TERRANCE PHILLIPS -- The Harbor Column

Why do so many people think bigger is better? Is a Ford Excursion really

any better than a Chevy Suburban? Is a Duffy 21 better than a Duffy 18?

Some of these things might be bigger, but better they're not. It made me

wonder why childless couples build five-bedroom homes, why Newport

resident Teri Stout has a 244-pound St. Bernard and why people buy boats

longer than necessary.

I wondered just how large the biggest boat in Newport Harbor might be.

Ah yes, the Catalina Flyer must be the biggest. She's 118 feet long and boasts 40 feet on the beam -- a large craft indeed. I was astonished when

I realized the Catalina Flyer isn't even close to being the longest boat


Did you know we have a boat in Newport Harbor that's 189 feet in length,

52 feet 6 inches on the beam, 65 feet high and weighs in at more than 900

tons? She was built by Blurock and Associates in Wilmington. The builders

were contracted to replicate a traditional Delta paddlewheeler. She

arrived here in 1963, and the superstructure was completed on site and

was known as the Rueben E. Lee, a longtime favorite restaurant.

The owners of the Rueben E. Lee commissioned two such vessels, one here

in Newport Beach, the other at the south end of Harbor Island in San

Diego. They are almost identical.

The Newport vessel is now the home of the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum

and Riverboat Restaurant and was renamed as the Pride of Newport in 1995.

Dedicated to preserving and promoting maritime heritage, the museum

boasts three galleries, a classroom that seats approximately 20, a

conference room, a library and a very innovative and unique marine life

education program.

"We're associated with the Newport-Mesa School District and offer a field

trip program," said Marshal Steele, museum operations manager.

Museum representatives go to classrooms in the district and give

presentations concerning marine environmental issues. The impact

associated with storm drain runoff and other sensitive items are taught

before the children are invited to the museum.

When they arrive, they meet a diver with a helmet-mounted camera and

audio system. He dives under the boat and talks to the children about the

unique sea life under the vessel.

"We have over 500,000 mussels and other interesting kelps and plant life

growing under the boat," Steele said. "There are several hundred

wrinkle-neck bass that live their entire life span under here. They're

called wrinkle-necks because their heads are always turned upward, which

causes wrinkles in their necks, to enable them to access the sea and

plant life growing on the bottom of the hull. The program is a huge

success with the children. The children return to their classroom with a

water test kit and perform environmental experiments and study marine

biology issues and solutions."

Beginning July 8, the museum will host "Mariners and Mandarins, Seafaring

In The China Trade," which is centered on the clipper ship era, circa

1850. This is great family summer outing and very educational, too. For

more information about the events and activities at this wonderful

facility, call the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum at (949) 673-7863.

TERRANCE PHILLIPS is the Daily Pilot's boating writer. You can leave a

message for him at (949) 642-6086 or via e-mail at


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