The Harbor Report: My interview with fuel dock attendant Jim Tyler

Each year I like to stop by and interview one of the ferry boat operators or fuel dock attendants, so I can get a different perspective from someone who is on the harbor five days a week.

This summer I noticed Jim Tyler working as a fuel dock attendant at Island Marine Fuel.

I recalled first meeting Jim when he was sailing in the Balboa Yacht Club's junior program. I later sold his parents a Catalina 30. Jim, 22, of Costa Mesa, attends Cal State Fullerton.

The family sold the Catalina 30 and now have a CHB 45 trawler, in which you will find Jim placing "wax on and wax off" a couple times a year for his parents.

Here is my Q & A with him:

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Question: How should a boat approach and leave the fuel dock with the tide, fenders, dock lines?

Answer: First off, Island Marine Fuel is a "full service" station. No dock lines or fenders are needed. Just pull up and our crew will take care of everything. Going against the tide when approaching the dock is the easiest way in most situations.

The wind also needs to be taken into account when landing at any dock. Powerboats tend to leave the dock stern out, or backing out, since most have two engines and they can handle better this way.

Sailboats, on the other hand, like to leave the dock bow first (although it is always up to the captain of the vessel). We do our best to make it as easy as possible, and give our opinion during the busy season when there is little room for error due to waiting customers floating off the dock.

Q: What should boaters do while refueling. Should they turn off everything, tell the attendant how much fuel they need, etc?

A: The first thing we need to know is where the fuel fills are, and what type of fuel the vessel needs. All engines should be turned off while refueling, especially gasoline boats. When we are done pumping, proper ventilation is also very important. Blowers should be on prior to starting the boat again.

While refueling, the biggest problem we run into at the dock is smoking. Since Island Marine Fuel is a mini-mart as well as a "gas station," many people don't make realize that they are pulling into a gas station. I'm sure that if they were asked if they pull into a station while they are smoking, the unanimous response would be, "No, of course not."

But with the amount of alcohol consumed while boating, most people do not make this connection. Unlike gas on land, much larger quantities are purchased for yachts. Quite a few times this summer, distinctions between $100 and 100 gallons have been made. While this sounds the same, the difference can be very large, about four times the amount of money on average.

Q. You have to see everything from the fuel dock. From your vantage point, what are the obvious steps boaters can do to be safer on the water?

A. While it may sound like a broken record, alcohol can always be an issue while boating. Most people are under the assumption that they can drink all they want while boating. It can be very dangerous especially when approaching a fuel dock.

This goes back to the smoking once again. Common sense is absent and a boat will pull up with four or five people with cigarettes lit. It inconveniences us because we have to stop filling the gasoline boats on the dock since their fumes are explosive.

Q. If you were going to improve the harbor over the next 20 years what would it be?

A. I've grown up around the harbor and I have seen the decrease in traffic, especially in the summer. The harbor needs a "pick me up" for lack of a better term. I know the city is trying to tax businesses on the water (including Island Marine Fuel).

I don't think this will improve the economy in anyway. It will make it even harder for boaters to enjoy themselves than it already is.

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Jimmy, now Jim, has always been a good, hard working kid and David Beek is lucky to have him as an employee at Island Marine Fuel. In fact, Dave, I think Jim is due for a raise in pay.

Busy week in the harbor last week, check my blog lenboseyachts.blogspot.com for my thoughts of the America's Cup at BYC, Flight of the Lasers results and more!

Sea ya!

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

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