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Persistence pays off for slip-less boat owner

Dan Mulvahill steers his dinghy on Lake Pend Oreille in Bayview. (Herb Huseland)
Dan Mulvahill steers his dinghy on Lake Pend Oreille in Bayview. (Herb Huseland)

Dan Mulvahill has always marched to a different drummer. He’s not wedded to regulations or authority. While willing to give his friends the shirt off of his back, he doesn’t settle for losing. With the economy in the tank and no sign of relief, Mulvahill, who works as a cement finisher, is hurting for work. He has a boat moored in Bayview.

For years, Bayview was a sleepy little village. One of the few sheltered bays in the lake, it features seven marinas as well as a public boat launch. One can notice in the older marinas, the 16-foot to 18-foot slips – these were the bulk of boaters for many years. Low- to middle-income people could afford $300-$400 per year to moor their boats; even the covered boat sheds for larger boats cost only $1,200-$1,500 per year. Fishing for trophy trout and Kokanee were the mainstays for many years.

But failure of fish stocks and modernization of marinas have priced moorage out of many budgets. Moorage fees have doubled, and more, in some cases. Most of the lower- to middle-income boaters have pulled their boats out of the water and posted for-sale signs.

Mulvahill is a bit more stubborn. He has owned his 26-foot sailboat for several tough years. Evicted from several marinas, he finally took the boat over to the Eagle Landing dock at Farragut State Park. After a patient interval, the park asked him to leave.

What to do? Mulvahill said, “I’m not trying to cause trouble or start a fight with authority, I just want a place where I can put my boat. The marinas have priced me out of the docks, and on top of that I’m unemployed.”

Most boaters at this point would have pulled the boat and went on with their lives. But Mulvahill checked his options. An obscure rule, it turns out, allows a boat owner to moor to an anchorage, providing the boat is not just stored. It has to be periodically occupied, not block a channel, be currently registered, display an anchor light and be moved periodically. Bingo.

Mulvahill’s dinghy is kept onshore on public land.

At this point, there are no other options available to people who can’t afford docking fees. There are, though, downsides to anchoring out. A marina operator who chose not to be quoted suggested that security provided by the marinas was important along with accessibility and power. Mulvahill agrees.

“If I had a choice I’d be in a marina. I have it anchored where it is at after a great deal of thought. I didn’t want to get in the Navy’s way, not the area in front of the boat launch, so I chose the spot, just about 150 feet out and to the south of the waterway.”

This 26-foot, blue sailboat sits calmly out from shore at the head of Scenic Bay, tethered to a mooring buoy which is anchored to the bottom. Mulvahill finally figured out how to win even when the system didn’t work for him.

If you should happen to run across him at one of the diminishing watering holes here in Bayview, you can be sure he is staying at his very own marine hotel, rent-free. Said Mulvahill, “My only regret is that I don’t have a lady that wants to share the rides with me.”

Well, I’m sure we can pass on any fruitful messages to you, Dan.

Contact correspondent Herb Huseland at Read his blog at