Early Sunday morning, shortly after midnight, nearby campers at McGrath State Beach heard cries for help and ran to find a beached sailboat 50 feet off shore with 4- to 5-feet waves lapping at the hull.
Firefighters arrived to discover the boat's owner, Milton Charles Morley, intoxicated, said Mike O'Leary of the Oxnard Fire Department.
"He couldn't even walk," O'Leary said. "It was so close that if the surf was bigger, the people would have been dead, because the kids didn't even know how to swim."
Riding along in the boat were Thomas Germack, 49, of Oxnard and Urbana Avila Castillo, 37, from Arleta along with her four children, ages 15, 10, 6 and 4. No one on the boat was wearing a life vest, O'Leary said.
Officials said that if the accident would have happened during last week's high surf, caused by hurricanes off the coast of Baja California, the crew would probably not have survived.
Morley began piloting the boat toward Santa Cruz Island on Saturday afternoon. But Castillo became seasick several hours into the trip and asked him to turn back, O'Leary said.
After trying to steer the boat into Channel Islands Harbor, Morley miscalculated his position, causing the Lancer sailboat to become stranded in shallow waters near shore.
After fire officials rescued the boat's passengers, the vessel was towed to a nearby harbor and Morley was booked into Ventura County Jail on $1,000 bail.