Annapolis mayor wants special permission to dock 17-foot boat. He says it’s for city business. Others say it’s hubris.

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Mayor Gavin Buckley aboard his BRIG 520 Navigator, which retail for just under $45,000.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley is calling it “Dinghygate.”

Last month, Harbormaster Beth Bellis ticketed the mayor for illegally docking his 17-foot boat that he describes as “a dinghy” at a community dock reserved for smaller boats. In response, the mayor has asked City Council to let him “deputize” his inflatable BRIG motorboat for official government purposes so he can continue to use the berth in Lafayette Park.


Keeping a boat in near his home is essential, the mayor contends, so he can conduct city business such as taking out official visitors on tours and promoting water accessibility.

“I’m not only the chief executive of the city, you know. I am the chief ambassador of the city,” Buckley said.


Bellis declined to comment on the problematic boat, but city spokesperson Mitchelle Stephenson confirmed that neighbors complained about the oversized vessel. As word of the controversy spread, more Historic District residents have voiced concern. Some see the mayor’s bid to have the boat deputized as an attempt to receive preferential treatment.

“What we are doing is giving him special permission to dock his boat,” said Kathleen McDermott, a Ward 1 resident who heard about the controversy from Alderwoman Elly Tierney.

In an email to constituents, Tierney said she would support the measure. “The mayor spends an exorbitant amount of time on this vessel to survey future water access points which, I believe, justifies this use,” Tierney wrote.

But McDermott said she and other neighbors are urging Tierney to vote “no” on the proposal when it comes before council for a final vote on June 27. McDermott views the mayor’s move to deputize the boat as an unwelcome distraction when city officials should be focused on crime, public housing and infrastructure issues, especially the rash of water main leaks and natural gas pipeline issues that have plagued the ward in recent weeks.

“This is about hubris,” McDermott said. “I understand that council members don’t want to be at odds with the mayor, but they need to be at odds with him when dumb things are happening.”

According to documents released by the city’s Office of Law, the mayor received a ticket from Bellis for “berthing a vessel more than 12 feet/25 horsepower at a street end (Lafayette)” on May 18. He paid the $100 fine on June 3.

“I don’t agree with it, but I wanted to follow the process,” Buckley said, adding that as mayor, he feels entitled to certain parking exceptions. He also supports the harbormaster’s recent request to raise the fines to $200 so there is “more of a deterrent” for repeat offenders.

As proposed, Buckley’s resolution says, ”The Mayor shall be entitled to dock his or her deputized personal vessel (of any size) at any City harbor, dock, launching facility or street end,” and goes on to stipulate that the mayor will “bear all expenses incidental to the possession, use, operation and maintenance of that personal vessel.”


Boaters are not required to hold insurance in Maryland, but the mayor does carry a policy, Stephenson said. She also confirmed that city lawyers have reviewed the resolution.

Buckley’s new BRIG 520 Navigator replaces a smaller dinghy that he previously docked in the same spot. He also owns a 24-foot pontoon boat that he proudly calls “the ugliest boat on Spa Creek.”

BRIG 520 Navigators retail for just under $45,000, according to a salesperson for Sirocca Marine, an Australian company that recently closed its Annapolis location. The boats are manufactured in Ukraine, and have become difficult to find since the Russian invasion, he said.

As the war in Ukraine has contributed to high inflation rates and rising gas prices, some politicians are increasingly facing criticism for being out of touch with the average American checkbook. Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, has called attention to the problems that stem from more than half of all members of Congress being millionaires. The Los Angeles mayor’s race between congresswoman Karen Bass and billionaire developer Rick Caruso has also prompted questions about the extent to which being rich should be viewed as a political virtue.

Buckley, an Australian immigrant who owns several restaurants, was unconcerned about possible negative perceptions that could arise from using his expensive personal boat for city business.

“I didn’t really think about that,” Buckley said. “I could have bought a much nicer boat, like a Boston Whaler, but I bought a boat that looks like a government boat so I could do government functions.”


The only council member to question the resolution when the mayor presented it to the all-Democratic council on Friday was Ward 4 Alderman DaJuan Gay, who asked why the city couldn’t just buy a boat for the mayor to use.

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“I didn’t think that would fly,” Buckley said at the meeting.

Instead, he ordered a gray BRIG and emblazoned its hull with a rose-and-thistle Annapolis seal. Among his official trips so far: Arriving by boat to the groundbreaking for a new boathouse run by the nonprofit CRAB and taking a group of architects donating pro-bono services to the city. He said he was scheduled to take Wendy O’Sullivan, superintendent for the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Office, out for a tour this week, but the park service did not confirm the maritime outing.

Buckley’s 17-foot boat is currently docked (legally) at Truxtun Park. Assuming the council votes to deputize the BRIG, the mayor said he plans to return it to Lafayette Park, next to his neighbors’ shorter dinghies. Six of the seven other boat owners at the dock support him being allowed to keep the BRIG there, Buckley said.

Skeptics who don’t approve are welcome to join Buckley on a “water access” tour of Annapolis, but so far none have taken him up on the offer, he said.

“Some people are set in their ways,” Buckley said, and facing criticism for his unconventional ideas is “part of the job.”