The Harbor Report: Not a stellar time for harbor’s sea stars


Not sure how many of you were on the harbor last weekend and noticed all the Pleuroncodes planipes, or red crabs, doing their thing. By Monday afternoon, it appeared that they had little to no life left in them.

I contacted Michelle Clemente, Newport Beach’s marine protection and education supervisor, to get the scoop (no pun intended) on all the red crabs.

“They are typically associated with warm water,” Clemente explained. “It’s a type of mating ritual, and they got cooked when they landed on the sand. It’s a little bit warm for them to be out of the water.”

Clemente informed me that this was not unusual and happens during the El Niño years.

While I had Clemente on the phone, I asked about sea stars and baby sea lions.

“Well, I am not bringing you very good news, Len,” she said. “All of our area’s sea stars have disintegrated from a mysterious wasting syndrome, and we are not quite sure how this all came about.”

You might recall my interview with Clemente last July, when she informed me about this wasting syndrome and explained that it had just made its way from the East Coast to our local waters. She sadly informed me that there are no longer any sea stars in our area.

We then switched over to why all the baby sea lions have been dying.

“The nursing mothers have to head farther out to sea for colder water and food,” she said. “By the time the mothers have returned, the pups have gone off looking for food on their own, but many pups have not developed their fishing skills yet.

“Last week, I called Animal Control to pick up a baby sea lion, and they had picked up seven that day already. It’s been a tough winter for the sea lions.”

On a happier note, Clemente informed me that the city’s Traveling Tide Pool van is working. The van features two touch tanks and a display tank and is available for field trips and school outings. Our local yacht clubs should keep this in mind for their junior sailing classes or opening days.

Speaking of opening day, Hill’s Boat Service has just launched its new fuel tanker. The vessel’s name at this time is Tanker II, and it has been on the drawing board for more than seven years. The owner of the fuel dock is Gary Hill, who started building the boat July 1 in Santa Ana.

The boat is 34 feet long with a 10-foot beam and 4.4-foot draft. The vessel is built from steel and is double-walled to meet U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

“There has never been anything built like this over the last 40 years,” Hill said. “Our old tanker was built along Pacific Coast Highway in the 1940s and did not meet Coast Guard regulations as of Jan. 1.”

Matt Cox will continue to be one of the vessel’s skippers. You have to give it up for the Hill’s service team completing this project through all the government red tape. Make sure you give a wave to Matt next time you see him in the tanker. This tanker will probably be around for as long as we continue to use diesel and gasoline fuel to propel our boats’ engines.

Last weekend was the start of the Newport Beach High Point Series for our local P.H.R.F. boats. The American Legion hosted the Midwinter Regatta with 18 boats showing up at the starting line. Five long races were completed on wet, blustery days with most of the teams shaking the cobwebs out of their boat-handling skills.

The Richley family, aboard their Choate 48 Amante, has taken the lead in the series with Team Linstar and Milton Santos behind the wheel in second. In third place is Suzanne Schuler aboard her boat Violetta.

The next race in the Newport Beach High Point Series is the Balboa Yacht Club’s 66 Regatta on April 18 and 19. For complete standings, go to

Sea ya.

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