What happens when private for-profit companies have far more money and flexibility than the communities they operate in? Yachting Solutions, a company based in Rockport, whose Shopify page proudly proclaims “Our background is in the Mega Yacht industry,” has proposed a major development plan for Rockland Harbor. Bill Morong, CEO of Yachting Solutions, in an email to Rockland’s city manager, harbormaster, and community development director, felt comfortable enough to casually refer to a group of residents concerned about Yachting Solutions’ plans as “haters.” In March 2018, he wrote: “Hey guys, Curious how this decision by council [to create a new harbor management plan] will be affecting our efforts thus far. Any thoughts would be appreciated ahead of my meeting tomorrow with the haters at [Rockland Harbormaster Matt Ripley’s] office.” When Morong wrote “our” plan, was he suggesting that Yachting Solutions’ plan to nearly triple their dockage space in Rockland Harbor at their “private, gated facility” (their words) is in fact the city’s plan too? Was he suggesting that Yachting Solutions’ plan reflects the needs and best interest of the community at large?

Yachting Solutions currently runs their “private, gated facility” in the South End, and received a $1.05 million federal Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) in 2017 for their plan. We find it stunning that their application omitted (whether by design or accident) any reference to the existence of Rockland’s municipal channel — as if to tell the federal government that our local, public channel does not exist, and to tell us locals that we do not matter.

Yachting Solutions’ original BIG plan also required the removal and relocation of up to 54 moorings, a concrete parking wharf, and drastic changes to the entire landscape of our beloved public harbor. All of this was to specifically cater to “transient users” (a.k.a. tourists) who would have use of Yachting Solutions’ “well-appointed,” “private, gated facility” in a “protected basin for boats up to 250 feet.” (The cruise ship Independence, which frequently visits Rockland, is 215 feet; American Constitution is 267 feet.) Make no mistake: much of Yachting Solutions’ target market is the 1%. Their BIG application references megayachts at least 25 times and states that the “Yachting Solutions Boat Basin is positioned to become the most attractive destination for megayachts between Portland and Bangor.”

Let’s just be real here. Who are these megayachts for? Who is this “private, gated facility” for? A 2017 Mansion Global article, “Superyachts Are the Epitome of Luxury Living,” states that the average value of a superyacht (79 feet or longer) is $10 million, and that fewer than 5,000 people in the entire world own one. Yachting Solutions is catering to the richest of the rich, here in this tiny city where people work multiple jobs at minimum wage, with no health insurance, and can barely pay for childcare, rent, medicine, and property taxes.

At the Yachting Solutions Boat Basin, with a proposed private pool, luxuriating tourists will be wearing sailor stripes and squeaky boat shoes, trading brag-stories of that time they got tipsy on the South China Sea, while the local school calls the police on a 6-year-old who’s acting out the traumas of poverty.

Yachting Solutions rightly faced tremendous public outcry over their initial BIG plan. So, in December 2018, they revealed another plan, woefully short on details. This one appears to preserve the tripling of their private, gated slips and floats, but forgoes the wave attenuators and obliteration of the municipal channel. The plan still includes dredging to make space for an unspecified number of megayachts with their view-obscuring hulks and would block the channel during megayacht fueling, which can take hours due to their giant gas tanks.

More recently, miscommunication appears to have led to an unfortunate situation. An independent party paid by the city was supposed to have surveyed the path of the municipal channel, including how it shifts in various winds. It appears that the engineer who was hired surveyed only from land, and with rote measurements, resulting in a drawing that would benefit Yachting Solutions and cause the removal of long-held moorings.

We think that not an extra inch of our public harbor should be yielded to Yachting Solutions’ 1% tourist customers. We have no interest in a harbor full of towering megayachts, blocking views from Sandy Beach, the public landing and Harbor Park. We think Rockland should consider publicly indicating our displeasure at the changes Yachting Solutions wants to make to one of the most beloved parts of our community. While some say we do not have much direct means to counter Yachting Solutions’ plan, there is always political muscle. The harbor is a public good. Do we really want to diminish a public good enjoyed by poor children, the elderly, fishermen, sailors, rowers, locals and visitors alike for the sake of the mega-rich?