The Harbor Report: My interview with a boating icon

One of the best features of writing this column is meeting people.

I had the opportunity last week to interview one of the most colorful people in our harbor, Marshall "Duffy" Duffield. I use the word colorful because I always felt that Duffy stood out from the crowd.

He launched his first electric boat in 1968. I first noticed Duffy at the 1991 Transpac awards banquet in Honolulu, when he received the Don Vaughn award for the most outstanding crew member aboard the Chance, the overall winner.

Known around town as one as one of our harbor's top helmsmen when racing sailboats to Hawaii and Mexico, his reputation grew as he became one of the most famous boat builders from our area. But where Duffy" really stands out above the crowd is his love for our harbor.

For the past decade Duffield has sat on our Harbor Commission. I first started attending Harbor Commission meetings about five years ago, and the first thing I noticed was that Duffy wanted to do something.

He was there to improve our harbor. Now, after 10 years, when most volunteers are burnt out and are ready to spend that "extra time" doing something for themselves, he continues to look into the future for ways to improve our harbor.

Unfortunately, the June 13 commission meeting will be Duffy's last because he has termed out. So before he steps into one of his own boats and sails off, I thought I would ask him a few questions. Here is my interview:

Len: How did you become a harbor commissioner?

Duffy: Jean Watt asked me when they were first thinking about starting one. I became a commissioner when it was first formed and it's been 10 years with one more meeting to go. Time flies.

L. As a harbor commissioner, what completed task are you most proud of?

D. I wish I could say we completed more. Most definitely the work on the mooring fields and public docks. I've come to realize that government works at a pace none of us can understand. But eventually things do happen for the better.

L. What five bullet points would you recommend to a new harbor commissioner to make him or her an effective commissioner?

D. Do research and study on your own. Staff is spread thin in today's economic environment.

•Get active on budget line items related to the harbor with the City Council.

•Don't do anything without first getting approval from the City Council.

•Help contribute to agenda items important to our harbor.

•Be sensitive to all the different users of our harbor.

L. How would you like to see harbor 20 years from now?

D. I would like to see a world-class solution to the top end of our bay, a big seaside development that would tie in the marine recreational element with a successful commercial landside operation. Lido Village, the former City Hall and the property in between is a likely place for this to happen. Allow a small transient boat mooring area at the turning basin, and you would make Newport a great destination for boaters.

I believe the mooring fields can be greatly improved. Condense the boats in the fields by using a floating dock secured by two pilings instead of buoys and line. This would allow people to safely and easily use their boats, rid the harbor of derelict boats and give back a huge percentage of open water to the bay. This method could be phased in slowly as economics allow. A couple of pilings and a dock can be installed for a reasonable cost.


I learned a lot in my short conversion with Duffy and what I plan on taking away from that conversation is: Why not? Why can't we make our harbor better? Why can't our harbor have a full-time permit employee? Why can't the harbor have its own dredging equipment?

Our next harbor commissioner has a big seat to fill, and I hope that person loves the harbor at least half as much as Duffy does.

To quote Duffy one more time, "I learned that long ago. If my salespeople aren't in love with it, they won't sell it."

Sea ya!

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

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