The iconic Buck’s Harbor in Brooksville has become the center of a legal fight between the town and a local marina.
The marina owner, Jonathan Buck, claims the town unjustly punished him after a moored 100-foot yacht crashed into another boat during a 2020 storm.
The damage was minor, but it set in motion a monthslong fight that escalated on Jan. 6 when Buck filed a lawsuit against the town with the help of high-profile Maine lawyer, Severin Beliveau.
In August 2020, when a tropical storm passed through the area, the yacht was tied up to one of the marina’s 35 moorings without the marina’s approval, according to the lawsuit. That yacht dragged the mooring a short distance in the storm and hit another boat, Beliveau said.
The two boat owners worked it out themselves, according to Beliveau, but he claims that the town’s efforts mark a less friendly departure from how harbor issues had been worked out in the past.
“This is unprecedented what has occurred here,” he said.
The town said the crash was the marina’s fault. In August 2020, the town sent a notice to the marina saying that because the yacht was too large for the mooring and dragged it, the marina was in violation of the town’s harbor ordinance.
“It was agreed that you showed poor judgment in placing that particular boat on a rental mooring for the forecast conditions,” town harbormaster Debrae Bishop wrote.
Buck was stripped of his status as a mooring inspector and needed to have his moorings inspected by someone else within two weeks. Buck appealed that order but eventually came to an understanding with the town. He signed an agreement in September 2020 that he would fix several problems in the mooring field, including labeling each mooring for maximum vessel length and meeting other requirements under the town’s ordinance.
But, according to the town, Buck did not live up to his end of the bargain.
Buck appealed those findings — which included allegations that he hadn’t labeled most of the moorings and also failed to have them inspected by the deadline — to the Harbor Committee, a town board that oversees the harbormaster and the management of the town’s landings. He argued he was being held to a different standard and questioned whether the harbormaster was unfairly targeting the marina.
In November, the committee determined that the marina was in violation of the consent agreement.
Bishop declined to comment on the ongoing dispute.
Jackson Wright, who lives in Blue Hill and keeps a boat at the marina, wished that things could be worked out peacefully between the marina and the town and said he offered to work as an intermediary between Buck and Bishop. He said the town was being unfair and said there was no need to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to figure out something as simple as moorings.
“None of this is normal or friendly,” he said. “It’s just gone off the rails.”
The marina has asked a judge to throw out the harbor committee’s decision to uphold the harbormaster’s enforcement order, rule that the town violated its ordinance and the consent agreement and pay the marina for its trouble.