May 31, 2016

Sea Dogs on the Alize'

I've got dogs on my sailboat!

(...for better or worse) 


Well, it has finally happened...puppies have descended on my otherwise peaceful, Newport 30 sailboat. I would never call myself a dog person, however I would very much call my girlfriend a dog person. She insisted that we get dogs. I was on the fence, but ... sometimes the smart move is to defer to your better half.

So, in conclusion, we are now a dog couple. 

We have two dogs. 

They are puppies. 

They chew everything and pee everywhere and jump up on our legs. 

But - here's the good news. They are completely awesome and I am really, really happy we got them.

This was the first moment that Baja and Glacier peered into the depths of the main cabin. They seemed inquisitive, possibly fearful. They had their reservations.

These puppies have already been through a lot. They were abandoned in Ensenada, Mexico. A kind soul pulled them out from under a car when they were just 1 week old. Their eyes hadn't yet opened up. After being passed from one shelter to the next, we eventually picked them up at The Barking Lot rescue in El Cajon. This is a great organization, if you're ever in the market for a rescue pup.

The dank, dark cabin was a bit too much. So, we returned to the cockpit. Here you can see they're settling in and starting to get their sea legs.

Baja, the brown dog is some type of Collie blend. Glacier - the white one - is a terrier mix. They're both 4 months old.

Oh... and oddly enough these two puppies are sisters. Apparently, a few different dads got involved with the bitch while she was in heat. Strange but true. An entire litter of 12 was delivered at the same time. Some looked like Glacier while others looked like Baja.

At some point, I'll do some genetic testing on them and figure out exactly what breeds they are..

My girlfriend has never been happier. So that alone is reason to keep the dogs. Here, you can see she is encouraging them to descend into the cabin.

I don't like the fur and hair on my cabin cushions. I also don't like the pee stains and chewed up electrical lines...but those are all details and minor inconveniences.

These dogs are really cool. I am stoked that they'll be a part of the next chapter in my life...

Fortunately - they performed well on their first harbor cruise. But, next comes the real test... The Sea Trial..

How will they do in 15 knot winds and a moderate sea swell??

Stay tuned...

April 19, 2016

Sailing the Santa Anna winds along the southern California coast

Last Saturday, we got really nice Santa Ana winds off the coast of San Diego, 15-20 knot winds with just a 2-4 foot swell. This is a rarity for us here - generally, when we get 15+ winds, its accompanied with storm conditions: high swells and a steep wind chop that can make the ocean less than hospitable.

But - last Saturday was phenomenal sailing conditions. More fun than I've had in awhile

santa anna winds
My crew: Zach and Megan - enjoying the action.

We left midday and sailed straight out to Sea. After a few hours we found ourselves within throwing distance from the Mexican islands, Los Coronados. 

So, we must have been moving at 7 knots/hour in an upwind sail.

Truly fun.

In these conditions, my 30 foot Newport feels like an enormous surfboard. I had just scraped the bottom so she was flying off the swell crests.

Below, is a gorgeous photo showing Santa Ana winds moving across southern California and then out to the Pacific Ocean. You can see Catalina Island and San Clemente about 50 miles off the coast.
This public domain photo clearly illustrates the trail of wind coming out of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts and bathing our coastal waters. These are extremely dry, down-slope winds. As long as they're not too strong, they make for fantastic sailing winds.

santa anna conditions

You can see Los Angeles at the upper corner of this photo. Then if you cut in from San Clemente you can see the hook of San Diego Bay about halfway down the photo. Baja to the south.

Below is a screenshot from my wind app. I use this software to get the broad, global wind pattern perspective. You can see that last weekend, we had hot, dry desert winds coming in from the Basin and Range Deserts of central Nevada. Awesome, awesome sailing conditions.

Good winds to use when sailing out to Catalina island...

santa anna southern california

And of course, I always fail to take a photo of the Ocean that properly conveys the mood.

We were ripping but all the white caps must have been shy when I took this shot...

March 27, 2016

Goodbye raft up for Dave in Mariner's Cove, San Diego

Well, time waits for no man. Sailors come and go at our local marina. Sometimes, unlikable people move on and that's a good thing for the rest of the boaters. Those people usually leave in the dark of night and there's not too much more to say about that.

But sometimes a likable person sells their boat and flies off to a new place. And in that moment, it's time to get together and give that likable person a proper send off.

Last weekend, we got about 7-8 of our boats tied up for a proper 'Dave Koller goodbye raft-up'

It's San Diego, so of course the weather was outstanding. There were many cans of Tecate and many limes and plenty of hot sauce.

I believe we all ended up in the water at the end of the night.. that parts a bit blurry. But we definitely had some delicious chicken burritos in the morning. I put those together, so I can vouch for the quality of that meal.

Good bye Dave and stay dry on the Oregon coast...

February 2, 2016

The Western Flyer, Steinbeck's fishing boat from "The Log from the Sea of Cortez" is getting restored.

I just spent the weekend up in Port Townsend, Washington.

While driving around the peninsula, my friend mentioned that The Western Flyer, the fishing boat featured in the classic John Steinbeck book "The Log from the Sea of Cortez" was currently in dry dock in the Boat Haven shipyard in the town of Port Townsend. We wandered over there and found this beauty up on sticks.

steinbeck western flyer
The Western Flyer getting some work done in Port Townsend, WA

This is the famous, 76 foot fishing trawler that carried Doc Rickets, John Steinbeck and the rest of the gang from Cannery Row - as they adventured south from Monterey down around the tip of the Baja peninsula. They were there to survey and collect marine creatures for Doc Ricket's projects back home.

“The Log From the Sea of Cortez,” was  published in 1951.

steinbeck log sea cortez boat
many timbers are rotted out, lots of work to be done...


Western Flyer Steinbeck 

This large fishing boat has lived a tough life. She has sunk multiple times since 1951 - as can be attested to by the barnacle shells still stuck to the interior of the cabin.

A wealthy geologist has purchased the vessel for 1 million. He plans to put 2 million more into it - hopefully finishing the restoration by 2018. You can read more details about the project in this great New York Times article.

He freely admits he has paid too much for something that - arguably, has no monetary value.

Turns out, that Steinbeck book made a big impression on him.

It certainly made quite an impression on me. I list that book as one of the main reasons I committed to a career in Biology.

john steinbeck boat
stern section of The Western Flyer

If you find yourself around the top corner of the United States - near the Canadian border and the Straights of Juan de Fuca - go ahead and poke around the Boat Haven Marina in Port Townsend, Washington. This classic old boat will be there for a few more years. It is certainly nice to know its still around.

Apparently, the new owner has plans to convert the Western Flyer into a floating marine research vessel.

the marina at Boat Haven in Port Townsend

I still keep an old paperback copy of this Steinbeck classic in my main cabin. On the cover photo below, you can see what The Western Flyer looked like back in better times...

January 2, 2016

sailing into the final sunset of 2015

We managed to untie the dock lines just in time to catch a light breeze before sunset.

Another year down the pipe and a new one on the horizon.

pointing the old Newport 30 into the setting sun of 2015

Jess and I catching the last sun of 2015

The earth keeps on spinning - and revolving around the sun. Can't stop that from happening. The best you can do is enjoy the ride.

While throwing in some tacks at sunset, we ran into some friends out on the water. These friends hadn't made any New Year's eve plans. They were just aimlessly running around in their dingy with a bottle of wine.

They boarded our ship and we sailed into harbor with them.
They seemed to want to latch onto our night's plans.

We then told them - we had already planned out our entire night - and we were about to dig into some nice steaks and had wood chopped for the fire.

In the spirit of New Year's eve, we then dropped them off and told them to split - this was a 2 person show.

The end.

my Newport Dickinson keeping the cabin cozy  

December 15, 2015

Black abalone at the Channel Islands

The beauty of sailing out to Catalina Island (and the more remote Channel Islands) is that you get a chance to see the marine intertidal community of Southern California in the absence of heavy development and pollution.

