Safe Voyages

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I will never tire of mentioning that the most important part of recreational and commercial boating is safety. Naturally, accidents happen and minor bumps and bruises can be expected. When multiple people are aboard, the helmsman has his hands (and mind) full, but it is also his duty to be aware of his guest’s movements and actions.

I have been a member of a local tow boat company, similar to the auto club but for boats, for many years. The service says they will come to you if you have a dead battery, accidentally run out of fuel or are filling with unwanted sea water. Fortunately we have never had to make the call. Yes, we’ve had mishaps, as most will, but we’ve managed to get home on our own.

Our family M.D. had a gearbox problem mid-channel on a return trip from Catalina on a holiday weekend with his wife. He was required to wait his turn which meant that they rocked and rolled in the afternoon windy trough for six hours until the tow boat arrived. While the Mrs. was none too happy, he was relieved that he didn’t have to sound a mayday call to the Coast Guard. All of us in the boating community want our wonderful, diligent and professional Coast Guardsmen available for true emergencies.

To my astonishment, during the race a month ago, an unknown (to me) towing company refused to leave port due to a 30-mile-per-hour wind. If the weather conditions were extreme, the race committee is obligated to call the race to ensure a safe return of the race boats. This has happened in the past. I am very alarmed for myself and the thousands of other boaters that now have a false sense of security that when we have a problem in rough seas we’re either on our own or will need to use the Coast Guard which will take them away from a potentially much more urgent and life-saving situation.

I’ve seen several items on our own Marshall Duffield making a splash with the city Harbor Commission by replacing our moorings with his new patented dock system. While reading the articles I felt “déjà vu” all over again. We could have a Taj Mahal city hall situation all over again. It is true that history repeats itself!

I’ve learned what I think is an important life lesson in my more than sixty plus years. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! There’s nothing wrong with our moorings in Newport Harbor. The moorings were here long before any of the present sailors and power boaters presently using our harbor. To those who think they are corny or an annoyance, Get a Life!

Mr. Duffield mentioned several unique items his system would employ – sounds great! Then there was a sentence that let the “cat out of the bag.”

I have a lot of respect for the wealth Marshall has accumulated through his boat building business. Whether it’s selling new boats, used boats or servicing them, he has all the bases covered. My hats off to you.

But, two things really bothered me about his presentation to the commission. One, he mentioned that we could tie three 20-foot boats to each side of the dock. Hmmmm! I wonder who makes 20-foot boats?

Next, the price of $5,000 is less than 20-percent of the true cost. To obtain and install two dock pilings only, as his drawing shows, the cost is $6,000. Believe me, I know. Pleasssse, no more Taj Mahals! Even our wealthiest residents can’t afford it.

Safe voyages and sea ya around the harbor.

Skipper Steve

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