Crabbing vessels to remain at Annapolis City Dock

Charter boat gets slip, and watermen keep spots

June 17, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

After weeks of tempest over a plan to move the last two crabbing vessels at City Dock, Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson has orchestrated a game of musical boats to allow them to remain.

City officials began talking in March about moving the boats of Charlie Meiklejohn, who has tied up at City Dock for 52 years, and his stepson, Alexander Parkinson, to make room for a 54-foot charter boat that would pay a higher slip fee, $500 a month vs. the watermen's $50.

Meiklejohn, 68, was going to have to tie up 90 feet from his current spot, and Parkinson was to be relegated to Eastport.

More than 1,800 Annapolitans signed a petition urging the city not to move the boats.

Yesterday, Johnson said he has finalized plans to let the charter boat, the Berkshire Castaways' Half Shell, use a boat slip leased to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation during the summer. The foundation was not planning to use its slip then, he said.

How much Berkshire Castaways will pay is being negotiated.

"This has never been an issue of fees or money," Johnson said, though at one point he had referred to an ordinance that will go into effect next month requiring the city to get full market value in leasing out its facilities. "We have many historic vessels here that don't all fit, and we have to find a way to fit them all in."

Meiklejohn, who has cancer of the larynx and underwent chemotherapy yesterday, could not be reached for comment. His daughter, Bonnie Sheffey, said she and her family were happy with the outcome.

"I'm on cloud nine," said Sheffey, who circulated the petitions to solicit support. "With all the people behind them, I knew something was going to happen, but I didn't think it would happen this fast."

The waterman had received an offer of help from an anonymous benefactor willing to pay the thousands of dollars a year that would make his lease comparable with the Half Shell's.

Malik James Tuma, an Annapolis attorney, said a client who wanted to remain anonymous asked him to offer Meiklejohn enough money to pay a higher monthly boat fee and persuade city officials to let him stay in his slip.

The offer did not extend to Parkinson.

Tuma said the donor, who is not an Annapolitan but is a lifelong Marylander, offered to give Meiklejohn the money until he retired from crabbing.

"He grew up in Maryland and he has a fond affinity for the water and maritime tradition," Tuma said. "He just wants to see the man get to ply his trade from the place that he's done that all along. I guess his goal was not to see a tradition fade before its appropriate time."

The money would not have helped keep Meiklejohn in his spot, because the City Code says watermen's boats can be charged only $50 a month.

"If I accepted any more than that, that's a bribe, and I don't work that way," Johnson said. "No one in the city works that way."

Johnson said the furor illustrates Annapolis' need to study how City Dock space is used. Money to do that was included in next year's budget.

The city Department of Planning and Zoning will come up with a master plan for allocating dock space in the fall, he said.

In the meantime, all parties involved in the recent City Dock furor seem content with the agreement.

"We're very happy," said Bill O'Gara, co-owner of the Half Shell, a 1928 oyster buyboat that was sent out on the bay to buy fresh catch from oyster fleets. "We want to promote the history of the watermen at the bay, and for us to displace watermen in that process would make absolutely no sense at all."

Pub Date: 6/17/99

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