Commentary: We've always welcomed big boats to Newport Harbor

Newport Beach is a beautiful, vibrant community with a spectacular yacht harbor that has a long history of accommodating all manner of watercraft. We're passionate about our town and harbor, and about boats. Everyone has an opinion about what boats should be gracing our waters. If I could have my way, I'd only allow classic sailboats on the harbor, although I have to admit I like those big futuristic yachts at the Balboa Bay Club.

Some people think the harbor is too crowded.

"There are too many paddle boarders. There are too many big ugly charter boats…"

And what about all those Duffy boats careening around with bottles of wine snug in their holders? I know a few residents who think our local rowing and paddling teams are too noisy. It's amazing the Christmas parade continues, given that it always seems on the edge of glittering disaster, with channels choked by an impossible mix of vessels and kids on loud hailers yelling, "Ho-Ho-Ho!"

Luckily, our harbor remains an open waterway with few restrictions on vessels or boaters. If you behave yourself, don't hit anything, and stay at 5 knots, you're going to have a grand time. It's fun to see all the different boats, and deciding which ones we'd love to sail and those we'd never want to own. It's great to be around it all. Our harbor culture celebrates people being on the water regardless of boat type or size.

Of course, the biggest boats always get the most attention and generate the most opinion. I'd never want to own a boat I could not handle myself. Guests and crew present the biggest yachting challenges, so it's nice when you don't have to have either around. But it's fun to see large, magnificent yachts being enjoyed by their owners.

Newport has welcomed visiting large yachts for many years. Locals of a certain age recall that a half-dozen big schooners were regular visitors in the 1940s and '50s. They anchored off the North Lido turning basin. The Goodwill was the most famous of these, at 161 feet overall and 30 feet wide. Larger yet was George Vanderbilt's Pioneer, 172 feet overall, with a draft of 17 feet!

In 1976, the SS Catalina was brought into the harbor and moored at Lido Village for the boat show. She was 301 feet long and 50 feet wide. I don't know if she was too big.

More recently, Newport has had regular visits by the sleek and modern 164-foot super yacht Vango. She is a marvel of design and construction. We've also hosted the famous J boat Endeavour, an incredible sailing machine, 125 feet long with a mast 140 feet high.

On the commercial side, Newport's charter fleet has expanded greatly in number and size. We boast more than a dozen big charter boats more than 100 feet long. Among the largest is the Entertainer, a 145-footer, which carries 550 passengers on its three decks for cocktail parties up and down the harbor.

Hopefully we'll keep welcoming all boats to our harbor, including big yachts. We expect all harbor users to adhere to the code, respect our residents and other users. It's only natural that big yachts will visit from time to time, and that we'll be excited to see them. After all, we're Newport Beach.

Newport Beach Harbor Commissioner BRAD AVERY is the director of the School of Sailing/Seamanship at Orange Coast College.

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