Santa Barbara City instates 5 mph speed limit in Stearns Wharf’s Wye area

A bizarre boating incident is cited as reason to write speed limit into ordinance; enforcement will begin after June 26.

SANTA BARBARA — A speed limit of 5 miles per hour in the Stearns Wharf area, known as “The Wye,” will go into effect on June 26. Reasoning for the speed limit cited a boating incident that occurred in July 2017, which might be one of the stranger incidents that took place near Stearns Wharf.

In a phone call to The Log, Waterfront Director/Harbormaster Scott Riedman said the accident “was a bad one” and it easily could have cost people their lives.

Although rare, the vessel’s captain, who had been operating a charter service in the harbor for several years, sped into The Wye at speeds of 20 knots and collided with Stearns Wharf, causing three passengers to be thrown from the boat. The damage reported from the accident was $21,000. The Harbor Commission, earlier this year, unanimously decided the vessel operator could not renew his charter permit, at least for a few months.

“[The operator of the vessel] clearly exhibited reckless boating behavior,” Mick Kronman, Santa Barbara’s Harbor manager, told The Log earlier in the year, acknowledging this kind of situation was certainly not the norm.

The idea to change the municipal code to include a speed limit in The Wye of Stearns Wharf came as a recommendation from a Harbor Commissioner.

“One of our Harbor Commissioners said that there was a speed limit posted in other areas of Sterns Wharf, so why not make it applicable to The Wye as well,” Riedman stated.

Though speeding happened during this incident, Riedman mentioned that it’s fairly unusual for boaters to go speeding through the area as it’s quite narrow.

Riedman added a saltwater polo match was held in the same area earlier in the day; lobster divers were also nearby. Both activities serve as a reminder for vessel operators and on-water activity enthusiasts alike to be careful in the water.

Citations given by Harbor Patrol for violating the speed limit will not go into effect immediately, as it takes at least 30 days for the ordinance to be reflected in the municipal code, but Riedman stated signs have been posted and the harbor will begin to enforce the law through verbal warnings.

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