When the question was asked as to when and where the first beer can race was held, there were several virtual hands raised with the same answer: Balboa Yacht Club’s Thursday evening Beer Cans Summer Series.

A 1988 story in the Los Angeles Times recalls a bar bet 25 years earlier that got it started, which would put the 2024 season as the 62nd edition. Here’s what they’ve been doing inside this Southern California harbor for a long time:

Newport Beach International Boat Show

The Newport Beach International Boat Show will take place April 18 through 21 at Lido Marina Village, 3434 Via Oporto, with both on-water and on-land exhibitions, activations and entertainment.

The reimagined show will transform Lido Marina into a beautiful European coastal experience for everyone to enjoy.

Newport Harbor’s newest and largest public dock is now open for recreational boaters.

On Friday, March 29 I had the pleasure of joining Newport Beach City Council members along with officials from the County of Orange, the Irvine Company and State Assembly to celebrate the Balboa Marina Public Pier grand opening.

Newport Beach has a handful of iconic attractions that have stood the test of time: The Newport Pier, which replaced the original McFadden Wharf (1888-1939) and is registered as a California Historical Landmark; the Balboa Pavilion, which opened on July 1, 1906 and is the city’s oldest standing building; and the Balboa Island Ferry, which went into service in 1919 to bring cars and passengers across 900 feet of water between Balboa Island and the Balboa Fun Zone.

Michele Gile reports from Newport Beach with Seymour Beek, where many are celebrating that the beloved Balboa Island ferry’s fate is no longer in jeopardy after receiving a $7.9 million grant to convert from diesel to zero-emissions operations by 2025.

The 8th Annual Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival will return to the Balboa Yacht Club, June 7 – 8, 2024 with more than 40 wooden vessels of all sizes on display, and a collection of master artisans and craftsmen at work.

This year’s festival theme is “The Art & Craft of the Wooden Boat” in celebration of the creative artistry, intricate craftsmanship, and timeless beauty of wooden boats.
“Event guests will be able to immerse themselves in the centuries-old artform of wooden boat building, and the fine woodworking and artistic details that adorn the boats,” said event chair Stephen Paljieg. “This year’s event will be bigger and better than ever. Its theme captures the essence of the passion and artistry behind these magnificent, one-of-a-kind watercrafts and the inclusion of the master craftsmen who build and keep them in ‘Bristol condition’ takes it to a whole new level of experience.”

Welcome to a New Year which takes me back to The Who song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” whose message is summarized in the last line, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” and its meaning is “nothing changes and so don’t get fooled again.” Which is a very confusing way to report on what’s going on in the harbor this first month of 2024. So let me backtrack before throwing a few soft punches.

I ended last week by walking through Basin Shipyard and took a moment to talk to owners Dereck and Dave New. As always this time of year, the yard is packed with Dave reporting that they are two months out. So, if you own a boat with outboards or Pod drives, you better call now and book your annual maintenance to be ready for the spring/summer boating season. The yard was full of new Tiara products, but I’m sure there were many other makes of yachts in the yard, yet the pretty ones always grab my attention first.
Q: From a distance it seemed like a quiet year, no oil spills, tsunamis, down aircraft. So what did I miss?

A: There were a couple of severe weather (wind and rain) events this year. We revived the technology we use to notify mooring permittees of approaching weather and urge them to verify their mooring equipment and lines to ensure all are secure. You may recall, there was considerable attention and communication in anticipation of Hurricane Hilary arriving in August. One other of the severe weather events was a strong Santa Ana which stresses the mooring equipment from a different direction than usual, so we have significant concern about boats staying in place when faced with unusual conditions. All in all, things were fine and we greatly appreciated everyone’s preparedness in the face of these severe events.

2023 was a busy and productive year for the City of Newport Beach, thanks to strong leadership and our extremely professional staff.

We have been working diligently to increase public safety, address quality-of-life issues, and make strategic investments to further improve our great city.

Here’s a look at some of our 2023 successes:

The City of Newport Beach has introduced a new license program offering 16 onshore and offshore City-owned moorings to the public in a variety of sizes. Applications for the initial licenses will be accepted through March 1, 2024.

The new program is designed for vessel owners to lease moorings long-term without having to acquire a permit, sub-permit or mooring equipment.

Monthly fees will be charged based on the size of the mooring, starting at $162 a month for an 18-ft. mooring. There is no cost to apply for one of the 16 new mooring leases.

Siyamak sits down with Seymour Beek, president of Balboa Island Ferry, one of Southern California’s oldest family-owned businesses. Today he will discuss the new rules in California aimed at reducing emissions and how they will impact small businesses.

“CARB made a rule that all short run fairies in California had to be zero emission by 2026. We consume an average of 26 gallons of fuel a day. You’re not gonna save the world by making us go zero emission,” Mr. Beek said. “They haven’t really examined the consequences of the rules they’re making. It’s extremely challenging, extremely expensive.”

