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Is Newport Harbor big enough for Rick Caruso's mega-yacht?

August 26, 2013|By Emily Foxhall
  • Newport Harbor is expected to play host to a couple of mega-yachts in the near future, an not everyone is happy about it.
Newport Harbor is expected to play host to a couple of mega-yachts in the… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

A pair of mega-yachts, including billionaire developer Rick Caruso’s new 216-foot vessel, will glide into Newport Harbor next month, and not everyone is thrilled with the pending visit.

Caruso’s yacht, the Invictus, is expected to be anchored off Lido Isle for 16 days during a two-month stretch, in part for a gala christening party.

The owner of a second boat, the nearly 130-foot Marama, wants to anchor in the harbor for five days to host a private wedding. The boat’s owner wasn’t identified.

Though the Newport Beach Harbor Commission has approved the arrival of the big boats as part of a trial to see where the harbor could host visiting mega-yachts, at least two residents hope to prevent the boats from anchoring in front of their homes.

"This is just a trial, they keep assuring us of that," said Pamela Whitesides, who lives in a waterfront condo that overlooks the harbor. "But it's a trial to make it permanent."

Residents have until Wednesday to lobby council members for an appeal of the commission's approval, which would be heard during the Sept. 10 meeting, said the city's harbor resources manager, Chris Miller.

Whitesides and neighbor Judy Cole fear the yachts will be noisy and emit generator fumes. They worry too that the commission's swift decision came without proper review or input from residents.

"I wish we'd had more information and more time," agreed Karen Rhyne, the only harbor commissioner to dissent in the 5-1 August vote approving the visit.

Vessels can only be moored or anchored in designated areas, according to the Harbor Code, which is why the visiting boats required special permission. By comparison, commercial charter boats no larger than 130 feet are allowed to ply the harbor waters, often to host weddings, though music and even where the boats can float is regulated.

Most members of the harbor commission agreed that allowing yachts to anchor could aid efforts to make the Newport more accessible.

With its shopping, restaurants and views, Newport Beach could be a destination for those touring on their yachts, said Brad Avery, a harbor commissioner

Some visitors may also enjoy stopping to look at the impressive boats.

"We think it's just an opportunity to see how this works, and perhaps in the future we'll find a way to accommodate a large boat every now and then," Avery said.

Much would need to be done to make the harbor suitable for regular mega-yacht stops, said Don Lawenz, who has lived in the area since 1957 and served on the commission in the past.

The harbor lacks a place to pump out holding tanks or hook up to electricity, he said.

The boats would also need to navigate the waterway carefully so as not to scrape the bottom.

"A lot of this stuff, Newport's just not suited for it," Lawenz said.

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emily.foxhall@latimes.com

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