Are boats in Newport Harbor too fast and furious?

One local City Council member notices a “river mentality” developing on the harbor; a Harbor Patrol Sergeant disagrees.

NEWPORT BEACH ― “Fast and Furious,” a film featuring a subculture of speeding cars and loud music, just released its most recent installment out in theaters this spring. Is there a version of “Fast and Furious” actually playing out on our local waters? With more and more users of various watercrafts out on the water, are some boaters violating the speed limit and going too fast?

Boaters are not illegally racing. However, in the opinion of Newport Beach City Council member Brad Avery, a subculture on the water is developing in the city’s harbor.

“I’ve noticed the harbor is moving toward more of a river mentality in terms of some user groups,” Avery stated at a recent City Council meeting in regards to his observation.

There are more users in our harbors than ever before. Weekends, holidays and summer are especially busy on the water with people boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, partying and some possibly going too fast.

“Over the weekends and in the summer, there are more party boats. There are charter boats [and] there are rental boats where you have groups of people having a good time. They are drinking alcohol. Now and then they’re playing the music pretty loud,” Avery asserted. “It’s not a big deal, but on the other hand, it is a residential harbor.”

Newport Harbor is rather unique as it is both a residential and recreational boating marina, surrounded by homes on the water and a plethora of private docks. Avery deems the harbor as a place for everyone to enjoy whether on a powerboat, sailboat, paddleboard, kayak or other watercraft.

“The more people that are around, the more respectful people have got to be. People need to be more respectful of their noise, and their wake and their speed because it has more impact on others,” Avery stated.

If homeowners or other boaters notice speeding boats or hear blasting music from stereo systems on boats, he recommends calling the Orange County Harbor Patrol.

The Log reached out to Harbor Patrol and inquired if they receive calls from residents complaining about boats blaring music while passing waterfront homes.

Harbor Patrol Sgt. Steve Marble said they get calls from residents complaining about noise, but the noise is coming from sea lions sitting on boats.

Sgt. Marble did say noise ordinance violations usually occur during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, but it is nothing compared to the river. As someone who has spent time on the Colorado River, says Sgt. Marble, the river has a lot more of a party atmosphere on holiday weekends and does not compare to Newport Harbor.

“It is difficult to find somebody who is actually intoxicated and drank driving a boat, because everybody’s swerving anyway,” Sgt. Marble pointed out.

One factor both Avery and Sgt. Marble agree on is the educational stance. Both want to educate people on the “rules of the road.”

“We don’t write too many citations. We do a lot of stopping people and educating them. They’re usually very cooperative and slow down in the future,” Sgt. Marble explained.

The number one rule for boaters to be mindful of is the speed limit, according to Avery. This is not just a rule for Newport Harbor. This rule applies to any harbor.

The maximum speed limit is 5 knots in the harbor. However, the speed limit is dependent on the conditions out on the water and may require going less than 5 knots.

2 SUP Uses Newport - Nina K Jussila photoIf the harbor or canal is congested, boaters must slow down and be aware of kayakers, paddleboards and other vessels on the water. This is not just to avoid creating a wake, Avery mentioned, but to avoid accidents from occurring.

“When I first was on the harbor, it was primarily residents and people who kept boats here that were on the harbor; so, they were more in tune with the community. They had more experience operating boats. Now the majority of the boats on the harbor are rental boats. That wasn’t true 30 to 40 years ago. It was a gradual increase,” Avery stated.

Sgt. Marble hasn’t noticed an increase in boating violations. In fact, he believes it is getting better.

The Log asked Sgt. Marble what the most common violation is on the harbor.

“I don’t have those stats in front of me to give you the exact, but I would say probably speeding [and] registration violations,” Sgt. Marble answered.

The city of Newport Beach is considering adding some staff to also help educate people on the water and help raise awareness.

“We want to make the harbor more welcoming for all visitors and make it a more pleasant experience for residents when they are out on their decks in the evenings and just when people go down the harbor,” Avery said. “We want the harbor be an inviting place to come down and recreate. We just ask people to respect the boating laws and the neighbors.”

Nina K. Jussila photo

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2 thoughts on “Are boats in Newport Harbor too fast and furious?

  • Great article. Respect on the water is needed. The challenge is that people who rent boats, may not ( and most likely don’t) have the proper training on the Rules of the Road as it pertains to boating. There really should be some requirement for the benefit of all boaters and their safety.

    • Wayne Ford

      We desperately need rules and strict enforcement for the SUPs, Kayakers, and, those small sailboats that are primarily operated by those who rent them—and seem to have no respect for their safety or for others’. Many times SUPs and Kayakers string out, side by side and take up the whole harbor. The small sailboats zip back and forth with no regard for anyone. They act with impunity, believing if there is an accident it will be the fault of the power boater—who generally is the only one with any common sense. The rental companies have the false impression that a signed waiver relieves them from liability. That waiver is worth about as much as the paper it is written on. The Harbor Patrol needs to crack down on these people and start handing out fines instead of simply instructing them on the rules—that’s the job of the rental companies. Ignorance of the law should not be an excuse. And, by the way, from what I understand, in court the human and wind powered craft do not have the “right-a-way” as they believe. It has finally been adjudicated to be the fault of the person who could more easily have avoided the accident—in other words—common sense now dictates the party at fault.



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