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New Flexibility on Harbor Closure

Santa Cruz Harbor has always struggled with winter shoaling, but this year the problem grew to new extremes. With special permission, some vessels may now transit the harbor mouth again. 

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The Coast Guard’s total closure of Santa Cruz Harbor March 18 left a lot of sailors and commercial fishermen extremely frustrated — to put it mildly. But we’re happy to report that the dredging crews have been making steady progress since then, which has allowed the CG to soften rules for this special Safety Zone. 

When conditions at the entrance are appropriate, fishermen are now able to come and go without the threat of fines, if they are granted special permission (via VHF 9) from the Santa Cruz harbormaster or a deputy harbormaster. We assume the same applies to recreational vessels also; however, keelboat owners should check current bottom-contour graphics at the harbormaster’s office before contemplating an exit. According to the Santa Cruz Port District website, "The Coast Guard has indicated that approvals can be granted during daylight hours when there are no small craft or gale warnings in effect." It’s also good news that dredging hours will be increasing to 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. whenever possible.

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz YC members have gotten creative due to the extreme shoaling and harbor closure. Since March 16, they’ve been hosting Wednesday night in-harbor dinghy races as a replacement for their customary springtime ‘beer can’ races out on the Bay. Races are open to all dinghy types (but no spinnakers), with the starting line located off D dock, near the hoist. First gun is at 5:30, and, of course, the club will host its usual post-race barbecue and revelry. Goes to show, even when you corral a bunch of sailors in a relatively small space, it’s tough to keep them from hoisting sail and doing what they love to do best.

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“Where’s my cape?”  That’s what this writer said after assisting in the rescue of a starving sea lion pup earlier this month at the Channel Islands Harbor Marina in Oxnard.