Newport could say no to bigger boats

Harbor's capacity for the profitable large charter boat industry is subject to debate.

November 19, 2010|By Mike Reicher,

NEWPORT BEACH — Some evenings, Brian Dougherty can glance out his bayfront window and literally catch the tail end of a wedding.

Charter captains thrust their 140-foot yachts into reverse, just yards from his house, churning the bay and pointing the wedding singer right toward him.

Dougherty speculates they are seeking the wedding album cover shot — picturesque Newport Beach with the sun setting over the harbor.


There may be fewer of such pictures if some of the harbor commissioners have their way.

On Tuesday, the commissioners will ask the City Council to hold off on approving a dock for the 148-foot Majestic, one of the largest boats in the harbor.

Members want to limit how far these large boats can extend into the harbor, a move that may effectively block Majestic and other massive charter boats from cruising in Newport.

"The big question for the city is, 'Do you want to have that kind of intensity and those size of ships?'" said Don Lawrenz, chairman of the Harbor Commission. "It never has been designed to be a commercial boat harbor."

Indeed, many of the channels are narrow and lined with homes on either side. Children and seniors race their boats in the main turning basin, right in the path of the large charter boats.

The large-boat charter fleet in Newport has grown to about 20 boats, and they have grown longer over the years. With the larger boats come louder groups. While there's a noise curfew at 10 p.m., some of the charter operators don't honor it, residents and other operators say.

"Most of them are considerate. Most are good neighbors, but you do get periods of time," Dougherty said. "It's like somebody having a party in your backyard at 11 p.m."

For other residents who have complained, "It's like a regatta for large ships," said Lawrenz.

They complain about the aesthetics of the ships — some are steel, boxy and tall.

"Our harbor's not big enough for those types of boats," said Ralph Rodheim, a harbor commissioner on the subcommittee that's drafting the proposed rules.

Whether Newport is big enough to handle a larger charter boat industry is another question.

The ships carry about 170,000 passengers per year. While sales have dipped during the recession, the industry still brings in more than $300,000 per year in permits and boarding taxes to the city.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles