Mark Souza is the Marblehead Harbormaster, a law enforcement professional, a captain, and fisherman. Read our interview with Mark below!
For those who don’t know you, could you share a little about your background and how long you’ve been the Harbormaster?
I have worked as a harbormaster for about 15 years; 12 years in Beverly. I worked as a marine patrol officer with the New Hampshire State Police based out of Portsmouth, NH for 4+ years. I owned and ran a charter fishing program for about 7 years, and also worked in the ski industry as a purchaser for over 15 years.
What’s the most commonly misunderstood rule/procedure related to Marblehead Harbor and its governance?
There are a few, but the most common is mooring use. Mooring holders should use their mooring every season. Proper use and transparency of how it’s being used is imperative to the department’s accounting. The biggest fear of mooring holders is if their mooring is not used they will lose it. This is not true. We will try to keep the mooring with its mooring holder by offering alternatives (programs). These consist of 3- or 5-year letters that allow the mooring holder to step away for whatever reason for a period of time without losing a mooring in the harbor. This will give them time to regroup and allow ample time to come back down the line.
What’s the biggest challenge you have as Harbormaster?
One of the biggest challenges is managing the waitlist and mooring assignments. With a 20-year wait time in the main harbor and a constant changing of boat sizes, it makes for a large puzzle that is forever changing. Waitlists are monitored by the state and they are very strict in their management.
How long has Marblehead had a dedicated Harbormaster function?
Because Marblehead is the birthplace of the American Navy, it’s safe to assume that the harbor has been governed with such a function since then.
How many moorings are there in Marblehead Harbor itself and in Marblehead waters overall? Will those numbers grow or contract over time?
The main harbor has approximately 1,700 moorings and the west shore holds approximately 1,300. This will fluctuate from year to year.
About how many permanent moorings become available each year?
The average is 30-50 in a good year. We will average 40-60 temporary moorings each year.
What’s the difference between the Active and Inactive Mooring Wait List, and how many boaters are there on each?
“Active” is if you own a boat. This allows an easier process for assignments once that waitlist number is up for assignment. “Inactive” means you do not own a boat but still move up the list as normal. The benefit is that some people are not ready to purchase a boat at the time of assignment. This allows the waitlist holder time to decide what they want to purchase, use, or wait without losing their position on the list. Once they have acquired a boat or are ready to go in the water they would just notify us of ownership and they would move over to “Active”. There are 609 Active names on the waitlist and 1,202 Inactive names.
Are Marblehead moorings restricted to Marblehead residents?
Is there a limit to the number of moorings an individual can have in his or her name?
What are the rules regarding a mooring holder transferring his/her mooring to a family member?
Transfers are allowed to a spouse and/or a child. Transfers are a one-time occurrence and must be requested in writing.
With the long term trend of yacht club members owning fewer boats and the number of club-owned boats increasing as a result, will clubs over time be able to get a greater number of moorings?
I don’t foresee that trend. The goal is to make the harbor more accessible to the public.
What is the procedure if a mooring holder has an issue with the swing radius of a nearby boat that may be too close?
First, they should contact the company that services their mooring. Sometimes it’s just a matter of pulling the mooring and chain back. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, they can contact the Harbormaster to relocate or designate adjustments.
What is the process for changing a boat’s location in the harbor with the same boat?
When you get your permit renewal, you should attach a request for relocation and the reason. I would also suggest sending my office and the mooring service company a request.
What is the procedure if a mooring holder buys a boat that’s bigger or smaller than the one he/she has?
This would follow the same procedure as above, but adding that you must consult your mooring service company.
How long can a mooring go unused before a boater must notify the Harbormaster? Does the Harbormaster actively patrol for moorings that aren’t in use that may not have been reported?
You must use your mooring for 45 days during the boating season. Our harbor patrols log unused moorings on a daily basis. If you are a traveler, or have unforeseen circumstances, you can let the Harbormaster’s office know and we will work with you.
Where are there town-owned piers and docks for which a boater can reserve a ring for a dinghy, and how do you request one?
Rings are located at Village Street, Stramski’s, Tucker’s Wharf, Parker’s boat yard, Commercial Street, and the Shipyard. You can apply for the waitlist for these areas either by downloading a form (download here) from the website or at our office.
Are recreational lobster pots and buoys permitted in the marked harbor channel or in the general mooring field? In the event a lobster buoy is interfering with a mooring or channel navigation should the boat owner contact the Harbormaster’s office?
It’s a vague rule. They are not supposed to impede navigation. The Massachusetts Environmental Police handle these cases more often, and they have suggested that you get the numbers and colors of the buoy and report to a local authority; “me.” Commercial and recreational fishing provides an enormous amount of resources and capital to the economy. So I always encourage the public to try and coexist and keep an understanding.
If boaters have other questions, can they submit them to the Harbormaster’s office?
Absolutely!! I encourage it. I have an open door policy. Email gets a quicker response, but I monitor my email and social media on a regular basis.
Is there anything else you’d like to make sure the boaters of Marblehead know?
I think the biggest misconception is that we drive around in boats all day and that’s it. My department manages all public access points: Village St. docks and parking lot, Stramski pier and dock, Little Harbor boat ramp and grounds, State St. docks, grounds, and piers, Tucker’s Wharf, Crocker Park dock, Parker’s Boat Yard and docks, Commercial St. docks, Shipyard docks, and Marblehead Yacht Club property. When the summer ends our jobs don’t relax. This is when the administration and maintenance side comes into play. We do most of our maintenance and repair in-house. Administration consists of billing, budget planning, project scheduling, grant writing, and training. Patrols and readiness continues through the winter months also. Commercial fleets and occasional recreational boats are still on the waters.