Harbor water taxi captain arrested


A captain of an Inner Harbor water taxi was ordered held on $5,000 bail yesterday after being arrested on charges of being drunk while he was at the helm of a 36-foot vessel used to ferry tourists and commuters around city waterways.

James Miles Dubel, 41, of the 7300 block of Prince George Road in Baltimore County was charged with operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and operating a vessel while intoxicated. He was being held last night at the Central District lockup.

If convicted on both counts, he could face 14 months in jail and $10,500 in fines, authorities said.

Members of the Police Department's marine unit arrested Mr. Dubel about 8:30 p.m. Monday. Shortly after the water taxi Raven stopped at the National Aquarium, passengers and the first mate told the officers that the the captain "was acting in a loud and obnoxious manner and that they believed that he was intoxicated," said Officer Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman.

Court documents filed yesterday say the arresting officers smelled "a strong odor of alcohol" on the captain's breath.

Ronald Morgan, co-owner of Harbor Shuttle, which hired Mr. Dubel in 1992, said he immediately fired the captain Monday night.

Mr. Dubel worked about 20 hours a week.

Thirty people work for the company, one of two shuttle services operating in the harbor that ferry people to various locations around Baltimore, including Harborplace, Fells Point and Little Italy.

"We are very upset about the incident," Mr. Morgan said yesterday. "It makes us all look bad."

Lt. Jim Griffin, the chief of investigations for the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Baltimore, said that agency seized the license that allowed Mr. Dubel to operate passenger boats.

The captain can get his license back only after a public administrative hearing is held within 45 days. He got his Coast Guard license in 1987, and it was renewed for five years in 1992.

At a preliminary bail hearing yesterday afternoon, District Court Commissioner Maggalean Henson told Mr. Dubel that she was setting bail because he allegedly endangered the lives of the passengers.

"I wasn't drinking on the boat," Mr. Dubel told her. He is scheduled for a bail review today.

Mr. Dubel is on probation until July 20, 1995, stemming from a drunken driving conviction two years ago. He was found guilty of driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs on July 20, 1992, court records show.

His mother, Helen Dubel, said last night that her son had an alcohol problem but that he has "been clean for two years."

Mr. Dubel is the son of Robert Y. Dubel, a former Baltimore County superintendent of schools. They live next door to each other in Baltimore County's Villa Nova neighborhood.

Attempts to administer a breath test were unsuccessful because Mr. Dubel failed to blow into the device hard enough for it to register an accurate measurement, police said.

After Mr. Dubel was arrested, police found a half-full 16-ounce Pepsi bottle under the driver's seat that they suspect had held alcohol. The contents are being tested.

Mr. Morgan said he has a drug and alcohol testing program in effect, as mandated by the Coast Guard, but that he now will go one step further and start randomly testing captains using his own breath-test machine.

"This is an isolated incident," Mr. Morgan said. "We will never let this happen again."

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