I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to grow up boating inside and outside Newport Harbor. My oldest memories include boating or something to do with boating. A few of my oldest memories are family events which of course, involve boats.
Around 1955, when I was five, television was in its infancy and radio broadcasts were the norm. Our Mom would always make sure we were close to a radio to listen to our Dad broadcast from Los Angeles the activities and fish reports of the family sport fishing business along Mariners Mile named Port Orange.
The business had a café and small wooden cottages for rent on the landside portion of the several hundred foot bay front location with skiffs for rent, bait receivers, three 60 to 85-foot ocean going sport fishing boats for the public, and half a dozen slips for the commercial bait boats and commercial purse-seine net boats which sold their catch daily to the cannery at the end of the Rhine channel, which is now the Cannery Restaurant.
Around 1959, following the over fishing of sardines and mackerel, the business was closed and the property sold and became the international yacht and ship brokerage Ardell Yachts and Marina. The 85-foot sport boat “Gypsy” was re-converted back to its original yacht condition which became the family yacht. By this time my Dad had logged thousands of hours as a commercially licensed Captain and would take the family and a few of their friend’s families to Catalina for fun and relaxation.
This included powering over schools of feeding blue sharks and spotting dozens of flying fish, which always fascinated the youngsters. One memory I’ll share: the mackerel were so plentiful in Avalon that an outside light on our boat attracted a large school, and in their frenzy they would even bite a shiny hook along with baited lines. The bright orange Garibaldi fish were everywhere and it was common to see lobster scurrying among the rock shoreline.
Along with the loss of sardines was the disappointment of the abalone also being over fished and becoming very scarce. I still find it amazing in this day and age that with more than 50 years of study and experimental re-planting and protection, this local delicacy is borderline extinct.
During this era we would visit John Cazier who, as a bachelor, lived in one of the several upstairs rooms at the Balboa Yacht Club.
My Dad crewed on John’s 18-foot Thistle sloop which raced in the ocean and is a deck-less sloop. These fast rigs were a wet ride with scoops in their bottom which could be opened while sailing to aide in draining the constant ocean water splashing aboard. John and other sailing friends met my Dad while attending U.C.L.A.
These memories and many more came to mind this week following the passing of my hero, my Dad – J. Peter Barrett.