a good-cop, bad-cop experience for us transient sailors - and what sort of experience you'll have depends on who's working at that particular minute.

That's what this story is all about - A Tale of Two Harbormasters.

As we were sailing down the coast, we called ahead to see if any slips were available. Finding moorage for our catamaran is a bit tricky - while our length, at 39 feet, is not a problem our width, of almost 22 feet means we can't fit in a normal slip. So we generally have to find a side or end tie. Like the ends of rows in a grocery store, there isn't nearly as much space available at the ends compared to along the rows. So anyway, we called ahead and talked to Bruno, to see what was available. Bruno said at that point there was nothing, but a public dock was open, and to call again once we were closer - which we did a few hours later. There was still nothing available, but Bruno was very helpful in giving us directions to a public dock where there was space, and he said hopefully space in the marina would open up.

After docking the boat, we walked up to the harbormasters office. Bruno was very nice and helpful, giving us several maps of the area, circling where to get provisions, the location of the nearest chandlery, telling us about events happening in the area, and so on. He also said that if we needed to use the internet, we could come up and use one of their computers. Finally, he suggested we come back in the morning, as an end tie was supposed to free up - he said he'd leave a note for Scooter, who would be working the next day, to call us as soon as the slip freed up. Bruno was just a really nice and accommodating fellow.

The next morning, we saw that one of the end ties was now vacant, and went up to the harbormasters office to see if it was available - and to make sure we got it before someone else did just in case Scooter didn't call us. That turned out to be the right decision, because not only was the slip free, but Scooter hadn't bothered to call us. At any rate, Scooter wasn't in the office at the time, but one of the other employees got us all checked in to our new slip and we moved the boat. Much nicer - closer to the showers and bathroom, and now in a gated and locked marina - a huge improvement over the public dock.

In the afternoon, we needed to arrange a few things online, so went back up to the office to use the computer, since Bruno said we could. Now we got to meet Scooter for the first time, who looked up from the computer with disdain that we would be so rude as to interrupt him from whatever he was doing (playing solitaire perhaps?). He said there was absolutely NO way that we would be allowed to use THEIR computers, and looked at us as if we were crazy to ask. We were able to get some needed information out of him, and left the office. Whew, that was weird - and firmly established Scooter in the control freak category.

The next day we were leaving the boat in the marina for a couple of days as we had business elsewhere. We made sure to communicate this to Bruno and the other employees (Scooter was not in the office at the time we worked all this out). The marina said it would be no problem, and we'd keep the end tie while we were gone, though we may have to move when we get back to a smaller end tie (which we fully understand), so all was well - no problem at all. We try hard to be reasonable, and don't mind moving around as needed to maximize available space, though obviously there's nothing we can do when we aren't going to be here. And again, we did our due diligence to communicate this with the marina.

Can you see where this is going?

So there we are, heading out of town for a couple of days, and the phone rings. It's Scooter. Here's more or less the way the conversation went:

Scooter: We have some boats coming in and we need you to move your boat.

Us: OK, Bruno mentioned we may have to move, but we are going to be out of town until tomorrow, and Bruno said we'd be fine until we got back.

Scooter: Well that puts us in a bind, because we need that end tie for another boat.

Us: I understand, but we already worked this out with Bruno, and anyway we are already on our way out of town.

Scooter: Have you already left? Can you move the boat anyway? We need you to move to the public dock.

Us: As I said, we are already on our way out of town. As in, driving in the car.

Scooter: Well this is a huge problem. We need that end tie for another boat. When are you going to be back?

[At this point we are resisting the urge to tell Scooter to just put the other boat at the public dock - it's larger than this end tie anyway, and it costs the same!]

Us: We'll be back tomorrow afternoon.

Scooter: Well “afternoon” isn't very specific. That could mean noon or it could be five. When are you going to be back? This is a huge problem, we have all these boats coming in...

Us: OK, we'll be back by 3pm.

Scooter: Can you get back earlier? We're really in a bind here. We have all these boats coming in and we need to put them somewhere. I guess we'll just have tell them to anchor out somewhere until you get back. You've put us in a real predicament here.

Oh brother! Really? The entire management of the harbor revolves around our 39 foot transient catamaran? This is insane. We've done all that we can, we communicated up front that we'd be gone, we said we'd be happy to move (even though we didn't want to go back to the public dock). Seriously, what more can we do?

The next morning, the phone rings. Oh great, we think, as we notice the caller ID number - it's the harbormasters office. With a sigh of relief from our end, it turns out to be Bruno on the other end. The conversation goes something like this:

Bruno: We have some boats coming in, and were wondering when you'd be back.

Us: This afternoon ... [Then remembering the previous days conversation, quickly add] … We'll be back by 3pm, probably sooner.

Bruno: Oh, that's no problem at all. We'll work it out when you get here.

Us: The minute we get back, we'll come straight in to the office.

Bruno: OK, really, it's no problem and no hurry. I'll figure out where to put everyone.

Wow, what a difference compared to the conversation with Scooter.

Later that afternoon we get back, and head into the office. Once again, we are fortunate Bruno is the one at the counter. He's already got things all worked out, and figured out where to put all the boats. And, he tells us, we won't have to move - even though we really didn't mind if that's what it would take (and again, even though we didn't want to have to go back to the public dock).

See, Bruno is a problem solver. A nice and accommodating guy, willing to work with what's available and find a solution, even if it's hard. Bruno is the sort of person that makes you want to come back to a port of call, makes you feel welcome and is truly happy if you are happy. Scooter - not so much.

So that's the tale, and again - any resemblance to real persons, whether living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

1 comment:

  1. What a kick, glad it worked ouit ok. And glad you are having a good trip.


Click here to buy Jane'O merchandise