I have had occasion to be on the bay several times in the last couple of weeks. It seems to me almost eerie to pass the east end of Lido Isle and see the open water with no moorings off the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. It’s been a couple of months since their removal, and I look forward to their re-installation.
While some sailors have shared their pleasure in being able to race in this area without obstacles, I have another view. When racing in the past, I never found them to be an inconvenience. They are no different than the islands or docks throughout our harbor. I’ve always thought of the moorings as additional berths for more people to use our harbor. The state and federal mandates for all harbors encourage as many uses as possible for the full spectrum of the public. After all, it was federal dollars that changed the mudflats and river runoff of this area into the harbor we now have.
The Newport Aquatic Club had its annual paddling competition this last Saturday morning. Hundreds of paddlers participated in the races. The Coast Highway bridge seemed to be one of the popular cheering stations, with the middle of the bridge on each side having 100 or more spectators watching the action.
It is amazing that the clean air and 80-degree temperatures of Saturday and Sunday were in the month of November. Many boats were bay cruising, and when I looked out from the oceanfront on Sunday morning, I was surprised at the numerous boats fishing, whale watching or just cruising in our area. We truly live in a rare and beautiful spot on the map.
We have had some real characters over the years who found it easy to dream up one antic or another involving our bay or ocean. Growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Cold War was constantly in the news and even in our classrooms. In case of a nuclear bomb explosion we were taught in the classroom to get under our desks and “duck and cover.” This seems almost comical to consider in the present day.
Many times the TV news would mention that an evil Soviet spy ship had been seen near Southern California. Around 1964, one was spotted near San Clemente Island.
During this era the international boundary line was three miles from shore. Gary Burril and his brother during this time founded our first radio station, KOCM. They broadcast in the beginning on the west side of town and as it became successful operated for many years at Fashion Island.
Gary was a jovial gentleman and good friend of my folks. Many times after work he would come by the house during cocktail hour. While discussing the spy ship notoriety they soon decided it would be novel to charter a local sport fishing boat from Davey’s Locker, load it up with friends and show the Soviets we are a peaceful bunch by going out and saying hello.
As the Soviets might move on soon, the locals quickly chartered the vessel. I was allowed to miss school at Harbor High that day, and off we went to “meet and greet” the Russians. There were about 40 of us souls with greetings and posters painted, and a friend of a friend who spoke Russian, to handle any translating on the Sea Horse fishing boat.
We were offshore traveling for seven or eight hours, but the trawler must have known we were coming and made a hasty exit. Like last weekend, the weather was perfect for offshore cruising. After several hours of radioing the other fishing boats for the location of the trawler, the captain was relieved for a break.
He introduced himself to me and asked if I knew his daughter at Harbor High School. He was Jim Shafer, well known as one of the best fish-boat skippers in our area, and I had grown up with his daughter, Susie.
Jim and his brothers were second-generation Newport commercial fishermen and went to Newport Harbor High School with my Dad. Years later, I would work with his brother John in marine construction. John shared many stories of commercial fishing in the 30’s and 40’s, the heyday of albacore and tuna fishing. In those days the tuna were as close as sometimes 3 to 10 miles out of Newport Harbor. Unfortunately during that era the sardines were overfished and the tuna changed their patterns.
What a shame!
Yesterday I was sea trialing an inflatable I maintain and saw another local yacht worker and stopped to visit. Don Fredriksen is a high-quality finish wood worker who grew up in the area and learned his trade at local yacht manufacturers before they moved on to more affordable locations.
I have seen Don install new teak on fiberglass decks that changed the look and feel to real yacht standards. I remember him saying he worked for Westsail in Costa Mesa in the early ‘70s. That company started with a 32-foot sloop that was a breakthrough seaworthy comfortable design that could cruise anywhere in the world, and some of them did just that.
When I was reading local boat publications on the East Coast, I saw a few mentioned for sale and I could tell by their ads that they were an acclaimed boat for that area. We have one or two berthed on moorings in the harbor, but at their high point we probably had 30 or 40 in the ‘70s and ‘80s. After eight years or so, they produced a 43-foot sloop. Walter Cronkite was an avid sailor in his later years and purchased one out here and raced it in the Ensenada race. Then he had it shipped home to the East Coast and sailed it for many years of enjoyment.