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San Diego-Catalina Ferry Service Plans Put Avalon in a Quandary

October 02, 1986|JULIO MORAN and ARMANDO ACUNA | Times Staff Writers

AVALON — 'Yes, we would like some San Diego business, but right now we can't handle anything more on that (Cabrillo Mole docking area).'

--Hal Host

Avalon City Councilman

Two ferryboat companies announced plans last week to begin service between Santa Catalina Island and San Diego, but neither company may be able to get off--or on--the dock.

Avalon City Manager John Longley said the city supports the service, which would provide a new source of business for the tourist-dependent island. But Longley said the city has asked the state Public Utilities Commission, which still must approve the plans, to honor its moratorium prohibiting new or expanded businesses on Avalon Bay. Longley said he has asked that if the commission approves the services, it restrict them to outside the moratorium area until the measure expires on Jan. 1.

Councilman Hal Host said the city is in a quandary.

"Yes, we would like some San Diego business, but right now we can't handle anything more on that mole," Host said, referring to the Cabrillo Mole docking area for ferryboats.

Exciting Prospect

Marian Post, executive director of the Catalina Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, said she is excited about the prospect of having a San Diego-to-Catalina run. "There hasn't been that kind of service here before," she said. "Besides bringing tourists from San Diego, it would allow people from Catalina to visit San Diego."

But she added that the chamber will support whatever decision the city makes concerning additional businesses on the mole. "The city would know best," she said. "Their concerns are really more for safety and water pollution than anything else."

Longley said that this fall and winter only 50-foot sections of the mole will be available for docking because floats will be removed for repairs. He said there is also no ticketing space available on the mole for new businesses.

Results of the city's study on congestion on the Pleasure Pier and Cabrillo Mole are expected to be released in late January. Most of the tourist-related services are on the Pleasure Pier.

Hopes for Early Start

One of the two ferryboat companies, Catalina Cruisin', a new San Diego-based company with no ferry experience, hopes to begin its service Oct. 17.

But Carole Kretzer, a spokeswoman for the PUC, said that because of the moratorium and a challenge of the California Cruisin' application by the competing company--Catalina Cruises Inc.--the Oct. 17 start is "just not going to happen." Kretzer said the two applications will be heard on Oct. 28.

Charles (Chip) Boyd, president of California Cruisin', said he still expects to begin service as scheduled, although he would not elaborate. Boyd said he will observe the city's moratorium by dropping anchor outside the moratorium area and using shore boats to shuttle passengers to the pier. He said he is also negotiating with an existing operator for ticket-counter space on the mole.

Boyd dismissed an allegation by Catalina Cruises in the PUC challenge that his boat, called the Klondike, is unsafe. The Klondike, a 210-passenger catamaran, was used by Catalina Cruises on its Long Beach-to-Catalina run in July, 1984, and later tested by the Red and White Fleet in San Francisco, a sightseeing business owned by Crowley Maritime Corp. of San Francisco. Crowley also owns Catalina Cruises. The Klondike is owned by Yukon River Cruises of Anchorage, Alaska, which leased the vessel to Catalina Cruises in 1984 and is now leasing it to California Cruisin'.

Major Carrier

Terry F. Koenig, general manager of Catalina Cruises, which is the major ferryboat carrier to Catalina from San Pedro and Long Beach, said his firm challenged the California Cruisin' PUC application because his company had been working to provide service out of San Diego since 1984 and because "we don't think it (the Klondike) is a suitable vessel."

But Boyd said the ferry is adequate and has received Coast Guard certification. He said it needs only to be refurbished, which his company intends to do.

The proposed California Cruisin' winter schedule calls for a daily trip to Catalina on weekdays and two trips daily on weekends. In the summer there would be two trips every day. A round-trip ticket for an adult would cost $39. Boyd said he expects about 50 passengers per trip during the winter.

Koenig said his company, which hopes to begin its San Diego-to-Catalina runs on June 1, plans to have a $3-million, 98-foot-long, twin-hulled catamaran capable of carrying 400 passengers custom-built for the 70-mile trip from San Diego to Avalon. The boat, which would have lounge-type seating, card tables and a snack bar and make the passage in two hours, is similar to ones used on San Francisco Bay by the Red and White fleet.

Tickets Prices

One-way tickets from San Diego to Catalina would cost $20 for adults aboard Catalina Cruises ships. The one-way fare from San Pedro and Long Beach to Catalina would be $10.95 in summer, $9.95 in the off-season. Fares for a new one-way, 90-mile trip between Long Beach and San Diego that would operate only in the spring and fall would be about $22.

Koenig said that if the city were to continue its ban on additional businesses on the mole, his company could drop one of its six runs from Long Beach or San Pedro during the summer and substitute one from San Diego.

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