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Newport Harbor Foundation holds kickoff champagne brunch

Marshall "Duffy" Duffield stands next to his first "Duffy" electric boat at the Balboa Bay Resort.
Marshall “Duffy” Duffield stands next to his first “Duffy” electric boat during the Newport Harbor Foundation kickoff luncheon at the Balboa Bay Resort on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It’s been more than five decades since Newport Beach City Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield started his Duffy Electric Boat company.

Duffield built his first boat when he was 16 years old. His company has sold tens of thousands of boats and become synonymous with Newport Beach, where Duffy rides on the harbor are the norm.

“I’ve had to endure decades of laughter,” he told a crowd — also laughing — on Thursday at the Balboa Bay Resort. “To be known as a builder of the world’s slowest boat is something that I really didn’t think I wanted on this planet. I wanted to be a famous sailboat designer and racer dude, and I sort of kind of am, but not really.”

Still, Duffield now hopes the Newport Harbor Foundation can also similarly be built from the ground up.

The foundation, launched in 2019 before being curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, held a kickoff champagne brunch Thursday.

It announced that it had raised more than $275,000 at the event, which also served as a celebration of 50 years of Duffy boats. That number was doubled to $550,000, as foundation chairman Dennis Durgan said there was an anonymous matching gift.

The Newport Harbor Foundation’s stated goal is to take back local control of Newport Harbor, which is now patrolled by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and start a Newport Harbor Public Safety Department.

Durgan, himself a former harbormaster, said the foundation wants to initially raise $2.5 million for the purchase of a fire boat and four police patrol boats.

Marshall "Duffy" Duffield, center, stands with his family next to his first "Duffy" electric boat on Thursday.
Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, center, stands with his family — son Tyler, wife Terry, daughter Kelly Rief, and son Travis, from left — next to his first “Duffy” electric boat at the Newport Harbor Foundation kickoff luncheon at the Balboa Bay Resort on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Durgan said the Newport Harbor Foundation would be patterned after the Airport Working Group of Orange County, founded in 1982 to protect community associations and citizens impacted by John Wayne Airport.

“We should have actually started this Newport Harbor Foundation back then,” Durgan told the 175 people in attendance.

“The harbor is the most important asset that we have ... It’s time for us to properly manage our harbor. We want to make it safer. We’re lucky we haven’t had a death out there on some of these weekends.”

Many local officials attended and spoke at the event, including Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery and Councilmen Will O’Neill and Noah Blom. Current harbormaster Paul Blank also attended, while Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon served as the emcee.

Avery credited Duffield for getting him into local politics, while acknowledging the importance of the harbor.

“He said, ‘Look, I need you to be on council to help me with another vote, another voice to help protect the future of our harbor,’” Avery said.

“It’s been an honor to work with ‘Duffy’ on this critical mission, to be his Tonto to the Lone Ranger. He’s really leading the charge, but wherever I can help, I’m doing it for sure.”

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