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From the Boathouse: What's flowing into your harbor?

March 07, 2014|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy!

Our first storm of the year blew through our area last weekend, and the slow-moving storm dropped much-needed rain from the passing clouds. Too bad the storm did not leave a few more inches of snow in our local mountains. However, we cannot complain about the very mild winter that we are experiencing.

After any rain, I always warn boaters to watch out for all the stuff that is flowing down into the harbors and along the coast in the ocean. Unfortunately, the debris, whether from people or nature, has backed up and lain dormant in the storm drains during the dry periods. The rain will then wash everything downstream via the storm drains that empty into waterways.

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Most storm drain inlets now have a screen installed across the opening to help prevent larger items from entering the drains. It's a proactive move that I support, but the law of unintended consequences does rear its ugly head with good intentions. The screens become coughed with debris, which require constant maintenance, and even when cleared, the screens can retard the flow of water entering the drains. It would defeat the purpose of the screens, but they need to be removed in a heavy rain to allow the water and debris to flow freely.

I digress. Boaters, swimmers and surfers need to be aware of the gunk in the water after the rains. I see people surfing at the mouth of the Santa Ana River between Newport and Huntington, where who knows what is flowing down the channel and into the ocean. You can visibly see the brown gunk line reaching a mile off the beach after a rain.

Skippers need to pay extra attention looking for floating debris that can damage propellers, pierce the hull or suck up the raw water intakes. This is important inside a harbor and for at least a few miles out to sea. If you are going to cruise along the coast, then head out to sea but watch for logs, refrigerators — I have seen them — and poles that can be floating miles off the beach.

The weather will be very nice this weekend for outdoor activities with mostly clear skies and a 10-knot breeze. The air temperature should be in the high 60s to maybe low 70s during the day along our coast. However, King Neptune might not want you to play seaward of the harbors' lines of demarcation.

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