Even out snorkeling near Avalon on Catalina, you can see a noticeably healthy marine community.

the casino at Avalon, Catalina Island

Upon my last quick boat trip out to the Channel Islands - Jess and I took special notice of the abundant abalone tucked into seams along the sandstone reefs. We found the healthiest populations along the windward side of the islands. And of course, this goes without saying - if you see them - leave them be, as they are heavily protected. Harvesting is illegal in Southern California.

sailing Dave's Endeavor 38 across the channel

Black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) is a marine gastropod - specifically a mollusk.

This mollusk has a smooth dark shell. As you see in the pictures below, the outer shell often looks blue.

At one point, this species was abundant all across the west coast of North America, but it is now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Overfishing and Withering Syndrome have led to its demise.

Black abalone hanging upside down at low tide

Gorgeous black abalone gather in clumps. This is because they reproduce as broadcast spawners. They release their egg and sperm into the water at high tide. If they aren't packed in tight to each other, their gametes may not find each other.

healthy abalone in the Channel Islands

November 17, 2015

Windy weekend at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

My lady and I headed south across the border this weekend.

We knew there was a heavy storm approaching San Diego - so we decided to batten the hatches, walk away from the sailboat and drive to Mexico.

I've always been curious about the historic Rosarito Beach Hotel in the town of Rosarito - and so we figured this would be a good weekend to visit this old Mexico hotel.

chaotic seas seen from our 8th floor room

Rosarito is just 30 minutes south of the Mexican border. The hotel began as a hunting lodge in the 1930s - this was before there was any town in Rosarito. In fact - the hotel was the reason the town began. I'm a big fan of historic Mexico, so this was a fascinating place to visit.

From San Diego, I can sail back and forth to the Coronado Islands in one day - they're about 40 miles southwest from San Diego Bay. Here you can see the same islands about 10 miles northwest off the coast of the Rosarito Hotel.

looking north to the Islas Coronados

traditional Mexican mural in the hotel lobby

The lobby is filled with gorgeous, rich murals depicting rural life in Mexico.

waking up slowly in Mexico

And as happens in Mexico, there was tequila, mariachi, coronas and there were no early mornings..

the game room leading out to the Rosarito pier

Everything in the main hotel area is fascinating and has an ancient feel to it. All of the tile is original from the 1930s. Here's the original game room with table tennis and pool - leading out to the Rosarito pier.

If I ever get married, this is where it's going to happen. This is the original dining hall called 'Casa Blanca.' The room can hold maybe 50-70 people, the theme is white and you couldn't design a room closer to the waves.

the Casa Blanca dining room

gale force winds and waves hitting the rock just north of Rosarito pier

I managed a quick surf at this spot, just north of the pier on Friday afternoon. And that would be my last surf of the weekend. The glassy conditions soon turned to mayhem,

The storm arrived Saturday night and lasted till Monday. We had heavy winds, tossed seas and a downpour of rain.

As I was heading out the door on my way home, I turned and got this shot of a beautiful Mexican lady painted on glass above the main entrance.

Like most things at the Rosarito Hotel, she is timeless.

gorgeous stained glass window above the main lobby door

November 3, 2015

John Lennon sailed 700 miles from Rhode Island to Bermuda

I've been a life long fan of the Beatles and especially John Lennon, but this is the first time I've ever come across this story of Lennon sailing...

Lennon sailing the Atlantic 

John - in an attempt to break through writer's block - joined the crew of a 43 foot sloop and made the journey to the Bermuda Islands.

In June of 1980, not long before his death, John left from Newport, RI and set sail for tropical seas.

The journey was 700 miles and it wasn't all easy. John immediately got hit with a Force 8 storm. And apparently, he handled himself quite well. You can read all the details here.

October 29, 2015

If you're thinking about entering into the world of charter boats...

If you are curious about buying a used charter boat or renting out your boat as a charter or any other scenario regarding charter boats, is a great resource to learn about the details of this industry.

October 16, 2015

Replacing a broken gooseneck on my sailboat mast

Well, it finally happened - the cast aluminum gooseneck connection holding my mast to the boom crumbled. My boat is a 1976 Newport 30 MkII, so that means this old goose neck was cast at least 39 years ago. I suppose I should be happy it has lasted this long.

