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...

John Lennon sailing sailor
John Lennon takes the helm

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.

Lennon sailing a boat
John having a smoke next to Sean

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

September 17, 2015

Perilous Times indeed...

As I was kayaking around my San Diego marina last night, I noticed a new boat floating in the impounded boat section of our harbor.

The decrepit sailboat was named, 'Perilous Times'.

I like this name - it's honest. It lays it out here. Surely, the owner was going through some tough moments when he named the boat - and now judging by the condition of the vessel, things have not become easier for the skipper.

And of course, when we look around at the world in 2015 - it is easy to see that perhaps our glory days are numbered...

As the world gets warmer and warmer - and the sea levels rise, I have to agree that these are indeed perilous times.

But that said, I am a bit unsettled to see that I'm now nodding my head in agreement with words written on a derelict sailboat that is tethered to an impounded boat mooring ball.


September 2, 2015

How much solar power do i need for my boat?

A common question among boaters contemplating solar panel installation, is 'How much solar power do I need for my boat'?

This is an important question to ponder before planning your solar installation. First, you need to decide how much power you need, then you can easily decide how many solar panels you will need to install.

Ok, let's get started...

You need to first have an accurate idea of your energy needs. This means, you need to think about what type of appliances/machines/devices you have running on an average week in your boat. This will give you an approximate number of watt hours that you need to generate with the solar panels. Once you have this number, you can decide which size panel is appropriate.

Just to be clear, the below example is based on energy needs for a normal week on your boat. I like to think in terms of average energy needs per week, because this smooths out any irregular days.

how much solar do i need on my boat
my 20 watt solar panel on my stern rail

How much solar do I need for my sailboat?

Personally, I own a modest 30 foot sailboat and I have relatively low energy demands. I like to keep my boat light on electronics. For this reason, I am good with just a small 20 watt panel.

Let's say I am out sailing and anchoring for a week around Catalina Island. While on anchor (engine off) I will be running some house lights (LED and a few regular incandescent), the stereo, depth-finder, my VHF and a LED anchor light when I'm sleeping. For these minimal watt hour draws, the 20 watt solar panel is plenty to keep my batteries topped off. When the batteries are topped off, I have enough juice in the starter battery to turn over my diesel in the morning.

But, most folks are fond of the 100 watt panel. In general a 100 watt panel will be sufficient to supply 5 times the watt hours (amperage draw) that I describe above.

In fact, a 100 watt panel will generate about 3,500 watt hours. You get this watt hour number by multiplying....

(watts on panel) x (days of the week) x (average number of hours the panel receives sun/day)

So, for a 100 watt panel, this is...

100 x 7 x 5 = 3,500 watt hours.

It should be noted that a yearly average of 5 hours/day of sun hitting the solar panel is what I experience in San Diego, CA. If you are moored in other places (Seattle)  you will want to bump that number down a bit.

Okay - so let's say a 100 watt panel can supply 3,500 watt hours per week.

Now, what sort of appliances/devices can we use in a week and not exceed 3,500 watt hours.

Well, for almost all devices you should be able to find the wattage value written on the product or on the box somewhere. Here's a list of some classic boat devices and their approximate watt draw per week.

Common boat devices (watts) and hrs/week                 Total watt hours/week
Fan (400 watt) for 5 hours                                                  2000

Flat panel TV/DVD (30 watt) for 7 hours                            350

Bilge pump (40 watt) for 2 hours                                           80

Power a lap-top computer (30 watt) for 8 hours                  240

House lights (20 watts) for 10 hours                                    200

Coffee grinder/brew machine (1000 watts) for 15 min.       250

GPS display screen (50 watt) for 7 hours                             350

Total Watt hours for this typical energy budget                  3,470 watt hours/week

Therefore, the above energy scenario would be ideal for a boater to install a 100 watt panel.

We already know this is an appropriate sized panel because, on average, a 100 watt panel will supply 3,500 watt hours/week.

In summary, if the devices and hours used in the above list seem to be in line with your energy budget, then go with a single 100 watt solar panel.

If you think you will need twice the power of the above energy budget, then install 2 separate 100 watt panels.

It should be noted that this energy assessment of your solar needs is just the starting point. To really make sure you have the right set up, you need to perform a sort of 'solar shakedown' cruise. Go out and live on your boat for a bit and see if your panels are sufficient for your actual life. You may just find you need one more panel. Speaking of which, Carolyn at the Boat Galley, wrote up a nice article detailing how you're energy estimates need to be tested.

Ok, I hope this post helps you begin to answer the questions of 'How many solar panels do i need on my boat?' and 'How much solar power do i need on my boat?'

Last year I wrote up this post describing the basics of installing a solar panel on a boat and connecting the panel to your DC circuit. Once you're ready to plan the install, this should help you get your head around the basic circuitry.

