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08/29/2023 10:55 AM

Harry Plaut: Master of the Harbor

Harry Plaut has been harbor master in Westbrook since 2019. Prior to coming to Westbrook, he was also the harbor master in Old Lyme. Photo courtesy of Harry Plaut

If you ask someone what comes to mind when they hear the word “Westbrook,” one of the first things they’ll mention is boating. As harbor master, Harry Plaut is one of the people responsible for overseeing the use of Westbrook’s harbor and waters.

Harry has been harbor master in Westbrook since 2019. During a recent chat with the Harbor News, Harry explains what exactly a harbor master does.

“The harbor master controls the waterways in the town in which he is serving. He’s responsible for the moorings, coordinating with DEEP [Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] regarding the installation of docks, and coordinating with any events happening on the water,” Harry says.

“It’s also semi-law enforcement in that you patrol the water and make sure people are doing the right things while on the water,” he adds.

Prior to coming to Westbrook, Harry was also the harbor master in Old Lyme.

“I was already the harbor master in one town, and I figured I could do that job in Westbrook as well,” Harry says.

Harry says he went to harbor master school in 2015, where he learned the ins and outs of the position. However, boating was already something he was familiar with.

“For my business, I already was on the water all the time. I install moorings and docks,” Harry says.

Overseeing the waterways in a town like Westbrook is no joke.

“Boating is the economy of Westbrook,” Harry matter-of-factly says. In fact, some may be surprised by just how busy it is year-round. “It’s busy in the summer, and October is really busy, especially on the weekends. It dies down a bit as the winter comes in, and January and February are pretty quiet except for the boat shows, like the one in Hartford. And then before you know it, in March and April, it starts all over again,” Harry says.

Since coming aboard in Westbrook, Harry has worked to modernize Westbrook’s approach to the harbor as well as implement some rules. “When I first got here, people were not obeying the rules of the waterways and kind of doing what they wanted. I had to implement some rules and regulations,” he says.

A key aid in helping with implementing the rules and regulations was the Harbor Management Commission.

“As time has progressed, we’ve realized how important the Harbor Management Commission really is,” says Harry.

Some of the new aspects the commission worked on are an online registration system for moorings as well as updates to the rules of the waterways.

“We really have come into the

21st century,” he says.

Asked about his favorite part of being a harbor master, Harry says, “Just seeing the end game of anything I put out, whether I put out new moorings people are using or complete a project.”

“I also like to see it busy with lots of people in the water,” he adds.

As for the hardest part of being a harbor master, Harry acknowledges that sometimes it can be tough to deal with people who disregard the rules of the waterways. “You can tell a weekend boater from a boater that’s been around for a while very quickly,” he says with a laugh. “There’s some people who think just because they can afford to buy a new boat that they know better and don’t listen, and that can be tough to deal with,” Harry admits.

Harry originally grew up in West Hartford but now lives in Old Lyme. As for what he likes about Westbrook, Harry is quick to point to the people he’s met.

“The people I’ve come into contact with in Westbrook, especially the chairman and members of the Harbor Management Commission, are really superheroes,” he says.

Harry is also quite fond of the other people he’s met in town. “The people are very loyal to the town and very community-oriented. They take great pride in the town, and that’s great to see,” Harry says.