PROVINCETOWN — An application to operate a personal watercraft (PWC), or Jet Ski, rental business on MacMillan Pier was denied by the Public Pier Corp. board on July 14. The applicant was Marcello Subashi, who owns Provincetown Parasail and proposed to lease Noah Santos’s float space on the pier.
The board’s ruling, however, does not ban PWCs from Provincetown Harbor. In fact, the same business denied a spot by the Pier Corp. could open soon at Flyer’s Boat Rentals in the West End if Subashi is able to hire staff before summer ends, said Santos, whose family owns Flyer’s.
Subashi proposed to have an employee slowly lead up to three PWC riders from float space 1E out beyond Long Point to where they could then go at full speed for 45-minute rides.
After months of review, the Pier Corp. board voted 4-0-1 to deny the application, with board member Beau Gribbin abstaining. The decision was based on advice from town counsel Gregg J. Corbo of KP Law. Corbo said the Chapter 91 license governing the town-owned pier would not allow PWCs.
Corbo advised the board that the license authorizes water transportation services, which are defined as services that take “public passengers for hire.” The license lists whale watch boats, sailing charters, and commercial fishing tours as examples of vessels that take passengers. But these types of businesses do not allow the public to operate the boat. Passengers do not have crew responsibilities or duties related to the operation.
There is a distinction between a vessel that takes passengers and a “bareboat charter” business, in which the vessel is turned over to and operated by the person renting the boat. That is closer to a PWC, Corbo concluded.
“So, it is my opinion that a Jet Ski operated by members of the public is different than a passenger vessel,” and therefore not allowed under the Chapter 91 license, he said.
Subashi explained that his business is distinct from a boat that you simply rent out, because he would have a guide take clients into the waters beyond Long Point. But Corbo said that did not change his interpretation.
It is true, Corbo added, that there is little precedent or case law established for such a situation, and therefore Corbo’s interpretation could be challenged. “In the absence of an opinion from a court that directly addresses the facts and circumstances described herein, some of these opinions may be open to differing interpretations,” Corbo wrote in his opinion to the board.
Subashi could not be reached for comment. But Santos said the Pier Corp. ruling “was incredibly disappointing.”
Subashi and his twin brother are hard-working immigrants from Bulgaria who spend the winters fishing for scallops out of New Bedford and run the parasail business in the summer, Santos said. They bought four PWCs in anticipation of getting their business running this summer, Santos added.
The Provincetown Harbor Regulations do allow PWCs from launch points all over town, just not MacMillan Pier, said Jamie Staniscia, chair of the Pier Corp. board. He confirmed that Subashi could operate the PWC rental business from Flyer’s Boat Yard. Santos said he has been invited to do just that. But he must hire more staff, and it may not be possible for this summer.
Jet Skis are controversial. When people see them, they tend to call the harbormaster to complain, said Harbormaster Don German.
There was, however, just one letter sent to the Pier Corp. on this before its July 14 meeting. It was from Scott Pomfret of Provincetown, who wrote, “I confess I do not understand the desire for the Miamification of our harbor by introducing rentals of personal watercraft.”