As winter approaches, I start to look back on the year, and to prepare for the new year. Very similar to looking aft while sailing downwind in a sailboat race. Doing this will keep you aware of the changing conditions. With this in mind, I checked back in with Harbormaster Paul Blank this last week.

Q: From a distance it seemed like a quiet year, no oil spills, tsunamis, down aircraft. So what did I miss?

A: There were a couple of severe weather (wind and rain) events this year. We revived the technology we use to notify mooring permittees of approaching weather and urge them to verify their mooring equipment and lines to ensure all are secure. You may recall, there was considerable attention and communication in anticipation of Hurricane Hilary arriving in August. One other of the severe weather events was a strong Santa Ana which stresses the mooring equipment from a different direction than usual, so we have significant concern about boats staying in place when faced with unusual conditions. All in all, things were fine and we greatly appreciated everyone’s preparedness in the face of these severe events.

If you have started to hear Christmas music and noticed holiday TV ads, then you know it’s time for my annual recognition of our harbor’s sailing awards.

I’ll start with the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club’s (BCYC) awards night and the juniors. Sailing director Carolyn Smith stepped up to the podium for her first time presenting awards at BCYC, and she nailed it. One can always tell if the event is someone’s first rodeo, however, Smith’s a pro and she made the night fun and memorable with clear descriptions of the awards she was presenting. The Juniors awards always brings back good times, or even more so by diluting the agony of defeat.

Nine years ago, when the 106th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade was held, a few of us thought something was missing.

Not that there was anything wrong with the parade, which was going to feature its usual holiday splendor. But a few people felt it needed a little extra touch that many other parades around the country usually feature.

It was a Grand Marshal.

It almost seems impossible that a parade of this caliber can be held for more than a century without a Grand Marshal. Even much smaller parades in Orange County have them, with some even having multiples for the same parade (Say you Garden Grove Strawberry Festival).

Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort has announced their Inaugural Fire & Ice Festival, featuring one of Orange County’s largest waterfront ice rinks, spanning 4,000 square feet. The festival kicks off a season of holiday fun at Newport Dunes with an opening night celebration on November 24, alongside the 33rd Annual Lighting of the Bay, and runs daily through January 1, 2024.

“This year, we celebrate the return of our beloved Lighting of the Bay with a magical holiday experience like never before,” said Phil Ravenna, general manager of Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort. “We are excited to bring a waterfront ice rink to Newport Beach. Skaters can enjoy the lights of the bay as well as our Fire & Ice Festival. We welcome the community to usher in the holidays with loved ones and create new holiday memories in our idyllic bayfront setting in the heart of Newport Beach.”

The fires in Maui and Hurricane Idalia in Florida serve as recent reminders that disasters can strike at any time. Throughout September, which has been designated as National Preparedness Month, the City of Newport Beach will highlight some of our emergency preparedness tools and practices, along with educational resources for residents to become better prepared.

If you are new to emergency planning, or could use a refresher, a great place to start is the “Newport Beach Ready” Emergency Preparedness Guide produced by our Fire Department. The guide contains critical information on water and food storage, building an emergency kit, evacuation checklists, basic first aid, animal preparedness, and tips on what to do in specific events.

Newport Beach City Council members, joined by state and county elected representatives, held a ceremonial groundbreaking event on Friday, Sept. 15 to kick off construction of the Newport Bay Trash Interceptor, a sustainably powered system to collect floating trash before it enters the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, Newport Harbor and beaches.

Newport Harbor Pirates Cove

Newport Beach, known for its pristine beaches and picturesque harbors, has long been committed to preserving its natural resources. To further increase the City’s ability to monitor and maintain water quality in Newport Harbor, the City’s Harbor Department recently deployed two state-of-the-art water quality sensing buoys, or DataPods, in the harbor.

The Newport Bay Conservancy is hosting Coastal Cleanup Day at Upper Newport Bay on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Volunteers will meet at a dozen different mini-cleanup day sites around the 11-mile bay including the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, Newport Aquatic Center, Big Canyon, Vista Point, Jamboree Bridge, etc. Exact meeting location will be announced and sent to everyone (group leaders) prior to Sept. 21.

Join Nancy Gardner as she chats with former Harbor Commission Chair Bill Kenney and Senior Civil Engineer John Kappeler about the upcoming Newport Beach water wheel project.

The Balboa Island Ferry, one of our most iconic Newport Beach tourism experiences, could be no more.

If that sounds dramatic, it is. I can’t imagine our city without the ferry, but unless something is done, this treasured piece of our city could be gone in less than two years.

Thousands of locals and visitors use the ferry every year and it’s a vital part of our culture and history. It is part of what makes us Newport Beach, and in my mind, it is as important as our beaches. But all of that is now threatened and could be lost.

“I am pleased to report that a long-awaited water quality project, the Newport Bay Trash Interceptor, was approved this week by the Newport Beach City Council.”

