Tidings from the Waterfront

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The Dorsal
The Dorsal

Last week, I wrote about several yachts built by Dittmare and Donaldson on 16th Street in Costa Mesa. Another item I thought worth mentioning is that all of their motor yacht designs are similar in appearance. It is easy to pick out the majority of D and D yachts on their outward appearance.

If I recall correctly, one yacht they built was quite different. I think around the early 1980s they changed hats and constructed the all fiberglass 120-foot “Silverado.” This very stout yacht was pleasing to the eye and also designed to be a world traveler. The owners were the family that owned See’s Candies, and they traveled internationally.

The yacht was moved to Lido Shipyard, (now Newport Harbor Shipyard,) in the early morning hours and all the electrical and traffic signal power lines needed to be disconnected and reconnected for a safe passage to the shipyard. It was noted at the time that “Silverado” was the largest fiberglass yacht built to date in the United States.

One of the yachts D and D also built was the “Dorsal.” This approximately 80-foot motor yacht had the design appearance of the others but was built to be a sport fisher for Elmer Hehr, who lived and berthed the yacht in front of his house on the East end of Lido Isle for around 20 years.

Shortly after taking delivery of the yacht, Mr. Hehr became, to the consternation of the local commercial swordfish fleet, an avid commercial swordfisherman. He had a 30-foot aluminum plank installed to the bow. Before and since, a plank is for walking out to the end to harpoon the swordfish. The consternation was felt by the fleet who depended on swordfishing to feed and house their families.

Many years earlier, Elmer designed and built aluminum windows. He probably made millions of them, which it earned him millions of dollars, enabling him to afford a very affluent lifestyle. The talk of the fleet was that not only was he an avid competitor throughout the Southern California ocean waters, but he would also spear “dinks” (baby swordfish), which most crews would pass by so they could grow up to the normal (at the time) weight of 600 to 800 pounds.

A side note to our local swordfish history: in the mid-1980s to around the mid-1990s, our not-too-smart State and Federal government issued permits to local and international fishing boats that allowed gill nets up to 50 miles long. These nets not only caught swordfish, but also “incidental” species of everything that size and larger of sharks, whales, sea lions, turtles and many other species. When a gill net fleet left an area, there would be nothing of this size left in that part of the ocean.

Since the end of gill netting, if a 200-pound swordfish is caught, it is considered a large catch. Those of us in the know at that time knew these issued permits were “insanity running the asylum” but were powerless. Naturally, the State and Federal government charged fees, or taxes, to obtain these permits. This kind of reminds me of the fees, or taxes, the city just increased to all mooring and dock owners. Insane!

I mentioned last week I thought the “Dorsal” was for sale and located in San Diego. Last Friday I piloted the Hatteras sport fisher “Sundance” from Mariners Mile to Balboa Boat Yard for transom door restorations. As I went by Newport Harbor Shipyard, what do I see? Low and behold, the old “Dorsal,” without the plank, renamed “Breeanna.”

I suspect this yacht is now owned by the Kreiger family, who we worked for repairing and maintaining their boat dock in the 80s at the West end of Lido Isle. They previously had two other smaller motor yachts with the same name prior to the home being sold after the mom and dad passed away. Their son was the main caretaker and user of the yachts. This home has some notoriety which I will write about next week.

Sea Ya,

Skipper Steve

Steve Barrett can be reached at [email protected].

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