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Valet Parking Goes to the Docks at Newport Beach Restaurant

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Valet parking is a fact of life at most restaurants in Newport Beach.

But valet parking for your boat?

At the Villa Nova restaurant, demand for boat parking became so great about three years ago that owner Jim Dale had to hire an attendant just to handle the traffic at the restaurant’s docks.

“We were having a lot of customers arriving by boat,” he says. “All types of boats, from sleek racing yachts to harbor yachts and dinghies.”

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But dock space is limited, and on a busy summer night the two 75-foot slips in front of the restaurant would become jammed with bay boats--sometimes as many as a dozen at one time.

“And I was usually the one who went down, showed people where to tie up, helped them into the slip, helped them get on and off,” Dale says.

But it soon became apparent that the restaurant needed a dock master, Dale says. Someone stationed dockside, much like the parking valet in the Villa Nova’s tiny lot on Pacific Coast Highway.

“People think of our dock masters as valets, but we prefer to call them dock masters,” Dale said. “They don’t actually get in the boat and drive it, but they guide them to where to tie up, help them with their lines. Sometimes they even baby-sit the pet, take the dog for a walk.”

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And, perhaps most important, they try to keep boats from banging into each other as they arrive and depart. “Some people just have a hard time docking a boat,” says Dale, a longtime boater himself. “They get nervous because they look up at the restaurant and think other people are watching them. Then they forget about windage and that sort of thing. So we need to keep them from caroming off each other.”

Boat business has been so good lately that the restaurant has two dock masters working on weekends and one on weekdays. Dale advises diners arriving by boat to call for reservations--not for a table, but for dock space.

“We fill up, especially on the weekends,” he says. “So people need to call and make a reservation for their boat. We need to know when they are coming in, how big the boat is so we know where we can put them. Sometimes when people call we have to tell them, ‘No (dock) space tonight.’ ”

Dale attributes his increase in boating customers to an active campaign to lure them in. “There are only four restaurants in Newport Harbor that have dock space for diners,” he says. “Most piers in front of restaurants are occupied by full-time tenants so there’s no place to dock a boat. But we have never leased out our slips. We’ve always kept them for customers. And this harbor has 9,000 boats, but it has very few places you can go in a boat. But what better way to go out to dinner?”

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Other restaurants in Newport Harbor that provide boat slips for diners include:

* The Cannery, 3010 Lafayette St.: The restaurant has a 200-foot-long dock that can accommodate everything from canoes to large yachts. There is no dock master, and reservations are not accepted. Space is available free on a first-come basis. Phone (714) 675-5777.

* Woody’s Wharf, 2318 Newport Blvd.: The restaurant has two slips that can accommodate boats up to 100 feet in length. Customers arrive in everything from dinghies to cabin cruisers. There is no dock master, and reservations are accepted only for large parties. Space is available free on a first-come basis. Phone (714) 675-5777.

* Red Onion, 2406 Newport Blvd.: The restaurant has four slips that can accommodate anything from a small bay boat to a large yacht. Reservations are not accepted. Space is available free on a first-come basis. Phone (714) 675-2244.

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Snipe Races: The Snipe Fleet U.S. Masters, open to members 45 and over, and the North American Championship will be sailed Saturday through Sept. 21 at the Newport Harbor Yacht, Club, 720 W. Bay Ave., Newport Beach. The regatta is open to all yachts of the Snipe class, which is 60 years old this year. Local sailors who have won the event in recent years include Jeff Lenhart and Jim English.

The class recently launched hull number 28,000 and has fleets around the world. In the masters, entrants will be divided into groups based on age and will sail seven races. The North American Championship will consist of six races. For information call Leo Collin at (714) 957-2602 or Jim English at (714) 675-2115.

More Racing: All one-design sailors are invited to participate in a regatta Sept. 21 at Dana Point Yacht Club. The regatta will consist of races for sabots and Flying Juniors. There is no entry fee. A skippers’ meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the yacht club. For information, call Bruce Lotz at (714) 496-7377.

Boating Classes: You can brush up on your skills and learn new ones in the 12-lesson class offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary beginning Sept. 18. Classes begin at 7:30 p.m. and are held at the Newport Beach harbor master office, 1901 Bayside Drive, Corona del Mar. Boating safety, navigation rules and boat handling are among topics that will be covered. For information, call Gloria Wurthman at (714) 837-2041 or Bernie Branich at (213) 939-9811.

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Electric Boats: More than 50 electric boats are charging up their batteries to compete in the fifth annual Great Electric Boat Race Sept. 21 at the Balboa Bay Club, 1221 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. The event, which begins at 10:30 a.m., is part of Newport Beach SeaFest, a two-weekend celebration featuring more than 15 events throughout the city and continuing through Sept. 22.

The Electric Boat Race is not as much a race as it is a riddle: Participants must be able to answer questions concerning Newport Harbor history before being allowed to proceed along the course. For information, call (714) 557-5100.

Boat Shows: The 18th Annual Newport In-the-Water Boat Show will begin Sept. 26 at Lido Marina Village in Newport Beach. The show, divided into three different segments, will feature both used and new power and sailboats. From Sept. 26 through Sept. 29 used powerboats will be on display, and from Oct. 2 through Oct. 6 new powerboats will be exhibited. For sailing enthusiasts, a complete show of new and used sailboats will run concurrently with the New Power Boat Show Oct. 2 through Oct. 6.

Show hours are 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Free parking is available off Tustin and Avon avenues in Newport Beach, with complimentary shuttle service to Lido Marina Village every 20 minutes. Admission is $6 for adults, $2.50 for children 6 to 12, with children under 6 admitted free. For information, call (714) 757-5959.

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Women’s Racing: More than 100 women are expected to compete in the 12th annual women-only sailing regatta Sept. 28 and 29 in Newport Beach. The event is sponsored by the Women’s Ocean Racing Sailing Assn. and will include boats ranging from 20 to 41 feet in length.

Activities will begin with a skippers’ meeting at 9 a.m. Sept. 28 at the Balboa Yacht Club, 1801 Bayside Drive, Corona del Mar. Racing will begin at noon about half a mile from the Newport pier. Two races will be held both days. Entry fee is $20, and information is available by calling Shannon Aikman at (714) 721-0172 or Jane Golding at (714) 641-9210.

Marine Studies: More than a dozen ocean science programs are being offered by the Orange County Marine Institute beginning in September. Activities include after-school programs for children as well as weekend programs that include both parents and kids. The popular Floating Lab Dusk Cruise, which takes visitors on 2 1/2-hour excursions, will be held on Friday nights throughout the month. The Marine Institute is at 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive. For information, call (714) 496-2274.


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