Harbormaster guiding transition of mooring management, harbor operations

Newport Beach hires 13 additional staff and acquires two additional vessels.

NEWPORT BEACH — The mooring management and harbor operations shift from Orange County Sheriff’s Department to the city of Newport Beach has been a fairly smooth transition as Harbormaster Dennis Durgan assumes his role.

Durgan took over the responsibility of overseeing more than 1,200 moorings from the Sheriff Department’s Harbor Patrol Division in July, with Newport Beach hiring 13 part-time harbor workers and obtaining two additional vessels.

The amount of foot traffic coming into Marina Park, where Durgan’s office is located, after the operational shift in management was unexpected.

“I think the job may be a little bit bigger than they anticipated,” Durgan told The Log. “I don’t think it was anticipated quite as many people coming to our office to pay their mooring rates. We are still in charge of the Marina Park dock rentals, and so we got all that traffic coming to our office as well.”

Durgan, who is an avid sailor, real estate agent and Newport Beach resident, said the city received about 150 applications for part-time harbor work. The pool of applicants was narrowed down to 30 and then the final 13 were selected.

The harbormaster said his department has an amazing team consisting of lifeguards, sailing instructors, law enforcement officers and gas dock attendants.

He added his department now has three harbormaster vessels as well to help him and his team manage the harbor and keep the water clean of trash.

The city’s 19-foot Whaler has been refurbished and now has a chartplotter and radar, Durgan mentioned, which will be especially useful in the fog.

“We leased two older catamarans,” Durgan also mentioned. “We’ve got little hoses with little pumps, so we can squirt sea lions when they come up on a boat or dock. It’s working great. “We put a pool net on each one of the boats and we have a regular trash can, so as we cruise around the bay and [scoop up trash floating in the water],” Durgan continued. “We’ve filled 25 trash cans so far.”

Durgan and his team have driven these three vessels through all the mooring fields in Newport Beach harbor taking photographs and noting the condition of the mooring lines as well as the boats.

“It’s going to be really helpful to have all that data on who the mooring permitee is and what boat is suppose to be on there,” Durgan said. “Everything about each mooring is going to be at our fingertips.”

Durgan and his team, in addition to managing moorings and picking up litter, are also focusing on safety in the harbor.

Durgan said they are concentrating on having no wake in the harbor, especially since there are so many standup paddleboarders out there.

“We’re ambassadors trying to teach good boating so everybody has fun out there,” Durgan stated.

Durgan and his team are also educating both the renters and the private owners of standup paddleboards.

“You’re supposed to have a Coast Guard approved floatation device on your paddleboard, [and] if you’re 13 and under, you’re supposed to be wearing that life jacket.” Durgan pointed out. “I would say there’s probably 30 percent that don’t have it on their boards.”

A popular but risky activity among young people and children is a growing concern for Durgan and his team.

“One of the big concerns we have right now are all the kids jumping off the bridge mainly at Lido Isle, which is a very dangerous practice.” Durgan said. “Now we are directing traffic under the bridge. We’re figuring out how to address it. It’s going to continue to be a problem.”

Durgan was hired as a part-time harbormaster, Public Works Director Dave Webb initially told The Log.

The harbormaster, however, said he has been working more than a 40-hour workweek as he gets his department up and running.

“I’m trying to keep to 40 [hours per week], but it’s been over,” Durgan said. “You would with any start-up company.

“I’ve been a sailor almost all my life, so it’s like putting together a big race boat team,” Durgan continued.

Boaters in need of harbor services can call (949-270-8159), email (harbormaster@newportbeachca.gov) or visit the harbormaster’s office location at Marina Park, 1600 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach, 92663. The web address is Newportharbor.org.

Raymund Reyes photo

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One thought on “Harbormaster guiding transition of mooring management, harbor operations

  • Mark

    Wait, now that Dennis is the “harbormaster” who do we call when my boat catches fire or when there are two people beating each other up on a boat or a boat speeds by, or when someone steals my boat or crashes into my boat or my passengers are drowning or my boat loses its motor and is heading towards the jetty. Never mind, I am going to call the actual Harbormaster, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol, people that are actually equipped to handle real emergencies. I will call Dennis when I find some trash floating around and leave the actual work to the professionals.



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