With the bustle of another Memorial Day in our wake, Marina del Rey is, once again, popping with activity – some good – some not so much.
Around this time of year the basins of the largest man-made marina in the United States fill up with a host of different watercraft. Sailboats, powerboats, jetskis, outriggers, rowboats, paddleboards and kayaks are all making there way around the harbor.
It’s a great place to be on a summer day, but local agencies stress the importance of being careful, especially in light of a recent accident where a 25-foot powerboat ran over a nine-person rowing shell in the main channel on the morning of May 27, splitting the shell in half.
The solo operator of the powerboat was apparently not paying attention as the crew of beginner rowers crossed his path. In what could have been a major tragedy, only one rower, a woman from Riverside, was hospitalized and others were treated for minor injuries. With twin outboard motors running, the possibility of someone getting chewed up by spinning props was extremely likely.
The powerboat driver, a Chatsworth resident, was cited for failure to follow established boating rules, which is a violation of state boating laws, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
“We thought it was going to be bad when we got the call,” said Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Campbell of the incident. “We thought it was going to be a mess.”
Campbell went on to stress that boaters need to be more vigilant, especially with the added amount of boats around, compounded with the dredging project that is underway near the entrances of the harbor. The dredging takes up quite a bit of space near the breakwall and the deputy was adamant about giving the vessels associated with the project as much room as possible to ensure safety for all involved.
In addition to the main dredging apparatus that is constantly scooping out sediment, there is a tug and scow [small barge] that is traveling in and out of the harbor very frequently. Campbell reminds local boaters that this tandem needs to be given all the room possible, as it’s not unlike a freight train in its potential for rendering uncontrollable damage.
“People don’t realize how big that [scow] really is and how much it takes to actually stop that thing,” Campbell said. “And once they get inside the entrance, they need a lot of room to maneuver it around and people just aren’t giving them the space.
“Boaters need to give a huge, huge berth because those guys really get nervous. If you see that they’re underway and they’re moving the scow around – avoid it.”
Campbell also makes the point that boaters should pay attention to the Sheriff’s Department vessels and slow down/stay clear if their blue lights are flashing.
In my travels on Memorial Day weekend I saw two people in a small kayak curiously floating around the massive side of the main dredging barge. They were just a few feet from the side, paddling around as if it was a Catalina cave.
“If someone were constructing a high-rise building in your neighborhood, would you walk onto the construction site and walk around looking at stuff?” Campbell asked.
He went on to remind particularly paddleboarders and kayakers that approaching too close to the dredger is highly dangerous because crewmen can’t necessarily see what’s happening near the sides.
But besides accidents and the potential of accidents the Marina has, as usual, been the site of some interesting visitors, events and activities recently. Not long before the holiday, the 138-foot, 160-ton tall ship Bill of Rights, sailed into the harbor to provide educational day-sails for children. It was the first tall ship to visit Marina del Rey since the Lady Washington years ago and according to Capt. Steven Taylor, it won’t be the last. Taylor said he is looking to bring the Bill of Rights here again to offer this unique teaching method to kids in the L.A. area.
“Once they get all of these sails up and they’re looking at this whole thing and she kind of leans a bit and… away we go,” said Taylor. “It gives them this feeling that they’ve accomplished something that’s much bigger than themselves. They see everything differently – just like that. Everything looks different to them; it gives them vision. They see further – they think further. We hope that we’re making a difference in the world by doing this.”
And while the Bill of Rights was reminding us of the past, five 70-foot pure racing machines were illustrating the modern as these local thoroughbreds gathered for Cal Cup. The legendary bright yellow Taxi Dancer won first place honors in this elite contest.
Although it’s just the beginning of the summer, Marina del Rey is off to an active start. Next is Cal Race Week, concerts in the park, Fourth of July fireworks and dozens of other events.