Illegal yacht charters originating out of Marina Del Rey are rampant and we are sounding the alarm once again as many of the agencies responsible for boater safety are ignoring this current problem including USCG. Enforcement of illegal yacht charters is non-existent. Why is that?
We have been talking to several legal charter Captains who are aware of the problem of illegal yacht charters and of course unlicensed captains running the charters. One of the reasons we have heard for the lack of enforcement is that Los Angeles County has ordered the agencies monitoring the marina to stand down in the name of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Although that can’t be verified it has been communicated to us that the county is trying to make charters accessible to those who could not otherwise afford to pay full price for a charter and in doing so the County looks the other way. The problem is that many of the groups that are scheduling charters are using the time to drink excessively and basically party hard as they say. We have been made aware there is some sort of monetary incentive for the illegal charters and the promise of no enforcement. This creates a breeding ground for illegal yacht charters attempting to capitalize on the lack of enforcement. This could lead to a tragedy on the water.
All of the illegal yacht charters are uninspected vessels and carrying more passengers than is allowable. Many of the charters also allow no limits on alcohol consumed and even the use of illicit drugs while on open water. Not a day goes by that we witness this activity and we ask ourselves how these operators are not getting targeted for obvious illegal activity?
In one particular instance this last summer, we were working a legal yacht charter (The Legend Yacht) cruising the marina when we were approached by an illegal yacht charter with a known unlicensed captain who nearly collided with us. This could have been a horrible day for those on both charters as there could have been injuries had a collision taken place. This particular individual is widely known throughout the Marina Del Rey boating community as a dangerous captain (unlicensed) who has no regard for the rule of law on the water.
A few days ago while heading out of the marina on the Legend, we witnessed two individuals on a SeaDoo coming alongside us and the male driver was seen drinking alcohol. Having spotted one of our uniformed lifeguards, he proceeded to hide the can of alcohol and headed out of the marina at a high rate of speed. The SeaDoo had obvious markings to indicate it was a rental.
The incidents that take place in the marina are numerous and most of the legal yacht charter operators have filed complaints with the harbor master, USCG and LASD MDR to no avail. They are turning a deaf ear to this rampant problem.
In 2021 officials discussed the problem of illegal yacht charters:
“Officials recently discussed the issue of illegal boat charters in Marina del Rey.
The Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors Small Craft Harbor held a Commission meeting on December 17th to discuss the legal and illegal operation of charters in Marina del Rey.
During the presentation, two types of options were listed for people interested in running a charter in the Marina del Rey area. The first option was using Dock 55, which opened in 2017. In order to go through the Dock 55, potential operators must have their boat inspected, need insurance and a county business license and a U.S. Coast Guard certified captain’s license.
The second option would be a sublease agreement on behalf of the potential operator. A tentative operator would have to seek out harbor master lease holders and then get a qualified review from the Department of Beaches and Harbors.
Many staff are in favor of the Dock 55 option, because they say it makes the process more streamlined. If potential operators decided to dock, they also wouldn’t have to be concerned with parking or finding a lease holder.
Dock 55 is a docking site managed by Pacific Ocean Management who provides stipulations and direction for those interested in chartering. For those interested in serving food and alcohol, a valid county business license would need to be obtained along with special permits.
At the meeting, current charter operators also voiced their concerns with illegal charter operations.
“I could probably list over 200 illegal charters that can be docked out of Marina del Rey on any given day in the middle of summer,” Mark Sentyrz, owner and operator of Marina del Rey Boat Rentals, told the Commission at the meeting.
During the meeting, the Sheriff’s station talked about some of the difficulties with tracking down illegal operations such as dealing with passengers being non-truthful about their relation to operators.
“If there’s not proof, it’s hard for us to tell if this is an illegal charter or is this guy going out with his family,” said Sgt. Brent Carlson of the Marina Del Rey sheriff’s station said at the meeting.
We believe that sting operations should be initiated once again to catch the illegal yacht charters and it would not be difficult to catch them. There are also a number of legal yacht charter captains who could name names and this would help out the agencies to track the illegal charters.
Here is a link to an article that was published in 2017 and this has been an ongoing issue:
Many of the legal yacht charter captains we spoke with are in bewilderment that enforcement of illegal yacht charters is a high priority in other areas such as San Diego, Ventura and other coastal areas however Marina Del Rey does not have enforcement.
Here are a few stories from just a few weeks ago however this is only a couple of enforcement activities for illegal charters: