Standing on the bow of the new patrol boat are Harbor Director Ted Schiafone (left) and Mayor Carla Wixom, as they cut the ribbon christening the new boat.
It’s been nearly 3 years but the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol finally got its new-used patrol boat into service.
At a ceremony Feb. 20 on the North T-pier harbor, City officials and the boating public gathered to officially celebrate the patrol’s new emergency rescue boat.
Harbor Patrol Chief Becka Kelly emceed the event and took the occasion to thank the Friends of the Harbor Department’s President Bill Luffee for his group’s work raising more than $100,000 to pay for new diesel engines for the new patrol boat, which underwent a full repowering from the original platform the City bought used from the Port San Luis Harbor District.
The 26-foot Radon Craft was bought using a state grant for $85,000 in December 2020. She replaces another Radon Craft patrol boat that the department bought brand new in 1984 — named Boat 68 — and that has been the workhorse of the department’s fleet all these years.
In 2012, Boat 68 was on a rescue mission when she took a nasty wave that delaminated the hull’s fiberglass, tore away a big hunk of the bottom and she started taking on water during a rescue mission to Montana de Oro.
She didn’t sink and was eventually repaired but the old girl had seen better days, and the department started planning to replace it.
But putting together the money for a new boat that could cost upwards of $400,000 or more, takes time and a little help from one’s friends. But the Department of Boating and Waterways denied the City’s request for a grant to buy a new boat, which meant looking for alternatives.
And when the opportunity to buy PSL’s old boat came up, the City jumped on it, garnering a DBW grant, albeit much smaller, to buy the boat.
Luffee told the crowd that he started the Friends when he was on the Harbor Advisory Board and learned how woefully underfunded the Harbor department is on things like essential equipment.
Kelly took the opportunity to also welcome the City’s new Harbor Director, Ted Schiafone, who replaces the now-retired Eric Endersby. Schiafone started work Feb. 14 and comes to Morro Bay from Oceanside, Calif., down in San Diego County. He was the division manager for the City of Oceanside Harbor District, managing a budget of over $9 million.
Kelly introduced the newest full time harbor patrol officer, Charlie Howland. Howland and Schiafone are the first two people hired at the Harbor Department to come from out of the area. She noted that in the past, vacancies have always been filled from within, as employees work their way up the ladder.
Howland had his family — wife and two young daughters — do the badge pinning ceremony, which lent a bit of comedic relief to the proceedings, as the girls tried hard not to poke their daddy in the chest.
The new boat, christened No. 3869 — or just ‘69 — was feted with a ribbon cutting by the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Mayor Carla Wixom smashed a champagne bottle on the bow cleat (it was actually a fake sugar bottle not real glass).
With the new boat finally able to be used for patrols, the department again is up to three patrol boats, all Radon Craft, and Howland fills a position that has been vacant since 2010.