Here's a shot of us coming back to port after the gooseneck busted.

returning to port after my gooseneck busted

You can tell by the next image that the metal has a grainy, deteriorated look to it. The fixed loops jutting out of the goose neck are supposed to hold a nice fat clevis pin.

busted goose neck no longer holding a clevis pin

And as you can see, the pressure on the rings was finally too much and they opened up and the boom dropped.

Up till this point, I was okay with the minor carnage. Things break all the time on my boat - maybe once a month something goes. It's just a matter of wrapping your head around the project and fixing it.

The real challenge (time-sink) to this project was the removal of the busted gooseneck. As you can see, the goosneck is bolted onto the aluminum mast by 5 large stainless steel bolts. Well, 39 years of ocean living, had oxidized and melded these two metals together. Plus, these bolts had phillips heads. This means they strip easily. So, these bolts were not coming off.

Every few days for about 3 weeks, I soaked the bolts in WD-40 and Knock 'em loose and all other sorts of industrial rust solvents and then wrenched on the bolts with a large screwdriver and a lot of leverage. But, they still weren't budging.

stainless bolts oxidized to the aluminum mast, not budging

Finally, I borrowed my friends Propane torch and that's when things got interesting.

I heated up the bolts so as to shake off some corrosion and free them from the mast. I'm not sure if that did anything...but - what did happen is that the gooseneck started to turn soft.

The heat from the torch on the old cast aluminum made the gooseneck very pliable - to the point where I could break off pieces with a screwdriver.

So that's what I did, I snapped off the corners that held the bolts in place.

after heating with a torch, I could break off pieces of cast aluminum

This basically solved the problem, once I could break apart the goosneck and separate it from the mast, then I was left with 4 exposed bolts stuck in a mast. Therefore, I had a nice half inch section of bolt exposed, which I could wrench out with visegrips.

So - that problem was solved, now I just needed to find a new gooseneck for an old Newport sailboat.

I asked around on the Newport Facebook group and was told it would be worth my time to drive up to Newport Beach and visit Minney's Yacht Surplus. Makes sense I suppose, if you need something for a Newport sailboat, drive up to Newport.

Well, anyway, that was good advice - after 5 minutes in the shop, my girlfriend found 2 exact replacements. And, each one was 7 bucks. That's the best news of all...

We drove back down to San Diego - installed the new gooseneck, re-attached the boom and went out for an afternoon sail.

That's it - just a happy ending to a boat repair story...

my new gooseneck holding the boom to the mast

October 6, 2015

Want to charter a boat to the Channel Islands?

The summer is over in Southern California, but that doesn't mean the sailing season is over. Winter is when we get our best winds, plus the crowds drop to next to nothing out at the Channel Islands. You need to be prudent when finding your weather window, because there is the occasional storm - but if you want to cross the channel and have the islands to yourself - this is the time to go.

taking down the main sail near Smugglers Cove, Santa Cruz Island

If you've already been to Catalina and want to visit less visited, and more rugged of the Channel Islands - then you're going to want to visit Anacapa and Santa Cruz. The closest marina to these islands is the Channel Island Marina in Oxnard.

In theory - you've got your own boat and you can make the crossing to Catalina or Santa Cruz Island as soon as you get some time off of work. But, in practice - most people that want to spend some time sailing around the Channel Islands, don't own their own boat. Fortunately - there are a few good charter companies that take folks out on nice sized sailboats.

Captain Dan has been taking folks out around these islands for quite some time. He runs a great operation, Sail Channel Islands, out of Channel Islands Marina. Checkout the site, you can book a day trip or overnight - on a chartered sailboat with a seasoned captain at the helm.

Plus, if you want to get married at sea, Chaplain/Captain Dan has got that covered as well.

September 28, 2015

New gooseneck connector for my Newport 30 sailboat

It finally happened, I busted the 38 year old, cast aluminum gooseneck linkage that connects my mast to my boom. The rings that hold the clevis pin on the boom broke open and this thing became useless.
This means my trip to Catalina Island was postponed. Here you can see the shoddy condition of the gooseneck - the cast aluminum has gotten very weak after 3 decades at sea.

Old gooseneck brace from a Newport 30 mast

busted out old gooseneck