By Len Bose
This past Wednesday, I went down to the Newport Aquatic Center (NAC) to meet with Billy Whitford, the executive director of the NAC, to talk about our harbor's best kept secret. We talked about the center's public use to elite rowing teams and everything in between, including the impact on the harbor, boating safety and rules of the road.
The first thing I noticed when I met Whitford is this guy loves what he does, and he is passionate about yachting. I asked him what the NAC has to offer the public and he was off and running. I'm just glad I brought my tape recorder; I'll try to highlight some of the points of interest I learned from my 30-minute interview. You should also check out the NAC's Web site at www.newportaquaticcenter.com/index.html for everything I am about to miss.
The aquatic center is open to the public, and offers double and single kayaking rentals. It doesn't offer any stand up board paddling rentals yet, although you can take a board paddling class to find out if you like it or not. Visiting the center and signing up for beginning lessons is also the perfect introduction to this part of the boating world.
There is something for everyone at the aquatic center – from the person that wants to join the Canoe Club to the Junior Rowing Team, private rowing lessons and kids' paddle camp. To the patient out there that read my column, there are more than a hundred different schools that offer full scholarships in rowing. The center also offers other activities such as team building, birthday parties, Back Bay environmental expeditions ... and all of this information is available on their Web site.
I wanted to find out information for my readers that was not available on the NAC's Web site. The first thing I noticed, is there is no better person for its executive director than Whitford. He knows more than I do on what’s going on in this harbor, and his first concern is the impact his vessels have on the harbor. “The harbor is a privilege and without this privilege there is no aquatic center,” said Whitford, who's gone great lengths to communicate with the charter captains, sailing teams and yacht clubs. He informs his coaches when the charter boats will be most active and when the Beercans will be starting. I wish my yacht club was as conscientious as he is.
We talked a little about water safety. There are many similarities between sailors and rowers. The beginners are wearing life jackets and taking all the proper precautions, while the advanced crew members have developed bad habits. For example, why do I wear my life jacket when I am racing my Lido 14 in the harbor, but when I race outside on keel boats no one wears one? Anytime a vessel goes outside the harbor, it's in one's best interest to always have a life jacket on, and make sure you have some type of communication via VHF radio, cell phone or even better – EPRIB [Emergency Position Indicating Radiobeacon].
The last thing I wanted to talk about is who really has the Right of Way when we are all on the bay together. Now I asked a number of different people and did not get the same answer. Whitford said the aquatic center's policy is that they never have right of way. I'm still not clear about this even after reviewing my navigation rules. First, avoid collision at all costs; a man-powered boat is a vessel with limited maneuverability. An overtaking vessel shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken. I'm not clear what the rules are in crossing situations, and who has the right of way between a man-powered boat and a sailboat. My guess is that the vessel with the most maneuverability keeps clear. What I think we should all do is keep out of each other's way when we're racing. If I'm out for practice or on a day sail and I see a canoe making its way to the finish line on a race from Catalina, I'm going to keep clear. If the people in the canoe are out for a workout and they notice we're racing. they'll keep clear of us. We both must keep our heads out of our boats and do what’s fair and always avoid collisions at all costs.
Talking about keeping heads out of your boats! Something doesn't feel right to me regarding the weather. If you're going to Catalina this weekend, keep a heads up! I'll be out there this weekend and will be racing around Catalina. I'll be easy to spot, as I'll be the one with a life jacket on!
The Newport Aquatic Center is located at 1 Whitecliffs Drive, Newport Beach. (949) 646-7725.
Len Bose is a contributing writer to the Newport Beach Independent and owner ofLen Bose Yacht Sales.