Commissioners, Public Tour the Harbor Together

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Harbor Commission Vice Chairman David Girling speaks about the 125-foot long catamaran Cheyenne (seen in the background) to a crowd during a special commission meeting and harbor tour on Saturday. — Photo by Sara Hall
Harbor Commission Vice Chairman David Girling speaks about the 125-foot long catamaran Cheyenne (seen in the background) to a crowd during a special commission meeting and harbor tour on Saturday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

About 50 people boarded a Balboa Island ferry over the weekend for a unique tour of the harbor.

The Harbor Commission held a special meeting Saturday morning that included a two-hour tour of the harbor, during which the commissioners spoke about various issues and projects facing the harbor.

Commissioner Joe Stapleton spoke about derelict vessels and Marina Park, while Commission Vice Chair David Girling gave some information about the Cheyenne catamaran.

Also on the tour, commissioners Girling spoke about Lower Castaways and sea walls on Balboa Island, Paul Blank spoke about public docks, 19th Street pier, William Kenney, Jr., about water propelled vessels, Commission Chairman Brad Avery talked about alternative anchorage, vessel overhang, and Balboa Marina, and Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller spoke about Bay Island.

As the group made their way around the harbor, attendees got to see the issues and projects the Harbor Commission handles first hand, including several derelict vessels.

The city has been awarded a grant of $125,000 through the California State Parks to deal with the issue, Stapleton said. It’s good for two years, he explained.

Commissioner Joe Stapleton talks about derelict vessels to the group as they cruise by one loaded down with sea lions during Saturday‘s Harbor Commission meeting. — Photo by Sara Hall
Commissioner Joe Stapleton talks about derelict vessels to the group as they cruise by one loaded down with sea lions during Saturday‘s Harbor Commission meeting.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

“We’re going to really spend some quality time reaching out to some of these vessels,” Stapleton said as the floating meeting cruised by some derelict boats he pointed out as examples.

Some people can’t find the time, energy or resources to get rid of their boat, Stapleton explained.

If one were to sink in the harbor, it would be a huge environmental and safety hazard, he said.

“That’s a huge concern to the Harbor Commission,” Stapleton noted.

Using the grant funds, the city will work on a program for the next two years that will focus on educating boat owners and removing the worst of the bunch.

About 10 percent of the entire harbor are deemed derelict, Stapleton said, meaning they can’t make it to the Wedge and back.

Of that 10 percent, there’s maybe a dozen that present an immediate hazard and they are going to go after those right away, Stapleton said.

“Now we have the resources we can do something about that,” he said, referring to a derelict boat the ferry was passing at that moment that had a group of sea lions gathering on it.

Often, it’s easier for the city to get rid of the boat than trying to get the owner to take care of it, he continued.

Part of the program includes properly destroying the boats.

“Some of these boats are not meant to be in the water at all,” Stapleton said.

Stapleton also spoke about Marina Park.

The Marina Park project. — Photo by Sara Hall
The Marina Park project.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The project is coming in on time and under budget at $38 million, he said.

“This project is very near and dear to me,” said Stapleton, who has lived on the peninsula for nine years.

According to the city website, Marina Park “encompasses a 10.5-acre site and involves new construction of a public park; a 24,000-square-foot Community and Sailing Center building; a 23-slip marina; a reconstructed 19th Street restroom building; a freestanding playground lighthouse feature; themed playground; outdoor fitness circuit; parking lots; and frontage street improvements.

The park will also be home to the new 6,100-square-foot Girl Scouts Leadership Center, which is being funded entirely by the Girl Scouts of Orange County.”

It’s a massive project, Stapleton said.

The dock will be the last thing that will be built, he added, to avoid wear and tear from construction.

The ribbon cutting is scheduled for December 2015, Stapleton said.

As the ferry went by the site, Stapleton encouraged everyone on board to see the project from the land side as well.

“It’s going to be a terrific facility,” he said.

Commissioner Paul Blank talks about issues facing the harbor.    — Photo by Sara Hall
Commissioner Paul Blank talks about issues facing the harbor.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Guests were also able to see the 125-foot long and about 100-foot wide catamaran, Cheyenne, along the tour. Cheyenne owner Chris Welsh was also on board the ferry for the meeting

“It’s a massive structure,” Girling said.

The huge catamaran carries the DeepFlight Challenger submersible that will be doing the deep dives in the Five Dives Project that Welsh is undertaking with Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson.

The mission is to explore the deepest points in earth’s five oceans, including the world’s deepest point, the Mariana Trench, at 36,201 feet.

It’s been in the harbor since April 2011, he added.

“There is some extensive testing that needs to be done,” Girling explained.

The hope is that they’ll be off doing the dives in the summer, he added.

“It’s a very interesting project,” Girling said. “We’re very supportive of Chris (Welsh) and hopeful that he’s able to undertake these dives.”

Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller talks about projects concerning the harbor.  — Photo by Sara Hall
Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller talks about projects concerning the harbor.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
Harbor Commissioner Brad Avery discusses vessel overhang on Saturday. — Photo by Sara Hall
Harbor Commissioner Brad Avery discusses vessel overhang on Saturday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
Harbor Commission Vice Chairman David Girling talks about issues facing the harbor during Saturday’s commission meeting and tour. — Photo by Sara Hall
Harbor Commission Vice Chairman David Girling talks about issues facing the harbor during Saturday’s commission meeting and tour.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
The crowd exits the ferry when the meeting/tour finished on Saturday at the Orange County Sheriff‘s Department Harbor Patrol visitor dock.   — Photo by Sara Hall
The crowd exits the ferry when the meeting/tour finished on Saturday at the Orange County Sheriff‘s Department Harbor Patrol visitor dock.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
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