Were those Navy SEALs spotted just off Capistrano Beach near Dana Point Harbor?

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register | Published: May 6, 2021

(Tribune News Service) — A gray, stealth-looking vessel with an American flag drew the attention of people out on a whale-watching charter early on Wednesday.

The boat was spotted about half a mile from Dana Point Harbor, just off Capistrano Beach.

Speculation at first ran to whether recent reports of panga boats along the Southern California coast may have drawn law enforcement or teams from the Department of Homeland Security off Orange County waters or if it was a privately owned vessel. There are several civilian boat owners with military-looking vessels in Newport Harbor.

But Orange County Sheriff Department Harbor Patrol Capt. Gary Lewellyn confirmed with his deputies in Dana Point Harbor that the special operations craft belonged to the Navy SEALs.

He said SEALs routinely come up from San Diego. "Often they give us a heads-up if they're looking for dock space."

In 2017, a group of similar-looking boats had some people thinking they were part of the Mexican Navy despite at least one of the vessels having a U.S. flag in place. Later Navy officials confirmed that Navy SEALs had made a brief stop inside the harbor.

On Wednesday, officials from the Naval Special Warfare command confirmed the boat was what's called a combatant craft assault, which is a support vessel to SEALs and special operations. The craft is one of three used by special operators; it is light enough to be loaded into a military cargo plane and dropped into the ocean.

"The craft was doing a routine transit between bases and was part of a scheduled unit training event," Chief Petty Officer Grant Probst, a spokesman for NSW, said. "From the picture, it looks like there was minimal crew aboard."

He was unsure if those on board were SEALs or craft crewmen.

As far as mistaking the craft for something civilian-owned, Navy Capt. David Russell said, "Boats we're using today probably wouldn't be available on the open market."

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