Coronado Ferry, Cruises to Catalina Get Final OK

Times Staff Writer

Three boat companies cleared their final hurdle for cruises to Coronado and Catalina Wednesday when the state Public Utilities Commission approved their plans.

The new Coronado Ferry, which will offer the first ferry service in San Diego since the Coronado Bay Bridge opened in 1969, will charge $1 for a one-way trip. It is expected to begin operating June 1, said Jim McArthur, who works on special projects for Southwest Marine Inc. The company, along with the Star & Crescent Boat Co., is constructing a $7-million commercial center around the docking area in Coronado.

Star & Crescent operates excursions around San Diego Bay, and will use the same equipment to ferry passengers (no cars) to and from Coronado.

The ferry's main route will be from the Broadway berth in downtown San Diego to Coronado's Old Ferry Landing, a new $600,000 pier approved by the San Diego Unified Port District in April. A second route will be from the 24th Street Pier in National City to North Island Naval Air Station.

The Port District approved the Coronado ferry proposal in April, but Star & Crescent had to wait for approval from the state Department of Transportation and the PUC.

Two companies, including one that already offers excursions to Catalina from San Pedro, will soon operate Catalina service from San Diego.

Daily cruises aboard the 74-foot catamaran Spirit of Alderbrook are to begin late this month or in early March, leaving San Diego at 7 a.m and returning at 9 p.m. California Cruisin', a San Diego-based company, had planned to begin the cruises this week for Valentine's Day but internal problems delayed the opening, said Chip Boyd, company president.

The boat has a capacity of 212 people and an operating speed of about 28 knots, Boyd said. Cost of a round-trip ticket will be $39 for adults, $33 for senior citizens and military personnel, and $23 for children, Boyd said.

"I fought like crazy to get the cruise approved. I submitted the application in June, and it didn't finally get into the hearing stage until October," Boyd said. "We had been waiting for this final approval ever since then. It was bureaucracy and a challenge about our right to function on this route by Catalina Cruises."

Catalina Cruises operates Catalina ferry service from San Pedro. The company announced plans in September to build a $3-million, 98-foot ship to carry as many as 400 passengers for its San Diego service. Officials, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, said at the time that they planned to begin operations June 1 from the B Street Pier and would charge $20 for a one-way adult ticket.

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