Rescue Craft Shoves Off for Peak Season


By Justin Swanson | LB Indy


3 lifeguard  WatercraftFor the first time, Laguna Beach lifeguards’ can now rely on their own rescue watercraft for patrol and rescue missions.

Though deployed since Memorial Day weekend, the new addition to the marine safety department will be heralded with a christening ceremony on Main Beach, Saturday, June 8 at 3 p.m., recognizing a gift by residents Mark Porterfield and Steve Chadima.

The watercraft will be in use three or four days a week, launched from an area cleared by guards on Main Beach. Its top uses include rescue, emergency response, and enforcement of California boating and waterway laws and protection of specified marine areas, according to marine safety Lieutenant Kai Bond. No new guards will be hired because of the craft since all fulltime guards have received training in its use for rescues, he said.

Each vessel is 12 feet in length and weighs about 1,100 pounds, said lifeguard Captain Thomas Trager. He says one person will typically operate the craft, though another can come aboard for rescue missions. The craft can carry one to two victims that may be picked up in the water.

The craft are currently being held in a trailer near City Hall. Once the new lifeguard headquarters is completed next year, the craft will be easier to deploy from there, he said.

Porterfield says that he and his partner of 28 years, Chadima, wanted to give back “to the city that has been so good to us over the past 30 years.”

The two previously provided underwriting for several public art works and lent their financial support to initiatives of the fire and police department, the hospital, museum, and Laguna College of Art & Design. Porterfield and Chadima set their sights on contributing to the marine safety department in part due to guidance by Sian Poeschl, the city’s arts coordinator involved with proposed public art commissions for the lifeguard headquarters. The three together went to lifeguard Chief Kevin Snow with the intent “to help make Laguna world class in safety.”

Previously, Laguna lifeguards relied on paddleboards to travel beyond the surfline and between coves. During some emergencies, Laguna would call on sea-going craft deployed by other departments, such as Newport Beach’s lifeguard boat.

Now, though the town lacks a harbor for docking, Laguna lifeguards can extend their own lifesaving efforts further and can respond faster, said Trager.

The low-emission wave runners are fuel-efficient and require little maintenance, but will have to remain clear of kelp beds, Bond said. “It can get sucked up into the intake and fowl the propulsion,” he said. “You won’t see them being operated inside a kelp bed unless there is an emergency and it is necessary.”

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