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Working Waterfront:
Bill Xavier
Twenty-Fourth Annual World Footbag Championships
Water Transit Authority  WTA

Working Waterfront
In their own words

Bill Xavier

Owner of Perfection Marine Yacht Sales

I am an engineer/scientist by trade. Before I started selling boats full time, I worked at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory for 18 years, then for EG&G Ė a company that supported Lawrence Laboratory. Iím an Oakland native and have worked on the Estuary about 30 years. I started out swimming in the Estuary, building rafts and little boats and that sort of thing. Iíve been a boater all my life.

Itís a nice fit to make a living at what I like doing. When the weather is nice, Iím usually out three days a week. Iíll take a friend, a bottle of wine and some sandwiches and go out to look at the Golden Gate. Once a month I do cruises with the Alameda Yacht Club. Itís a small club, a good group of people Ė all boaters. Itís all volunteer. We donít hire bartenders and cooks. Everyone jumps in and does what they can. For $7 you get a really nice dinner with dessert and the whole works. Thatís pretty hard to beat.

Derelict boats of the kind that irk Xaiver

At Perfection Marine, we sell both new and used boats - power and sailboats ranging from $8,000 to $650,000. There has been a big decline since the dot-com bust, especially in the larger sailboats. Although business hasnít been as good as it could be since September 11th, it is picking back up and itís steady. Right now I represent about 60 boat owners. To sell a lot of boats, I advertise in three publications and have two web sites on Yacht World. Although most buyers are previous boat owners, maybe 10 percent are first time buyers. We stick with them. I donít let them get away until I know they can drive the boat. I hook them up with the Coast Guard Auxiliary so they can take some classes.

One of my issues is abandoned vessels. There are people who have boats and donít have the funds to take care of the boat in the proper way. They probably donít have the funds to get into a marina, so theyíll go ďanchor outĒ somewhere Ė come up to a location, drop their hook and thatís all that holds the boat in that particular place. If the boat is no longer operational or they leave the area, the boat is just left there. Then it becomes a hazard to navigation because youíre not going to find it at night. If it sinks, you have a big problem.

I donít know if youíve gone over to Richardson Bay at night. There are no lights or anything. Sometimes the waterways get blocked so you canít get through. I think theyíre setting themselves up for foul play, because if they leave the boats, somebody will come out and either steal from them or cause a problem on the boat. In San Diego Harbor about two years ago, there were so many boats anchored out in the harbor that you could literally walk from boat to boat. San Diego finally decided to clean them all out. Now you can go in there and stay. They donít have a permit; you just go register and say, ďIím going to Mexico and I might be here for six months, looking at San Diego,Ē and thatís fine. I think we should have that here.

If someone decides to have a lifestyle where they like to live on the water and they do everything properly, I donít think there should be a stumbling block for them. As long as boats are maintained and meet the legal requirements, I donít see any problem at all. The ones who donít meet the legal requirements, thereís the problem. If their sanitation system isnít functioning and theyíre pumping overboard, then it becomes a hazard Ė a pollutant. In some areas it is permissible to throw your hook out and stay there because thatís federal law in certain areas. Itís marked on the charts. But your boat needs to be safe. It needs to have a good sanitation system and be self-sufficient. If a person follows all those things and it isnít in an area where theyíre a hazard to navigation, then there shouldnít be any problem with it. The problem is when someone walks away from one and abandons it Ė thatís when it becomes a problem.

No one has the official responsibility for the derelict boats. In all the other counties in the State of California, the Sheriffís Department patrols the waterways. But theyíre not funded to do that, so theyíre not going to bother with it until they get funded to do it. And I can see their point. If they have too much to do and not enough people to do it, then they donít need to be messing around with something theyíre not funded for.

Oakland has a boat they inherited from the Coast Guard or NavyÖa work boat with a flat deck on it. If not driven properly, it puts up a big wake. They donít have really experienced people to man the boat. They man it with people who want to work some overtime on a weekend, and the people who are driving the boat donít really understand boats. Theyíve had a little bit of instruction. On the Alameda side, theyíve got a boat thatís more adept, but they only man that on weekends if there is somebody available. Itís not like thereís a line down the middle of the Estuary where one city patrols one side and one the other.

It seems to me that when these local patrols are out, theyíre not looking for the right thing. They will go out where thereís somebody coming by and they donít have a new sticker on their registration. Theyíll pull this guy over and spend a lot of timeÖ but thereíll be some guy that comes through with a big wake, and they ignore him because they think heís going slow, and they need to do more of that. That said, itís a lot better than it was. I think people are more aware. I think the law enforcement agencies are monitoring stuff a lot closer than they used to.

No one really has the funding to deal with these things. Past a certain point on the Estuary, itís not dredged or maintained at all. If you know where to go, youíll have 5-6 feet of water, otherwise you donít. I think the county and the state have lost a good resource. If you could come under the Bay Farm Island Bridge, it would be a quick shot to bring freight boats from the San Francisco Airport to the Oakland Airport, and get some trucks off the road.