Skip to content

Sailors, Surfers and Sealife Suffer Another Southern California Oil Spill

The New York Times reports that a pipeline failure has caused up to 126,000 gallons of oil to spill in Southern California near Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Brad Avery, former executive director of Orange Coast College but now mayor of Newport Beach, was leaving Catalina Island and was about five miles off Huntington Beach when he came in contact with the oil slick.

Brad Avery
Now mayor of Newport Beach, Brad Avery, on the right, has been a fantastic sailing booster, and is a past commodore of the Transpacific Yacht Club. He is pictured here with Tabasco skipper John Wylie at the finish of the 2003 Transpac.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Rob

He was quoted in the Times: “‘We have these beautiful dolphins following along with the boat,’ he said. ‘We had six or seven dolphins. To our dismay, all of a sudden, we were in this big patch of oil. It was very thick,’ he said, describing a consistency that varied from a slight sheen to three-by-three-foot patches of black that looked like tar. ‘The dolphins were swimming through it.

“‘It was sort of a moment where we have this beautiful nature, and then this man-made disaster,’ Mr. Avery said.”

Southern California Oil Spill
Sailing Southern California is a dream with rare but regular fossil-fueled nightmares.
© 2021 New York Times

The reported 13-square-mile oil slick has deposited thick tar on the beaches and washed dead birds and fish up onto shore. The failure occurred on Saturday and has reportedly been stopped, so now the long process of cleanup is underway so closed beaches can reopen and sealife above and below the water can begin to recover. By Sunday night the Coast Guard had reported that about 3,150 gallons of oil had been recovered, or less than 3%.

Oil spill clean up
USCG published this photo of the cleanup operation underway.
© 2021 USCG Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Brahm

Los Angeles County recently made the decision to phase out urban oil drilling in unincorporated areas, which, over time, will help reduce the size and frequency of spills while the world moves toward less destructive and more sustainable energy sources, such as solar resources and California’s abundant wind, which powers all Southern California sailors.

Oil has been a huge boon for humanity, but it’s time to tack for clear air. There is a tremendous amount of progress being made toward renewable energy, and we’re sure that, for Southern California sailors, swimmers, and sealife, it can’t come soon enough. With Tesla stock valued at over $600bn and Ford and GM each at under $100bn, plus Ford’s recent announcement to invest $11.5bn in US electric car manufacturing facilities, it’s clear that it’s only a matter of time before this type of ecological disaster will exist only in history books. Unfortunately, that time is likely quite a few years and oil spills away.

Read the full New York Times report here.


  1. Peter Ogilvie 3 years ago

    This spill has nothing to do with urban oil drilling, fracking, or onshore transportation or use of oil. It’s on offshore pipeline probably for discharge of tanker’s cargo. Give us information on that, not propaganda for alternate energy.

    • Damon Cruz 3 years ago

      Does it matter exactly portion of the oil transport system failed? It is a messy industry fraught with potential for disaster at every step of the way, and this spill, like so many others, was predicted then ignored, just as the BP rig, the Exxon Valdez, etc. This industry, like mining and plastics, needs to be held to the highest standard, not the lowest/cheapest, and if gas costs more so be it; I watched Alaska struggle for years to recover while Exxon got off at a small fraction of the actual cost.

Leave a Comment

Sponsored Post
Here’s a great way to get all the good sailing-news sooner. Subscribe to Latitude 38 and have your copy of the West Coast’s best sailing magazine delivered to your mailbox every month!