Coast Guard faults uncertified charter tour

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The Coast Guard admonished a Newport Beach Harbor, Calif., commissioner's private company last week for appearing to offer bay tours without proper certification, officials said.

Commissioner Ralph Rodheim's Balboa Boat Rentals offered narrated nightly tours of the bay's lighted boats and homes. But his tour boats aren't certified for commercial charters and his company does not have a city charter operator permit, the Daily Pilot newspaper reported.

A vocal critic of large charterboats, Rodheim has said some entertaining ships are too large and noisy for the bay. He is leading a Harbor Commission subcommittee that might push some of the largest charter ships out of the harbor, using new laws.

Lt. Cmdr. Randy Waddington, chief of investigations for the Coast Guard's Los Angeles-Long Beach section, said investigators were searching for online promotions for unlicensed charters. They noticed Balboa Boat Rentals' "Holiday Lights Harbor Cruise" aboard a 21-foot Duffy electric boat.

"Up to 10 passengers will enjoy a two-hour narrated cruise past fabulous homes, yachts and landmarks decorated for the holidays," the company's website said.

If a boat has more than six paying passengers and a hired captain is behind the wheel, the vessel would have to be inspected and certified by the Coast Guard. Also, its captain would have to have a certain license.

"We're not doing the driving. We're not chartering. It's just like a boat rental," Rodheim told the newspaper.

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