Governor's boat at state dock for sake of security

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Among the good things about being governor are the perks, especially when you're hard-pressed to find a place to put your 53-foot yacht.

Pleasure cruisers looking for a moorage space that size spend up to seven years on a wait list in Juneau, according to city Harbor Director John Stone.

That's why in the mid-1980s the city Docks and Harbors Board began making a boat stall available for the governor in Aurora Harbor, near the Douglas Bridge. The space was first available during Gov. Bill Sheffield's term.

The board required the governor to pay the standard moorage fees, but enabled him to bypass the lengthy wait list, Stone said. But not every governor needed the space, Stone said.

"In the mid-'80s Gov. Sheffield was an avid boater," he said. "He left, and the next two governors weren't boaters and we started using it for other purposes."

Last year Gov. Frank Murkowski's Southern Cross-style yacht named the First Lady first appeared at the base of the main float in Aurora Harbor where Sheffield once parked his boat. Stone said the city had been keeping a derelict boat there.

After mooring the vessel there for a short time, Murkowski's security officers became concerned about easy access to the boat, said Becky Hultberg, a spokeswoman for Murkowski.

"They were concerned that anyone could get on the boat," she said. "It's a boat that people would recognize."

Hultberg said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game agreed to let Murkowski tie up the First Lady at the state dock next to the Douglas Bridge, which had space for the boat. The dock is generally used for Fish and Game research vessels and is accessible only through a building at the southwest corner of 10th Street and Egan Drive.

Hultberg noted that Murkowski pays the state the same amount he would if he were using the city dock - $3.15 a day.

That totals $1,149 a year, but the governor is not required to pay on days when the boat is docked elsewhere. For example, in June the boat was not there the whole month and the charge was only $81.90, Hultberg said. Murkowski sailed the First Lady to Seattle last winter, Hultberg said.

Hultberg added that although the First Lady is Murkowski's personal boat, he also uses the vessel for official state business, such as transporting state officials to Haines last year for the annual meeting of the Southeast Conference.

Hultberg said the Murkowskis enjoy recreating on the boat and have taken it around Southeast to areas such as Ketchikan and Wrangell.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothy.inklebarger@juneauempire.com.



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