The Harbor Report: Make yourself heard on harbor issues

This week I jumped in my dinghy at the Balboa Yacht Club and proceeded up the bay in search of a story.

The fog was thick that morning with a rather high humidity level that quickly burned away to reveal a perfect summer day on our harbor.

My mind was wandering from the information I had received while attending the Coalition to Preserve Newport Harbor PAC meeting at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the John Dominis building, 2901 W. Coast Hwy.

I must have been having a flashback because it felt like I was in a Navy SEALs team inflatable boat preparing for a landing on the enemy beach. While making my way through the harbor, I wondered if I was going to make it through this next assault of tideland permit fee increases. Maybe it would be one of my teammates who would get it.

I glanced over at the bait barge, noticed the number of out-of-town people experiencing our harbor for the first time by renting an electric boat or stand-up paddleboard, then I looked over to our two fuel docks.

This flashback was really not taking me to a place where I wanted to start my day.

The point I am trying to make is get involved and make your voices heard by attending the PAC meetings or our monthly Harbor Commission meetings. Review our city's website at, contact our council members and talk about what type of harbor you would like to see with your friends.

If we just stand by and watch, our grandchildren could end up with a duck pond with condos built around it.

Time to think positive. I can think of no better person to talk to than Matt Cox, operator of the Hill's Boat Service. His official title is licensed fuel tank engineer. He is one of the good ol' boys of our harbor.

He attended Harbor View Elementary School, where he first met fuel dock owner Gary Hill.

Jump ahead some 30 years later and Gary noticed Matt working the shore boats in Catalina and offered him the job to run the tanker. Matt accepted and has been on the job close to 20 years now.

I first met Matt about 15 years ago. He is one of harbor's kindest, most professional people. He always greets you as if you are his best friend. He always keeps his promises.

"The best part of this job is meeting all the characters in our harbor, like you, Len," Matt said.

He delivers diesel fuel to 10 to 12 boats Monday through Friday. His tanker holds 2,620 gallons of fuel and was built out of steel in 1947 by the Jones Co., which also built the auto ferries.

The Hills bought the tanker some 30 years ago and have kept her in perfect condition.

While pulling up to a vessel, Matt notes the tide and current. He ties the tanker up properly, deploys his fuel lines, inspects the vessel's fuel vents, then proceeds to fuel the vessel.

One of his biggest concerns is if there is a leak in a customer's fuel line, which could fill the bilge with fuel.

"This has only happened to me about once every 10 years," Matt said.

Matt said that understanding your boat's system makes his job a lot easier. Knowing which fuel tank is feeding the generator and how much fuel each tank will take makes it easier to keep fuel from overflowing into the bay.

I asked Matt what was the best way to rotate new fuel into the boat.

"Once you understand how much fuel you are burning, I recommend only carrying enough fuel for your trip and a reserve of about one-third of your tank," he said. "For example, if you hold 400 gallons, which weighs 3,000 pounds, and are only going to Catalina, there is reason to carry all that weight.

"Just carry what you need and some in reserve, then give me a call or just text me on your return. I will have your boat ready for you before your next scheduled departure."

You can reach Matt at (949) 675-0740 or (949) 795-3483.

He's a great guy and has never done me wrong.

Sea ya!

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

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