Lou Lample's 38-foot sailboat will leave the dock for the first time in about two years Tuesday, and the 82-year-old Baltimore native isn't happy about it.
He's one of many slipholders at the Baltimore Yacht Basin who are scrambling to move after the new owner of the small but storied marina on the Middle Branch, the real estate firm backed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, sent a letter about a week ago announcing their leases would be terminated.
Slipholders said the letter asked them to leave by April 2 or face fees of $100 a day. People interested in continued membership say they must switch from monthly to annual payments and bring their boats into compliance with marina standards, such as up-to-date insurance and other requirements.
Lample, who has lived on his sailboat at the scruffy South Baltimore marina for about 10 years, wants to stay, but "they made it so hard that you couldn't," he said. "It's all baloney."
The Baltimore Yacht Basin's roughly 180 slips sit in front of Nick's Fish House, wedged between Hanover Street and the NGK-Locke plant on Insulator Drive.
The 3-acre property is part of more than 120 acres that Plank has acquired in Port Covington, where his private real estate firm, Sagamore Development Co., plans to build a campus for Under Armour. The first offices, located in a former Sam's Club, are expected to open by the end of the year.
Sagamore purchased the Baltimore Yacht Basin and restaurant property in January through a limited liability company.
An evaluation found boats there that were inoperable and others without insurance, posing risks to other slipholders, John Maroon, a spokesman for Sagamore and the marina, said in a statement. Rules were not being enforced, and of the 58 vessels there, 21 were not in compliance when they had their leases terminated.
In the statement, Maroon said the marina is offering every boat owner the chance to stay.
"Moving forward, we will work with all our marina users to bring their vessels into compliance, or work with them on plans to safely move their boats from the marina while making sure to avoid imposing any hardship," he said. "We will be flexible and supportive with our users as we work toward creating a safe environment where all our boaters can enjoy a memorable experience at the Baltimore Yacht Basin."
Lample, who grew up in Pigtown and worked as a trucker for 30 years, said he pays about $260 a month for his spot and can't afford an annual payment on his fixed income. His motor isn't working, so it will be towed Tuesday morning to a marina in Glen Burnie.
Lample acknowledges his boat has seen better days.
"All that junk on my boat, it really ain't junk, but it looks bad," he said, gesturing to a deflated gray rubber boat hidden under a tarp. "They want your boat a certain way."
Several vessels departed over the weekend, said users of the marina.
Thomas Scruggs, 57, said he spent all day Sunday moving his 35-foot sailboat, but couldn't make it to a new mooring near Gibson Island and dropped anchor just past the Key Bridge. He set out again Monday to take it the rest of the way.
"With such a short notice … it's just very awkward," said Scruggs, who said he had leased a slip at the Baltimore Yacht Basin since 2007, drawn to its sunsets and good rates. "I'm upset. … It's been a wonderful place. I don't want to leave."
An unpretentious place with ducks and a view of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge on Hanover Street, the marina was city-owned with private management for decades.
In the 1990s, it hosted the Dead Eye Saloon, a blue-collar watering hole with taxidermy displays and an aura of lawlessness. (At various times, then-operator Daniel Davis, known as Captain Dan, was embroiled in fights over unpaid city taxes, out-of-compliance dock work and safety violations.)
The place had an atmosphere "like a pirate's den," recalled Michael Finck, 58, of Federal Hill, who used to lease a slip at the marina.
"You had the rough-edge people and the well-to-do people, and everybody got along," Finck said.
The saloon closed a year after Davis' 1997 death. In 2002, the city agreed to sell the property for $375,000 to a group of investors that included developer Ronald Lipscomb and Thomas "Tommy" Chagouris, the former owner of Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood in the Cross Street Market.
Nick's Fish House and Grille opened at the marina in 2004, becoming a popular waterfront crab place. In January, Sagamore paid $5.9 million for the marina and brought in new management for the eatery.
Sagamore, which is working on plans for a distillery on the other side of Port Covington, has a "long-term capital improvement plan" for the property that could involve removing some of the long-term slips, Maroon said.
Helmut Wilhelm, 56, of Manchester, Pa., who has leased a slip at the marina for his sailboat for more than four years, said he expects the investment to improve the place, already attractive for its eclectic character and well-priced, convenient and quiet berths. The rules are standard at other marinas, he said.
"It's not a big deal," said Wilhelm, who already pays annual dues and said he hopes to renew his lease. "It's progress, really."