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“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” Toni Morrison
I have to assume you all have heard that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol will be handing over the helm to managing the city of Newport Beach moorings fields on July 1st 2017.
Local resident Dennis Durgan has been working hard over the last two weeks in preparation of becoming the new Harbor Master. This task is challenging with Durgan putting in long days getting ready for the up coming watch change. My understanding is that the first six months, of Durgan watch, is being referred to as a trial period.
Harbor Master Dennis Durgan
One of the many tasks involved is preparing a fleet of three boats that will monitor the moorings and provide assistance to boaters. The conceptual work example is based from the harbor patrol in Avalon and other anchorages in Catalina. The City has owned a 19-foot center console Boston Whaler named “ Clean Sweep” that has been renamed Harbormaster 1. Harbormaster 1 has recently received engine service, new fenders, VHF radio, radar and chart plotter. The other two vessels the city has charted, from the Newport Aquatic Center, are catamaran coaching vessels. I have not heard yet what VHF channel the Harbor Service workers will be monitoring or how to call them over the VHF radio. If I was to guess, I would start with Channel 16 and call for “Newport Harbor Mooring Services” and follow their lead to another work channel.
The Harbormasters office will be located at Marina Park on the second floor under the Marina Services sign. Office work will include the transfer of mooring permits, the collection of mooring fees, auditing mooring permits for maintenance work, proof of documentation and insurance and assigning guest moorings. In front of Marina Park there will be a string of double ended moorings added to coincide with Marina Parks guest slips.
Other tasks Harbormaster Durgan will be assigned with will be enforcing many parts of the Newport Beach Municipal Code Title 17 http://www.codepublishing.com/CA/NewportBeach/html/pdfs/newportbeach17.pdf. I will assume Durgan will have to focus on 17.20 Vessel launching and Operation, 17.25.010 Docking Regulations, 17.25.020 Anchorage, Berthing and Mooring Regulations, 17.40 Live-Aboards, 17.45 Sanitation and 17.60.040 Mooring Permits. It is my understanding that Title 17 will be amended very soon to included the Duties of the Harbor Master and define their duties.
There are many unanswered questions floating around the harbor regarding this watch change. I keep hearing questions of why the watch change now? Why the urgency of this change and why was it placed on one of the two busiest days in the harbor? Why was the Harbor Commission not even given a chance to make any recommendations? One of the main duties of the Harbor Commission is to “Advise the City Council on proposed harbor related improvements.”
New Harbor Service boat.
If you’re wondering what my gut take is on the watch change? The bottom line is it will be better for the harbor in the long run. It has been more than obvious that the need for better code enforcement in the moorings and on the public docks is long over due. The largest task for Durgan will not just be developing the proper tools for the jobs, it will be how to define and implement Title 17. The sheriff department has implemented much of title 17 for a very long time and any type of change is going to ruffle feathers. Change is always going to produce the question of equality. One of the worst things that can happen would have the public reference the harbormaster as the mooring lord. This will not be an easy watch change and I have edited William Goldings quote for every harbor user “He who rides the water of our harbor must have sails woven of patience.”
Speaking of patience, during last weeks Harbor Commission meeting a commissioner asked the city council liaison why the communication line between commissioner and assigned council member shall be discontinued to further notice. The public should question their city council member on what happened and how will this be remedied.
Towards the end of the Harbor Commission meeting local Newport Beach activist Jim Mosher gave one of the kindest accolades to departing commissioner West that I have ever heard. I wish I could have quoted Mosher but the gist of his comment thanked West for his service to our harbor and that Mosher had never seen such positive change, for the better, in the Harbor Commission than the time he served as the chairman. Mosher hit the nail on the head and I should have started clapping with agreement and a final thank you to West.
I am writing this story on Tuesday July 14 and will be starting the Trans Pac race from Point Fermin, San Pedro to Diamond Head on the Island of Oahu on Thursday the 16th. While writing my last story regarding the battle between Hana Ho and Shandu in the 1981 Trans Pac I kept running into the name of Larry Somers while completing my research. Somers was the communications chairman for the Trans Pac Yacht Club for many years and I thought interviewing him would make for a good story.
The Somers family dates back into the early 1900 where his grandfather was the commodore of the Los Angles Yacht Club in 1916 and the Cal Yacht Club in 1925. His grandfather also competed in the Olympics in 1928 in Holland sailing 8 Meters. His mother was also very active in sailing and the family purchased a beach house between I and J street on the Balboa Peninsula where he grew up. As a kid he participated in the Newport Harbor Yacht Clubs junior program.
In the 1957 his father Harvey Somers sailed with the Farwell family aboard their 85’ schooner Sea Drift. During this race the Somers family took the Matson lines SS Lurline to Hawaii. “During the race we were able to make our way into the radio room and obtain the race reports and keep updated on the race.” Somers said.