On Tuesday, July 11, the City Council awarded a $3.9 million construction contract to Brea-based Jilk Heavy Construction, Inc. We expect to break ground this fall and begin operations in 2024.

The Trash Interceptor is a sustainably powered, floating trash and debris collection system that will be built in the San Diego Creek between the Jamboree Road Bridge and MacArthur Boulevard Bridge, upstream from the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.

It’s hard to believe that Thursday, July 6 will mark nine years since the passing of Newport Beach Lifeguard Ben Carlson. He was special to so many people, as his unexpected and untimely death would prove.

On that Sunday, in 2014, shortly after 5 p.m., a Newport Beach rescue boat identified a swimmer in distress off 16th Street. The surf at the time was six-to-eight feet.

Ben, as everyone knew, entered the water to make that rescue and swam to the man, making contact, before they were both hit by an unexpected large wave. The swimmer Ben was attempting to rescue was successfully pulled from the water, but Ben was not.

Yachts in beautiful Newport Harbor

Newport Beach scored high marks during the summer season in the 33rd Annual Heal the Bay Beach Report Card, released Wednesday, June 14.

Of the 36 Newport Beach bay and ocean testing sites listed in the report, 32 earned an A or A+ during the summer season, when the beaches are most frequented. Four sites earned a B grade. Heal the Bay’s annual report measures bacterial pollution for more than 700 West Coast beaches, from Washington to Baja, ranking them and grading their water quality from A to F.

Balboa Island Docks & Boats

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) has halted the dredging of Lower Newport Bay and construction authorization for the City of Newport Beach’s (the city’s) Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) facility. The Corps put things on hold after Orange County Coastkeeper (Coastkeeper) filed a lawsuit challenging their failure to fully analyze actions possibly violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA).

So, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Burn off over mooring field, Newport harbor, California

On May 23, the City Council approved a pilot program to change the harbor mooring fields configuration and approved changes to the Harbor Code to accommodate the proposed pilot program and the long-term plan for all the moorings in the harbor.

Speak Up Newport is hosting a meeting on Wednesday, June 14 to discuss the mooring plan with guest speaker Bill Kenney, the former Harbor Commission Chair. He will describe the Harbor Commission’s Open Water Initiative and the reasons for the changes to the mooring fields.
The valves, which were built in the 1970s to replace a system from the early 1900s, are necessary to prevent flooding in low-lying areas. They are manually operated, and need to be closed during high tides to prevent seawater from flooding the streets. Once the tide recedes, crews reopen the valves — nearly 90 in total — to allow water to flow from streets to the bay.

City Council this week unanimously approved a pilot project, called the open water initiative, related to mooring field design.

Councilmembers voted 7-0 on Tuesday (May 23) in support of the ordinance that would amend Title 17 (the city’s harbor code) related to mooring standards and permits. The approved action, stemming from Harbor Commission recommendations, will reconfigure mooring field C, which sits between Bay Island and the Balboa Peninsula ferry station.

March showers have given way to April flowers. The recent storms left in their wake perfect conditions throughout Southern California for thriving vegetation – a super bloom resulting in lush landscapes carpeted with abundant wildflowers.

The storms also replenished many of our major water supply reservoirs and significantly refilled our groundwater basin, resulting in higher-than-average levels compared to many years when these resources remained in limited supply indefinitely.

These same storms have another, less favorable effect on our community, as Newport Beach is at the end of the water “pipe” when it comes to trash and debris flow.

Seymour Beek

Newport Beach has a handful of iconic attractions that have stood the test of time: The Newport Pier, which replaced the original McFadden Wharf (1888-1939) and is registered as a California Historical Landmark; the Balboa Pavilion, which opened on July 1, 1906 and is the city’s oldest standing building; and the Balboa Island Ferry, which went into service in 1919 to bring cars and passengers across 900 feet of water between Balboa Island and the Balboa Fun Zone.

Newport Harbor from above

All permits are in place for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge channels in Lower Newport Bay and bury any contaminated sediment in a massive underwater pit at the heart of Newport Harbor.

But the project is now facing multiple legal challenges that could slow it down or thwart it entirely, as resident and environmental groups that tried to block those permits cite ongoing concerns over risks to marine life and bay contamination.

The Balboa Island Ferry, one of our most iconic Newport Beach tourism experiences, could be no more.

If that sounds dramatic, it is. I can’t imagine our city without the ferry, but unless something is done, this treasured piece of our city could be gone in less than two years.

Thousands of locals and visitors use the ferry every year and it’s a vital part of our culture and history. It is part of what makes us Newport Beach, and in my mind, it is as important as our beaches. But all of that is now threatened and could be lost.

Representatives from the Surfrider Foundation North Orange County Chapter recently presented the City with a generous donation of $12,415 toward the purchase and installation of a new marine trash skimmer for Newport Harbor. The donation will be used to offset the $18,000 cost of a new trash skimmer that will replace an older, broken skimmer located at the Rhine Wharf public dock.