Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Harbor Report: Let's welcome the paddleboarders

I am sure most of you were around in the 1970s when our harbor was full of Hobie Cats and Windsurfers. Later, you may recall, kayaks joined in the fun.
Now the trend is stand-up paddleboards. Will this last longer than the others? My gut says it will continue to grow for another 10 years then fade away.
Recently Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle requested that the Harbor Commission consider installing “paddleboarder lanes.” I just don’t see that working, but it brings awareness that more discussion is needed.
The problem is seasonal. On hot summer days, with the water temperature reaching 72 degrees, the harbor is going to fill up and most users will be novices.
Do we need paddleboarder lanes for the other 300 days in the year? I don’t think so.
We can ask the rental companies to go over the 10 most common mistakes novice paddleboarders make and paint the paddle blades fluorescent orange. We could even go so far as to ask the Sea Scouts, Newport Aquatic Center, paddleboard clubs or the rental companies to go out in dinghies on busy weekends and help novices.
Every time I am operating a large vessel I look across the harbor, sizing up who is around me. I can spot the lesser -killed sailors, electric boat rental operators, novice power boat operators and large charter fleet captains with a lot on their minds.
When looking for the novice paddleboarder, the first item I notice is if their life jacket is attached to the back of their board or trailing behind them. Usually, they are on their knees, their paddle or blade is facing the wrong way, or their knees are bent and shaking.
My favorite is the deer in the headlights “OMG, I am going to fall“ look.
Boat operators, you need to stop speeding up in an effort to knock down the paddleboarder. I’ve seen some of harbor best pull this stunt when they see one of their friends paddling by. Funny: yes. Good idea: your call.
If you are an advanced paddleboarder, you already understand that it’s best not to paddle five boards abreast when the harbor is busy. You have a good grasp of the tonnage rule and that the closer you are to a large moving vessel, the odds are you will not be seen by the operator. I am not 100% on this one, but I would assume that if you are the overtaking craft, you would still need to keep clear and are the burdened craft while passing. It should be easy for you to spot trouble coming your way and avoid it. For example, I no longer drive an electric boat into on coming traffic during the boat parade. It should be easy for you to notice 40 Harbor 20s all sailing to the same marks or that it’s noon on a Sunday and the whole charter fleet is coming down the Lido Channel.
Look at what the ‘70s did for the marine business. How many people do you know first came to this harbor to sail a Hobie or a wind surfer? This group of harbor users need to be treated as potential clients. Let’s not chase them away by restricting their movements, ticketing them or knocking them off their boards.
Sea ya

Sea ya

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

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