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Pain in the Dock


By Joanna Lane

A beautiful waterfront home on Goose Creek, complete with floating dock and beautiful private beach, is rented short term to visitors. Showing the latest arrivals around one Sunday this summer, I was surprised to find an extra floating dock had mysteriously appeared and was now tied up to the permanent dock. Somebody around here has lost one. My first thought was to take a quick cellphone photo and upload to my Facebook page, asking my friends to pass the word around. I just love social media for the speed in which it’s possible to reach the wider community and get the word out, especially in a crisis, which this was. The tenants have rented the dock. My photo was uploaded to Facebook less than a minute later, together with a quick note, only I hadn’t factored in the text auto-correct feature.

Everyone was so helpful.

I saw something white on the dock when I zoomed in and assumed that was the sock that you were talking about.

I knew what you meant. The photo of a dock tipped me off.

I like to keep our local police department busy looking for owners of lost socks! (joke)

Then someone whispered, “permit violation”. Where there’s one permit for one dock, now there are two docks, and since the baby dock was tied up to the other dock, albeit loosely, someone might think the homeowner responsible. I just love that we can reach our government officials quickly on social media like Facebook or by email when we need help, and forwarded the photo to one of the Town Trustees. Back came the speedy reply,

I have passed along the picture of your “baby dock” and all who have seen it think it’s very cute. We are going to notify the bay constable to take a look.

The Bay Constable phoned. Sadly, it’s still an orphan and the homeowner is now roped in as the foster parent. Really? Yes. Doesn’t the Town have a dock orphanage somewhere, where it can be towed for safe keeping until claimed? No. What if they don’t get along and start beating each other up, what are we supposed to do? To remove it onto dry land would take a small army of Southold’s best, and if it’s not claimed, it’s the homeowners responsibility to arrange for disposal. How long does it have to be kept? A while.

Back to my social network for more helpful advice.

Do you get to keep the sock, too? :o)

Gwen named it “Little Orphan Dockie”, and pointed out the law on flotsam is finders keepers, but not everyone agreed.  Others said that if you find a boat washed up on the beach, the police would likely tow it away and store it until claimed, unless it’s got a hole in the bottom, then it’s yours. If you fix it, then it’s not yours.

Waterfront property owners remove (and in most cases pay for the removal) of trash that washes up on their beach next to their house on a daily basis, even when it’s below the high water mark and not on their property at all. But what about this other “stuff” that is floating around off-shore? By what criteria does the dock meet the “abandoned” threshold, and what other “stuff” that washes up merits storage on the homeowner’s property at the owner’s expense until the proper owner can be found?

What I do know is that a floating dock that has broken loose is a danger to public safety, and I can only imagine that a Good Samaritan* person of interest saw it floating around in the channel, and instead of reporting it to the bay constable, secured it to a random available post in order to keep it from causing a boating accident, and went on their way. If you now hold the owner of the post responsible for whatever costs are incurred as a result, in effect, you’re discouraging people from doing the right thing, both the person who tied it up in the first place, and the property owner who may be tempted to cut it loose again.

*Update – Post Hurricane Home Inspection: A 6ft+ storm surge lifted the larger dock completely over the top of both pilings, and Little Orphan Dockie disappeared, never to be seen again…no wait…..it was only on vacation!

Little Dockie reappeared one day and not only maneuvered itself out of the water onto land, it brought with it a souvenir from its travels in the form of a wooden stake, which it then drove into the ground and tied itself off, all without being seen. How clever!

They say that travel broadens the mind, but you’re not fooling me Little Dockie, there’s a PARENT OF INTEREST in the frame here, and I for one think there’s a good case to be made for DOCK ABANDONMENT and that could be the least of the problems. This new state of affairs changes EVERYTHING.

It may be that someone cut it loose in the first place and I wasn’t intended to get it, but the same cannot be said now.  At the moment when the natural forces of Mean Irene raised my own dock over 6ft in the air and took the smaller dock away with it, my responsibility for it ended. Wherever the dock then ended up, (I have my own ideas), it was hidden in plain sight for all or part of approximately 2 weeks between Sunday August 28th and Tuesday September 13th. The owner of that property then became the foster parent, exactly the same as myself some three months earlier.

By what right did that person then trespass upon my private property to dump the responsibility back on me? Reasonable people could agree that it is not acceptable behavior for your neighbor to remedy their flotsam problem by attempting to make it yours.

FACT: The dock has never belonged to me and does not now.

FACT: This is now the second time that someone has attached it to my property rather than take responsibility themselves.

FACT: Hurricane Irene removed it, not I.

FACT: I do not have to take it back simply because somebody decided to take the easy way out instead of doing the right thing.

FACT: It is debris from Hurricane Irene.

FACT: The Town is picking up and removing debris from Hurricane Irene at no charge to individual property owners.

If you saw anyone towing a dock or pounding stakes into the ground along the beginning of Goose Creek during the last week of August from the 28th, over Labor Day weekend, or any time up to Tuesday Sept 13th, then please report it to the Southold Town BAY CONSTABLE on 631 765-2600 or phone my ANONYMOUS TIP LINE on 631 252-5653.


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