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Multipassenger pedal boat pushing its way toward Newport Harbor

Cycleboat
This is an example of a cycleboat, a pedal boat that allows up to 10 people to help power the paddle-wheel propulsion system.
(Courtesy of SoCal Cycleboats/city of Newport Beach)

A bicycle-boat built for 10 could soon offer cruises on Newport Harbor.

A pair of entrepreneurs got the endorsement of the city Harbor Commission Wednesday to sell rides on a multipassenger pedal boat called a cycleboat, a first-of-its-kind outfit for Newport.

The 31-foot-long pontoon boat, which will be custom-built at a shipyard in Oregon, has an 18-person capacity — 16 passengers and two crew. Ten of those passengers will actively power the paddle-wheel propulsion system while the captain steers the craft.

A backup motor would relieve passengers when they tire and help the captain navigate around docks and hazards.

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“We provide the captain — you provide the party,” the operators declared in their pitch.

Business partner Chris Ferren-Cirino, who runs a similar operation on the river in Old Sacramento, said tours typically include stops at bars or restaurants along the way.

“It is a very interactive, personable experience,” he said.

The operators propose year-round, hour-and-a-half tours seven days a week — taking a 4-mile, out-and-back route around the south, east and north faces of Lido Isle, although they will consider multiple routes to lessen the impact on neighbors. Passengers would be allowed to bring their own food and drink aboard, including beer and premixed packaged cocktails.

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The cycleboat would be a new kind of charter boat for Newport Harbor, which is already home to tour operators that take passengers around the calm bay and into the open ocean in traditional party yachts, gondolas, sightseeing boats that pass by celebrity homes, and whale-watching, parasailing and deep-sea fishing craft.

Cycleboat passengers would embark from a dock behind Mr. G’s at the Peninsula Kitchen & Bar, 2406 Newport Blvd. Parking is shared with Balboa Fun Tours, which rents bicycles and small boats about a five-minute walk away.

City staff typically evaluates applications for marine activities permits, which on-the-water businesses need to operate, without Harbor Commission input but sought the board’s feedback this time because of the lack of similar businesses for comparison.

Commissioner Bill Kenney said he was skeptical at first but that the operators seemed well-prepared.

Novelty marine operators have encountered resistance before in Newport.

The harbor’s only jetpack operator shut down in 2016, citing overly restrictive city regulations on its service, which offered riders the chance to rocket skyward wearing backpack-style devices that used seawater to propel them into the air. The city, which had fielded noise complaints from waterfront homeowners about the jetpacks, later banned the activity.

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