In 1965 Somers met Peter Davis and sailed with him in that years Trans Pac aboard the 65 foot cutter Orient. Davis later became commodore at the NHYC in 1971 where Somers worked with Davis in the sail fleet committee. During this time Walter Hoffman was the Communications Chairman and he was ready to pass his task over to the next and up coming volunteer. This is when Peter Davis brought Somers into the loop and he started his first Trans Pac as communications chair in 1981. Somers was activated as the Communications Chairman during the 1976 Tahiti Race for the TPYC, he also worked the 1978 Tahiti race.
Sumers, Baldwin & Steele
The communications chair responsibilities are always changing and it’s a very important part of the race. Grant Baldwin, for most of the years Somers was working, was the voice over the radio taking the daily position reports. The person behind the scene was Somers who would be inputting the positions into an Apple computer, yes there were personal computers in the 1970’s, and from there they would have Latitude, Longitude, Miles from San Pedro, Miles to Honolulu, PET (Projected Elapsed Time), PCT (Projected Corrected Time) and Handicap Positions. What this all means is the competitors and the spectators, back home, would have daily reports on what place their boats are in.
I cannot tell you how hard it was to fall asleep when you just got off watch at 0700 when the navigator would turn on the Single Side Band Radio at 0730. The SSB sounded like going online during the early dial up internet service days and then trying to sleep through all the moans and groans of the navigator while they where plotting out the fleet during roll call. Roll call started at 0800 and by 1100 each day Baldwin and Somers would broadcast your standings. A very important part of your day while racing in the Trans Pac.
Somers did six crossing on different escort boats ranging from 1981 Dick Steele's 60’ motor sailor Jubilee that was later named Jamboree by a different owner in 1989. In 1985 he sailed aboard a 65 foot Hood Motor sailor and in 1983 and 87 sailed on Orange Coast College Alaska Eagle. Somers saved the biggest boat for last in 1991 aboard Hawkeye a 105 foot motor yacht.
“ All the trips were business like and yet a lot of fun. Like most racers the first one is always the one you remember and the 1981 run aboard Jubilee with Dick Steal, Grant Baldwin, Gary Hill and Billy Buckingham was one of my favorites. We would work in the morning, sail in the afternoon and motor sail at night all the time monitoring the radio.” Somers said.
Both Somers and I agree that with SSB radios being fazed out to emails and satellite phones we are losing a favorite tradition to the race and that is group communications . Let’s just hope that todays organizers can find a way to keep that tradition alive maybe with FaceTime in the future. I have to give a big thank you to Larry Somers for taking almost an hour with me sharing his story.
Right now, on Horizon, the weather is not cooperating. We will be starting the race and if we cannot get into any wind by Sunday we will have to make a tough decision on whether or not to withdraw from the race or slug it out. Keep an eye on us on the Trans Pac website yellow brick tracking system at http://yb.tl/transpac2015.
In 2008, Shannon applied for the Harbor’s supervisor position. “I wanted the job and attended Harbor Commission meetings, researched the Harbor Codes and studied the harbor and bay elements of the general plan,” she said. After three interviews, she received the job and immediately went to work on beach maintenance programs for Balboa Island and China Cove. She was tasked with field surveys, permit applications, creating dredge profiles, hiring contractors, scheduling the work and on-site project management.
I then asked Shannon what has changed in the harbor over the last nine years? “The last six or seven years we’ve had many high-profile projects with multiple revisions of the harbor code, mooring codes and fees. We collected input from the Harbor Commission, City Council, along with political and capital interest,” she said.
Shannon went on to explain that one of the most difficult annual tasks in Harbor Resources is chasing the sea lions around the harbor and how relentless they can be. I changed topics and asked which of her projects is she most proud of? “My hallmark project was opening Marina Park – setting rents, staffing, creating rules/policies, training and procedures.”
When asked what advice she would leave her replacement she said, “Managing public resources is a balance of making decisions based on what the community wants and how to best allocate the resources. It is a fine line and you just do the best that you can to give the general public the best use of them.”
We than talked about her new job as Dana Point Harbor’s manager. How it is similar but different with less hands-on operations and maintenance, more contract administration and leases. Shannon will be the go-to person for the harbor and county agencies. She will also be in touch with many of her contacts in the Coastal Commission, Boating and Waterways and Water Quality board.
She will be bringing with her the understanding of high profile complex projects. “If you work hard everything has a solution, be transparent and fair then everything seems to fit in the puzzle
Will we still see you around town? “I’ll still be around and I will be more relaxed, I will no longer have to keep an eye out for things that have to be fixed on Monday,” Shannon said.
Now that I reflect over the last year and a half, Shannon has found solutions to difficult problems. She is extraordinarily good with her presentations to government agencies and acknowledges work well done. At the same time, I clearly recall the days I made a few too many mistakes and took mind not to repeat those mistakes.
Shannon Levin is my friend and I will miss her and at the same time it always feels good to watch a friend move on to a better opportunity.
Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for StuNewsNewport.