VENTURA – When Ventura Yacht Club member Don Mills caught wind that the Channel Islands National Park would not be providing a floating dinghy dock at the pier in Prisoners Harbor he decided to put his engineering experience to good use. Mills recruited three yacht club members to spend a weekend constructing the floating dock that boaters rely on for access to the island.
Mills, a longtime boater and visitor to the islands, is familiar with its rocky shores and rugged terrain. Having a dock to help boaters access those shores is important, he said.
“There is only one place on the northern part of the island where there is a float where you can come in and step off of a dinghy,” he said. “There is one place on Santa Rosa; one on Anacapa and two places on Santa Cruz where there are piers that you have to climb a ladder.
“So this dock is for people who are physically restricted or handicapped to disembark and access the island,” he continued.
Channel Islands National Park was not able to deploy the float last year because it needed repairs, Mills explained. Park Service purchased the repair materials after the public expressed their concern about the lack of a dinghy dock.
Mills first caught wind of the park’s need for someone to repair the dock from his son, David, who works on the island. He made a couple of calls to the park to tell staff he’d work on the dock. The park paid for and ensured the materials were delivered to the island.
“My son and I scheduled time to work on it together to get it ready for the boating season,” said Mills, a retired civil engineer who used to lead hikes on the island during his time as a volunteer with the National Parks Service. He’d also help with maintenance, repair and restoration projects from time to time.
“I decided to put out the word to the yacht club and two couples stepped forward,” he added.
Mills along with his son and fellow yacht club members, Anne Fitzgerald, Dave Chase and Paul and Sandy Swanson cruised out to the island on their 40-foot Trawler, Proud Mary, the weekend of January 4. On the island, the team did all the construction work on the ramp that Mills re-designed to allow the lower end of the existing welded aluminum gangway to provide a sliding plate mechanism in lieu of wheels which the park service will have fabricated and transported to the island.
The 8-foot by 26-foot dock will be deployed by Channel Islands National Park staff before Memorial Day weekend. The dock is normally deployed in the water during the summer months and stored ashore in the winter. The short pier began to deteriorate after months of being hit with severe wave action in the winter months as the dock is not in a protected cove or marina.
“We are frequent visitors to the island,” Mills said of Ventura Yacht Club members. “We have a longtime interest in the island and this was a project worth doing.” T
he new dock will be ready in plenty of time for Ventura Isle Marina’s annual “rendezvous” to Prisoner’s Harbor, scheduled for July 19.
Ventura Port District Commissioner Everard Ashworth, also a club member, said “This is one of the reasons I am proud to be a member of the Ventura Yacht Club, where members have a love of boating and a commitment to providing access to one of the most beautiful national parks in our system. Without that spirit, this wouldn’t happen.”