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This ocean cruise presents gritty side of L.A. coast

March 21, 2010 | 11:20 am

This cruise offers a different view of the Southern California coast.

The 2 1/2 -hour excursion takes passengers through a seascape short on the picturesque but full of concrete and metal -- a ride through exhaust-tinged air and past power plants, rusty warehouses and the Terminal Island prison that once housed Charles Manson and Al Capone.

On a drizzly afternoon, a group of tourists huddle aboard the Christopher sipping wine, nibbling cookies and gazing out at the ocean just off Long Beach. Cameras dangle from their necks, ready to record the sights.

But these sightseers are not aboard for an afternoon of whale watching or a search for dolphins and sea lions.

Corroded metal shipping containers, belching smokestacks, trash-strewn waterways and oil islands highlight this harbor cruise.

When the boat chugs past the Postojna, a Liberian cargo ship loading tons of scrap metal into its hull, one passenger asks: "I wonder if my bike's there?"

In recent years, reality tours have shuttled sightseers to the slums of Rio de Janeiro, through gang-plagued neighborhoods in Los Angeles and on "toxic tours" of factories, refineries and brownfields in Oakland.

The aim of the Urban Ocean Boat Cruise -- run by the Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Cruises -- is to ply Southern California's most compromised waters to show the environmental effects of trade, fishing, industry and other human activities.

Read the full story here.

--Tony Barboza in Long Beach

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times