Jeanie B pulls into port

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It’s been some time since a schooner made Washington its homeport, but that changes Wednesday when the Jeanie B is expected to tie up to the city’s C dock on the Pamlico River.

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, gave its OK for the 72-foot-long, gaff-rigged vessel to use C dock for five years.

“Our proposal, of course, I hope that you have seen, is to make Washington really a symbiotic alliance between the city of Washington and the schooner Jeanie B — to make it our homeport,” said Lee Sutton, owner of the vessel and a professor at East Carolina University.

Sutton said the Jeanie B plans to provide free sailing excursions from the waterfront March 24 to promoter its activities on the city’s waterfront and related activities. The vessel also works with the Boy Scouts and other organizations to teach young people (13 and older) about sailing.

Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson pushed for a time limit on the agreement between the city and the Jeanie B.

“I think what I would like to do, just to open up conversation, is not giving an open-end contract — just actually look at it for five years, and then at the end of the fifth year reassess … the amount of the money and the distribution of the collection of the dollar amount,” Roberson said to Sutton. “Other than that, I don’t have a problem with the proposal. I think it’s a great one. I just don’t like giving a blank check, per se. I think that’s what is says. What I’d like to do is maybe at the end of the fifth year take a look at it and then re-evaluate it, if that would be acceptable.”

Sutton replied, “Yes, sir.”

“Schooner Jeanie B will extend, as a minimum, a guaranteed amount of $2,700 or 20% of total revenues generated from any/all sailings from the waterfront of the City of Washington — whichever is greater,” reads the proposal submitted to the city.

Council member William Pitt said he toured the vessel last year when it visited Washington.

“I think this a great opportunity for the city of Washington. It brings back to memory the days of the Half Moon (a replica of explorer Henry Hudson’s ship) being anchored here. I think it would be a really great experience to have this ship anchored in our harbor district,” Pitt said.

Councilman Doug Mercer expressed concern with the city forgoing rental revenues by providing the schooner free docking space.

“I think it’s a great idea, and I don’t have a problem with it. I just think we need to recognize that there is going to be a cost that comes to the city to have it there,” Mercer said.

Councilman Richard Brooks echoed Mercer’s concerns, adding that he would prefer the city charge the vessel to use the city’s docks.

“The city needs money now, and we’re doing things to cut other things. To give up something — $3,000 or $2,500 — don’t seem like a lot, but it is a lot when other people are giving something up. I don’t think it’s fair,” he said.

Sutton said if the Jeanie B is successful with its commercial operations — providing sailing excursions from the waterfront — there’s a chance the city could make money under the 20-percent clause of the agreement.

Beth Byrd, director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance, said that while the schooner is away from Washington during the summer, the city would be able to rent its docking space to transient boaters.

According to agreement, the vessel would not be in Washington from June 15 to Aug. 15. While the vessel is away, its docking space could be leased to transient boaters, notes the proposal. From Jan. 1 to approximately June 15 of any year, the schooner would occupy space on the waterfront. After its summer voyages, it would return to the waterfront from Aug. 15 to Dec. 31. While in Washington, the vessel would offer scheduled sunset/stargazing trips on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons and evenings. Mondays and Tuesdays would be set aside for tours

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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