Tuesday, May 24 , 2016, 7:45 am | Fair 54º

Captain’s Log: Sick of Being Stuck in the Harbor, Boat Owners Long to Head to Sea

By Capt. David Bacon, Noozhawk Columnist |

Now we’ve endured another week of being locked in the harbor. It sucks!

Picture yourself as a boat owner, and imagine that the fishing and cruising season is young. We’re nearing the wind-down period of gray whale watching season, and the weather is generally good. The worst part is, we’ve got a serious case of cabin fever and we need to get out to sea — “Get off the rock,” as we like to say.

The Santa Barbara Harbor entrance remains blocked by sand, and only shallow-draft boats can make it by playing the tides right. Gauge it wrong, and a boat may become grounded until a higher tide comes along, or a boat motor may suck up some sand and silt and mess up the outdrive, or a very expensive propeller might become damaged. There are plenty of reasons to be cautious.

There are also reasons to throw caution to the wind. I canceled charters on my charter boat, WaveWalker. The open-party boat Stardust canceled trips. Private boaters have forgone trips. Businesses that rely on fishing and general boat traffic have suffered greatly. That includes both my charter service and my bait-and-tackle shop.

Besides charter fishing operations, the people I feel most sorry for are commercial fishers. Some of the smaller commercial boats can play the tide game and carefully negotiate the treacherous harbor entrance. Going out is one thing, but when they come back — heavier due to their catch and riding lower in the water — the situation is even more risky.

Many of our boats just cannot make it out, and those folks are losing their livelihood while waiting for the dredge to be fired up, break down, be repaired and try again.

Mick Kronman, our harbor operations manager, gave a very good report on our commercial fishers at a recent harbor commission meeting. His report was researched and well-presented. It showed how important the fleet of commercial boats is to our community.

Some may point a finger of blame at various levels of governments, negotiations between the dredging company and the feds, and anyone else who comes to a frustrated mind while tapping fingers and waiting for the painfully slow process of clearing out the navigable channel at the harbor entrance. I feel like it is just darned back luck for ocean-related businesses and boat owners.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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