Some Ways Boats Need the City’s Seal of Approval

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I’m sorry, you’ll have to go. Photo by Pete Bechtol

Last week we were out preparing a yacht for a cruise to Catalina.

This included emptying the holding tank at the American Legion pump-out station. There are close to a dozen or more such stations throughout the harbor. These stations make it easy for do-it-yourselfers to ensure proper disposal of waste.

Over the last 30 or 50 years boaters, especially live-aboards, have been targeted for non-compliance. This would then be used to further some people’s agendas that boatersaere improper stewards of the bay. I suppose there are a few bad apples in the basket, but I’ve never seen or known any boater to have anything but the highest regard for our waterfront environment.

While close to the Legion, I heard a familiar noise not heard in the harbor since last summer: A sea lion was barking.

It has become illegal for sea lions to be able to hop onto any boats. If one or more of these large critters are found on your vessel, you will be promptly notified with a cease-and-desist letter. You are required to remove said vagrants or, if I remember correctly, up to $500 a day penalty will be assessed.

I always find it amusing how the Newport Beach council and staff find new ways to increase their financial take. When questioned about this, almost with the same words, they quote the harm of the situation, not the money received.

Let’s change course. A few boating related events have transpired since my last column.

Lightening struck a sailboat off Duluth, Minn., and the Coast Guard rescued the injured and transported them to waiting paramedics who took the folks to the nearest hospital. Best wishes to the injured and kudos to our efficient and effective Coast Guard.

Two boys about 8 to 10 years old were rescued from San Francisco Bay after their 8-foot dingy started to sink. A former lifeguard heard them screaming about 200 yards off shore, stripped and left his family ashore, swam in the 55-degree water and then swam them to a nearby pier.

The boys had life jackets – thank God! When interviewed, they said their fear and excitement made them feel they would have never survived without the man’s help and encouragement. They said he was a true hero and should be commended.

This last Saturday night and Sunday morning was a relay swim from Catalina to San Pedro. The swimmers raise money for a charity and swim the channel every year. From the swimmers to the escort boat, crews and paddle board escorts, all should be commended.

My Dad and the family have been an escort boat for the outrigger canoe race from Catalina to Newport Harbor. His 36-foot Jeffries sport fisher, Que Pasó, made a great platform due to its 14.5-foot beam (width). Most older sport fishers were much larger that had that much beam. Jeffries boats were made in Southern California and noted for their speed, ride and seaworthiness. The yacht was a great all-around bay and ocean yacht. Wish we still had it.

Around 1958 I started crewing in small sailboat races around the harbor. The summer youth program at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club was supervised and instructed by adults 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. On weekends you were expected to race in the various regattas in Newport and Alamitos Bay. Dana Point and Huntington Harbor were not yet built at that time.

Bill Ficker, Barton and Seymor Beek and many others were campaigning their Star boats during this era. Bill Ficker won the Nationals and then the World Star boat Championships around that time. When you win these races your yacht club then hosts the following championships.

Freddy Schenk was an avid Snipe sailboat skipper and a bachelor. In hindsight not being a family man seems out of character, as he would load up 10 to 12 of us youngsters with box lunches from the club, borrow someone’s 40-footer and take us out to watch the races. I believe Star boats have and still are raced in the Olympics and have been from at least the 1920s.

Since the beginning of Star boats, the world’s best sailors have been involved with them. We youngsters were able to watch world-class champion sailboat races in the ocean off Newport. This made quite an impression on all of us.

Briggs Cunningham was a former World Champion race car driver and car builder in the ’40s, ’50’s and ’60s. In the ’70s he had a house on Harbor Island in Newport and a car museum by the airport. He had been raised sailing, and in 1967 won the America’s Cup sailboat race in one of the first 12-meter sailboat series. He was so impressed with Bill Ficker’s sailing abilities he mentioned them to the New York Yacht Club, holder of the America’s Cup.

Bill Ficker, having grown up in Newport and become an architect in our area, became the skipper and winner of the 1970 America’s Cup. Slightly before this time the Irvine family and company were building Fashion Island’s first high-rise office buildings. During the campaign at the top of one of the buildings was a huge banner that said “Ficker is Quicker.” This was the campaign slogan used in the Newport, Rhode Island, races.

We locals couldn’t have been prouder of Bill’s accomplishments, and still are. He brought the world’s attention to Newport Harbor in winning the Cup, but also with his previous sailboat racing achievements. He definitely set the bar high, and many since that time have tried to reach it. Many sailors over the years from our area have raced in the Olympics, and rumor is there are several of the right caliber for the Games in 2016.

Best of luck to them!

Sea Ya,

Skipper Steve

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