Ahoy!

The California Department of Boating and Waterways is now a division of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

This repositioning will negatively affect boaters, boating infrastructure, on-the-water law enforcement, and boating education. The move by the governor to change the department is merely a grab for the dedicated funds — not general fund dollars — paid by the boaters and fishermen.

The tens of millions of dollars paid annually to the former department can now potentially be siphoned away for other purposes, which would neglect the intended purpose of the funds for boating uses. Following an outcry from boaters, Assembly members Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon) and Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) introduced a bill, AB737, to resurrect the Boating and Waterways Commission, which the governor signed.

By resurrecting the commission, this may help protect the boaters' special funds, and save the various boating and waterways' programs. However, I expect over time to see more money from the dedicated funds diverted to the Parks and Recreation Department, as approximately $25 million annual has already been redirected there. This does affect our local boating infrastructure with education, pump-out facilities, and possible funding for a Marina Park project.

I remember first mentioning the Marina Park project in early 2005, when former Newport Beach Harbor Commissioner John Corrough gave a report at a marine meeting. He concluded that Marina Park is the public's last remaining open bay front property by saying, "just look at the name of the property – Marina and Park."

So, finally, Marina Park maybe coming to fruition with the Coastal Commission and the city working out the final details of the lighthouse structure's height. However, is a non-functioning lighthouse important to the project or to boaters in Newport Harbor? Nope, and the funds saved from not constructing the faux lighthouse could be used to make the exterior of the proposed building look more inviting and nautical.

You can transplant the building depicted in the rendering to anywhere in Irvine, and it would fit in perfectly. This is just a generic-looking commercial building with a sail-like sloping roof, lots of glass, cold hard exterior finish, and no charm or compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood and harbor.

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Tip of the week

Every summer, the waterways intensify with boating activity, whether its sailing classes, charter boats, outriggers, fishermen or paddlers. However, it is every boater's responsibility to pass through the harbor safely, including the hundreds of sailboats in the summer classes and races.

First, the harbor is open to everyone and all types of watercraft, including submarines, and, technically, no one can block any portion of navigable waters unless granted a special event permit by the Coast Guard. With that said, I have noticed that the sailing programs are making an extra effort to leave room between their course buoys and the shore for "sea room" passage of other vessels, whether commercial or recreational in nature.

Boaters cruising through the harbor need to plan ahead and try to avoid any sailing course by planning to navigate outside of the markers. Please watch for the beginner sailor, who may lose control and drift in front of your vessel.

Sometimes it is impossible to avoid a fleet or if a vessel ends up in the middle of sailboats moving across the bay. Then everyone needs to be courteous, as prescribed by maritime law and inland right-of-way rules as prescribe for all vessels.

I actually like to see people enjoying our harbor especially aboard a boat, and we must all learn to be respectful and tolerant of each other on the water.

Too often, I hear the excuse from someone pushing the rules, "I have been boating here for 20 years so..."

So what, the navigation rules never mention how long you have been boating but simply that everyone needs to avoid a collision or an allision.

Skippers of sail or power boats do not need to wave and yell harsh words at other boaters to move out of the way. Everybody should stay calm, and remember that we are traveling at around 5 mph, so what is your hurry?

Seamanship through the Corinthian spirit is what we need to be instilling as boaters, and there will always be another day, I hope.

And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon on Saturdays, and repeated at 10 a.m. on Sundays. You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, BlackBerry, iPod touch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at http://www.BoathouseTV.com.

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to mike@boathousetv.com or go to http://www.boathousetv.com.