Maine State Ferry Service is asking the town of Lincolnville to move three moorings farther away from the ferry terminal.

The moorings need to be moved northward at least 100 feet, according to a March 1 letter from Port Capt. Daniel M. McNichol of Maine State Ferry Service.

The Ferry Service is not responsible for moving the moorings and would not be held liable for any damage caused by moving a mooring, according to McNichol.

McNichol's letter states the Lincolnville harbormaster is "authorized to order the removal of a mooring, and, if the mooring is not moved, the harbormaster is authorized to have the mooring moved at the owner's expense."

McNichol's letter was part of an ongoing communication exchange among the Ferry Service, Lincolnville town officials and Harbormaster Michael Hutchings about three moorings that are near the large fenders, or "turning dolphin," where the ferry docks.

One of the three moorings is used by the Pendleton Yacht Yard crews. The other two moorings are used by fishing vessels Jireh, owned by Dana Berry and Sea Deuced owned by Jason St. Claire. Berry and St. Clair are two of the five to six Lincolnville fishermen who use the town's fish pier.

McNichol's March 1 letter was a response to a Feb. 10 letter from Hutchings in which he said he did not have enough information to determine whether the mooring owners needed to be assigned new locations. In that letter, Hutchings asked what direction and distance would be sufficient for the moorings to be moved "to correct the perceived problem," and "which entity will perform, supervise and pay to move the moorings, and who will be responsible for any claims of damage."

Hutchings also asked if the ferry route or operations could be modified so the moorings do not have to be relocated, suggesting possible changes in ferry approach and departure procedures in Lincolnville Harbor and at the Islesboro ferry terminal. He said pulling the ferry straight into the Lincolnville pen and backing the ferry into the Islesboro pen would improve the speed of ambulance departures from Islesboro and improve safety by keeping the ferry propellers farther from the town pier on the mainland.

In his March 1 response, McNichol said it would be impractical to change ferry operations.  The course from Lincolnville to Islesboro is short and straight. "We ask that you establish and maintain a convenient channel through the Lincolnville Beach mooring field for the passage of the Maine State Ferry Service vessels, measuring at least 200-feet wide, along a straight line between the two ferry landings at Islesboro and Lincolnville Beach, pursuant to a Harbormaster's authority," McNichol wrote.

McNichol provided a detailed description of why the ferry cannot pull straight into the pen in Lincolnville and back into the pen in Islesboro. He explained that backing out of the pen in Lincolnville under certain weather conditions "would not be an advisable or safe navigational maneuver."

In January, the Board of Selectmen requested that the discussion be conducted in writing between Lincolnville Harbormaster Michael Hutchings, and the Ferry Service. At that time, town attorney Sally Daggett advised the Board of Selectmen that the harbor ordinance gave Hutchings authority over mooring placement, and that their role to hear appeals of a harbormaster's decision would be compromised if they further involved themselves in the discussion.

In a January letter, McNichol explained in writing that when the wind is northwesterly at low tide, the vessels on the three moorings turn toward the turning dolphin. The result is that the vessels are too close to the ferry, which, McNichol said, creates a dangerous situation.

According to McNichol, the Ferry Service has files about the moorings going back to the 1990s. He believes that in past years the moorings have been moved away "a bit," but then seem to "creep back towards the turning dolphin."

The recent exchange about the moorings in Lincolnville Harbor dates back to Nov. 29, 2016, when representatives from the Coast Guard, Maine State Ferry Service and town officials, including the Board of Selectmen, met at the ferry terminal to observe the ferry dock, and to discuss the issue.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at