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From The Boathouse: Marina 'tax' scary beyond words

October 25, 2012

Ahoy!

Halloween will be zeroing in on everyone's radar Wednesday when the ghosts and goblins walk the streets on this nearly full moon night. My wife is polishing her broomstick for a ride across the skies and her caldron is warming up in the middle of the main salon.

Most everyone knows that boaters can be very superstitious, and most superstitions are centuries old. Yet, even modern seamen have their old and new rituals, especially fishermen who have all types of questionable practices. Just ask any sportfishing charter boat's galley chef for a banana and wait to see his or her response.

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Sailors constantly confront danger on the high seas, and their superstitions lean toward protection and safety. Fishermen have rituals for a good catch and returning home safely, and many superstitions are passed down from generation to generation.

Interesting that these seafaring sailors try to influence things that are out of their power, such as where the fish are, weather conditions and the ocean's swells. As strange as some of the superstitions are, people always seem to seek some sort of mystical connection to the environment and objects around them.

Scare of the week is that it seems that the Halloween frights came a week early with Newport Beach's City Council further shoving marine businesses and recreational boating out of Newport Harbor. The council voted 4 to 3 Tuesday to arbitrarily raise rates on commercial marinas under the guise of fare market value rates for tideland fees. This will simply translate into higher marina slip rates driving higher vacancy levels, resulting in less rental income for the marina operator who will also have to pay the new tax. Maybe an economics 101 class would help?

What surprised me is that the swing vote in favor of the tax was cast by Rush Hill, who represents the lack luster Mariners Mile along West Coast Highway where marine businesses have been disappearing for years with other businesses struggling, and where one of the harbor's shipyards is trying to survive.

Paulette Pappas, owner of Sea Spray Boat Yard and in her family since 1946, has expressed her fear of losing her business with excessive fees and taxes imposed by the city.

"This is a family-operated business," she said. "We have been the stewards of our particular corner of the harbor for more than 66 years. Our family has maintained and upgraded our facility without any assistance from the city the entire 66-plus years."

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