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Avalon Deaths Offer Reminder of Boating Safety

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As we close the boating chapter of 2014 and begin a new year, I thought it appropriate to once again pass along my primary goal for all boaters and boating passengers to think boating safety at all times.

For many years, Catalina has promoted an extravagant dinner dance at Avalon’s famous casino on the edge of town beside the Pacific Ocean.

This time of year it is quite common to have air temperatures in the 70s and many times in the 80s. These conditions allow giddy feelings for the boaters who partake and some selfish gloating when considering that a major portion of America is freezing.

On the morning of December 31, local TV broadcasts showed three 40-foot power boats on the beach in Avalon Harbor. The news coverage also showed unusual 4-foot wind chop inside the breakwater, causing the moored yachts to appear as corks bobbing while atop a running washing machine.

These conditions test the forethought of securing the vessel to the mooring tackle. All Avalon mooring tackle is changed every year as the locals know of and plan for the occasional extreme conditions placed on the lines and chain.

These events remind me of a surprise I had in the 1982-1983 El Niño winter weather conditions. We had a 90-mile wind gust and six-foot wind chop off the American Legion when I went to check the family 38-foot antique tugboat, the Walrus, on a mooring adjacent to the Legion.

I had never seen such conditions in Newport Harbor. More than 50 boats broke loose from their moorings from worn out lines to their buoys. Probably just as many chains broke from the buoys to their weights. These unplanned departures caused major damage to those boats and the neighboring boats they banged into. The Harbor Patrol had their hands full but performed magnificently when safe conditions allowed them to respond.

After watching the news footage, I made a quick call to the Harbor Patrol, and Sergeant Marble informed me we fared much better than Avalon. The 60-foot Vintage, which was my photo in last week’s Indy column, appeared to be the only mishap.

As a lifelong lover and appreciator, and former owner of antique wooden yachts, this news was disheartening. Sergeant Marble added they would re-secure the classic yacht when the conditions calmed.

Very sadly, we were also informed an Avalon Harbor Patrolman was injured and succumbed while wedged between a loose yacht and the rocks, and another man’s body was recovered from the water a few hours later. Our prayers are with the families and community.

Be Safe!

Skipper Steve

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