Harbormaster tackles job down at the marina

A group of wet-suited divers prepares to head out from the Langley marina boat launch ramp last week. In the background is the earth grader the Port of South Whidbey hired to clean and grade the ramp. - Rick Brewer photo
A group of wet-suited divers prepares to head out from the Langley marina boat launch ramp last week. In the background is the earth grader the Port of South Whidbey hired to clean and grade the ramp.
— image credit: Rick Brewer photo

The Port of South Whidbey is showing the flag at the Langley marina and its presence is being felt.

Last week, harbormaster Rick Brewer reported to port commissioners on progress made the past three weeks and plans for the future. The good news was that the port made $600 in transient dockage fees in the first two weeks.

“Things are going well,” Brewer said. “But though a number of smaller maintenance and repair items have been accomplished, my focus has to be on safety.”

Specifically, the fire mains which run along the marina’s palisade structure. A break at one point has allowed saltwater intrusion to enter the pipe at high tide, making the entire system useless in the event of a fire onboard one of the docked boats.

Other key safety concerns include a first aid station, defibrillator, spill response kit and submersible pump needed to empty out the buoyancy chambers of the 400-foot breakwater, for which Brewer asked for funding and commissioners agreed.

From his modest office stocked with discarded but restored furniture next to the Sea Breeze Inn, Brewer has a million-dollar view.

“When boaters arrive and depart, I can see exactly what’s happening,” Brewer said. “I’ve set up a channel, 66 alpha, for skippers to call and let me know when they’re arriving.”

Among the smaller tasks accomplished since the first of the year, Brewer has updated the electrical connections and added potable water connections to the pier, pressure-washed the docks and arranged to have the boat launch ramp cleaned.

“The city provided the required permits for the ramp because we are allowing full access to the fire department to put a rescue boat in the water. Anytime,” Brewer said.

Brewer is also prepping an old but serviceable 20-foot Avon rigid inflatable craft with a 135-hp motor to carry out response and maintenance tasks.

“I can put a fire cart in the bow with a saltwater pump in case a fire breaks out,” he noted. “It’s powerful enough for tows and helps me access hard-to-reach spots around the dock.”

Oh, yes, and the garbage cans.

“When I started, it turned out all the metal cans had no bottoms, so they were replaced,” Brewer said. He noted that, wherever possible, all goods and services the port buys will be from local vendors.

“A local company is doing our signage,” he explained. “It isn’t real big, but every little bit helps.”

All part of a day’s work for the man port commissioners and the Langley City Council are hoping will help revitalize the inner harbor simply by being on-site.

Brewer, who lives in Clinton, has over 30 years of maritime experience including boatyard operator and licensed master credentials, with additional responsibilities for administration, crew training, budget and payroll and safety issues on various assignments.

When he was hired late last year, port commissioners were especially impressed with his range of technical capabilities and strong commitment to improving conditions and operations at the harbor.

Brewer was the clear choice for two reasons, according to port manager Ed Field.

First his background as a sea captain on small cruise vessels, and that he’s a local man with a clear understanding of the port’s mission.

The idea of working locally had great appeal for Brewer. His wife is an operating room nurse in Everett and the chance to settle down close to home made the decision a no-brainer .

Brewer said the position offers him similar challenges that he experienced as a sea captain, such as working with vendors, contractors, port officials, crew management and the ever-changing turnover of guests on board his ships.

In fact, his personal knowledge and involvement with the regional network of tour and charter commercial vessel operators was seen as a real plus toward the commissioner’s goal of attracting a variety of commercial vessels into Langley.

Brewer has captained a number of small cruise ships and belongs to the Northwest Captain’s Association. His last command was an American Safari expedition yacht in Alaska.

On Sunday, Feb. 22 the Victoria Clipper III will dock in Langley during the town’s Mystery Weekend.

Docking will be free, since port officials are negotiating to encourage the company to make regular stops in the summer.

The 114-foot vessel takes 238 passengers to Friday Harbor and Victoria, B.C. daily; a stopover in Langley, no matter how brief, would be a boon to local businesses.

“This is Langley and South Whidbey’s front door,” Brewer said as he pointed to a trim trawler yacht maneuvering to approach the dock. “Eventually, my dream is to have the entire community feel as though they’ve taken ownership here. It belongs to all of us.”

Among the many ideas percolating at the marina are a fish-cleaning station on the dock, work projects that Boy Scouts might undertake for their Eagle badges and better facilities for kayakers and divers.

“Ed (Field) and I are going to the diver exposition in Seattle next April to spread the word that they are welcome here,” Brewer said.

Even as he spoke, a diver’s boat was being loaded at the just-cleaned boat launch ramp.

“All I ask is that folks have a little patience,” he said. “It will take time, but I think we’re on the right track.”

The next Port of South Whidbey meeting is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11 at the Freeland Library.

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