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The mouse is roaring. Newport mooring owners don't want docks

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 15 Jun 2014
Newport - some of the moored boats SW
Do you have a mooring and love it? Over in Newport Harbor in California, there's a storm brewing, and it's not coming from the horizon. Many of the 550 Newport mooring owners, some of whom live permanently on their boats, are screaming about a proposal to switch them to being tied to floating docks.

Now any salty dog who loves being on their boat whether it's sailing or still will tell you that having your boat moving free under you while on a mooring is far superior to the boat being trussed up like a chicken and banging against a dock. However the city wants to save the water space and thinks that floating docks are the way to do it.

The moored boats within Newport Harbor are tethered to buoys chained to heavy pieces of scrap metal that rests on the sandy bottom. According to Daily Pilot, they could be anything from a train wheel or an engine, not necessarily an approved mooring block. They are permitted by the city and bunched in designated areas of the waterway, each vessel surrounded by roughly 15 feet of water in any direction — that way, boats won't bump into one another if there is a storm. In addition, simply by filling in an application form, owners are permitted to live, full time, on their boats.

However, says Newport Beach Mayor Rush Hill, two boats could be parked on either side of a dock, significantly consolidating the harbor space taken up by the boats, and therefore creating more open space for the public.

But the mooring method is tried and true, not to mention very inexpensive, and group of owners are making things difficult for those who want them to change.

The leaders say they are the 'average joes' of the harbor, the ones who can't necessarily afford a harbor-front home with a dock but who can pay the annual fee for a mooring. They love to sail and they love to be on the water — some to the point of choosing to live on their boats year-round.

The Newport Mooring Association, which represents the interest of mooring owners, say they have taken a survey. Of 61 respondents, 85% said they didn't like the idea of floating docks.

'It kind of seems to me to be a government solution to a problem that really doesn't exist,' said association board member Bill Moses, 'The open space around the boats that moorings allow for is critical. It creates the feeling of privacy, as if the ocean water were a moat around a floating castle.'

The problem with this notion is that the mooring permit doesn't give owners or 'permitees' the right to the water around the mooring, only the mooring itself, with the water belonging to 'everyone'.

A compromise could be reached. This week the Harbor Commission suggested that the council put in some docks, perhaps six, as a pilot project to let a few boat owners try them out and others in the harbor to see them. The floats would measure 40 to 50 feet long and 6 feet wide.

However it seems that the mouse has roared and perhaps the rest of the world is listening. Rather than even move forward on the pilot program just yet, council members have delayed by asking for a survey. They have asked that city staff first survey all mooring holders and harbor-front homeowners, plus take input from anyone else who might want to chime in.

Watch this space...
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