Moose Lodge’s marina no place for lady boaters

06/17/2010 12:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Pamela Cheek sits on the back of her boat with her dogs, Oscar (left) and Nemo. After her fianc

When Pamela Cheek’s 44-year-old fiance, Bill Carpenter, died in April after a battle with cancer, she knew she could take solace in boating, which had been the couple’s shared pastime.

But she ran into some trouble as she went to pay the fees to dock her 18-foot Angler center console, the Sunny III, for the season at the Riverhead Moose Lodge No. 1742 Marina and Yacht Club, where she and Mr. Carpenter had docked their boat since 2007.

A staff member told her that because she was a member of the ladies chapter of the lodge and not the official Loyal Order of the Moose, as Mr. Carpenter had been, she would have to give up his dock space and move the Sunny III somewhere else.

“He said women can’t keep boats here,” said Ms. Cheek, who is a member of the Women of the Moose. “Like it was a crime to be a woman.”

Ms. Cheek legally owns the boat and had always signed the checks for the slip, which is why she was so shocked. She also assumed that being a member of the Women of the Moose would entitle her to continue using the club facilities, located on Riverside Drive in Riverhead.

“I was amazed that he actually even said that to me,” she said. “I was floored.”

Ms. Cheek paid about $800 a season to dock the Sunny III at the club — considerably less then what nearby marinas charge. She now pays about $1,800 to dock the boat at Treasure Cove Marina, just off Main Street in Riverhead.

A man who identified himself only as the club’s administrator said the Women of the Moose are allowed to host functions at the lodge, but only because the members of the Loyal Order of the Moose extend them that courtesy. He said no women are allowed to dock their boats at the marina.

“They don’t belong to this lodge,” he said of the Women of the Moose.

The club usually gives widows one year after their husbands die to move their boats, he said, noting that Ms. Cheek’s situation was further complicated by the fact she and Mr. Carpenter were not married.

Legally, the Moose Lodge most likely did nothing wrong.

“New York State Human Rights Law does not cover private clubs or benevolent orders under its laws,” said Manny Kottaram, a spokesman for the New York State Human Rights division. “Those are exempted from the law” that bars discrimination on the basis of gender.

Kurt Wehrmeister, director of communications for Moose International, said that Women of the Moose members are generally able to use the facilities of their respective lodges but the rules are up to the individual chapters to determine.

“The provisions for facilities operated by any Moose center is up the leadership of that lodge,” he said. “If indeed the sole reason for this [incident] is because of gender, it is certainly something that headquarters wouldn’t necessarily approve of.”

Mr. Wehrmeister said he’d suggest that Ms. Cheek file a grievance with Moose headquarters.

Asked if prohibiting females from docking their boats at the marina was a fair practice, the man who said he was the club administrator answered: “I don’t know if it’s a fair practice or not, but it’s our practice.”

As for Ms. Cheek, she said she has no intention of returning to the lodge. She only wants to bring attention to what happened and wants to see an end to what she said is unfair.

“I want the community to know that an organization that discriminates against women still exists,” she said.

Vchinese@timesreview.com