Ok - best of luck and enjoy the free electricity from the sun!

August 20, 2015

Sailing our boat into Marina del Rey

After a quick and painless crossing from Catalina Island over to the mainland, we pulled our Newport 30 into Marina del Rey. Nice to be back in crazy but interesting Los Angeles. The crossing from Avalon Harbor back to Marina del Rey is 38 nautical miles, this means that, on our 30 foot sailboat, we spent about 8 hours in the crossing. Earlier this year, I wrote a much more informative page on 'what you should know before sailing from LA to Catalina Island'. That link should help you begin planning for this classic Southern California adventure.

Sailing into Marina del Rey

You know you're in the right place when you see the candy colored homes along the bay. Then eventually, you pass the bright blue lighthouse.

boating to marina del rey
Arriving in Marina del Rey

Our boat docked up in Marina del Rey

As we have come to expect, as soon as we docked up in Marina del Rey, we saw something interesting. A couple of boaters were drunk out of their minds on their power boat. They were causing problems, the cops came down to straighten them out - and of course, the derelicts rejected that idea. A few minutes of yelling and the boat bums were on their backs adorned with handcuffs.

Welcome to LA.

day trips from marina del rey
cops regulating on a boat bum derelict
When I boat around I like to carry some form of transport for when I get to dry land. This keeps me from having to walk, which I often find a bit too slow. In this case, I brought a skateboard. Now, let me be clear, I am too old to skateboard. In fact, anyone that is not a teenager is too old to ride a skateboard. But, that said - I can still skate around sort of decently. And there is something to be said for docking your boat up and skating into Venice Beach. Eventually I made my way up to the Museums - Miracle mile. But I used a bus to get back to the Marina, as my calf muscles were fried.

sailing into venice beach
girlfriend waking up in the main cabin

My girlfriend found herself some comfortable bedding in the main cabin. This allows us to use the V-berth for storage.

marina del rey sailing trip
taking the dingy out around marina del rey
And then - I made sure the dingy still worked as I tooled around the many nooks and crannies of Marina del Rey.

All in all - it was a pleasure to spend a few days docked up in Marina del Rey. This remains my favorite spot to dock up at - when I want to explore LA.

August 4, 2015

Sailing over from LA to Avalon

There is a lot I do not love about LA. I could fill a book writing about things I don't love about Los Angeles. But, the one thing that I will always love about the city of angels is that you can leave the docks midday, sail your boat from LA to Avalon and crack a beer just in time for sunset.

Sailing from LA to Avalon is the best reason to live in Los Angeles

There, I said it. Had to get that off my chest. If I were to take that even farther I might say..

Sailing from LA to Avalon is the only reason to live in Los Angeles.

But now, Im getting carried away..

boating LA to Avalon
what is better than pulling into Catalina at sunset

Jessie and I arrived in Avalon this weekend and paddled over to the dingy dock and found this tender.
'The Tender Sphincter' ..

I am going to hope that this belongs to a 15 year old boy who just discovered ass jokes. Let's just hope it's not owned by an adult man.

boating to avalon

But anyway - that's how Avalon rolls, you get a little bit of everything. The highs, lows and in betweens. Sometimes you get to see all three of those categories sitting in a row at the bar over at the Marlin Club.

los angeles boating
heading back to the mainland after a quick weekend
San Diego has its proximity to Mexico - but LA has the quick and easy Catalina crossings.

If you're thinking about making the trip, a year ago I put together a much more constructive page where I go through all the travel/distance information from the major LA harbors over to either Avalon or Two Harbors on Catalina Island. Hope it helps with your trip planning.


July 31, 2015

Boating near LA

LA can be a bit stressful. When you feel the walls closing in around you - you need to hit the escape button and get yourself on a boat. Fortunately there are a few options for boating near Los Angeles.

Boating near Los Angeles

Los Angles boating options
Live the sea-faring life without quitting your day job.

Options for boating in and around Los Angeles

  • You can head east into the mountains. You've got the Lake Arrowhead Queen, giving boat tours around the lake. This is easy and leaves the captain-ing to someone else. 

  •  If you don't want to own a boat but you want to get out and boat the coastline near LA, then you will find many operators willing to rent you a boat. Marina sailing is a good place to start. They're going to want to know you're experience and may require certification from an ASA approved sailing school.

  • Or the third option, you can go whole hog and get your own pleasure craft. Boating around LA is a blast with your own boat. Yes, it can be expensive if you get a newer model - and it can be time consuming if you get a later model. But somewhere in the middle, maybe a 1980's year sailboat can give you good value. If you're going to use the boat regularly, then its worth the investment. The beauty of owning a boat in LA is you have Catalina Island in your backyard. We have previously written detailed directions on the timing and distance required for getting your boat from the major LA harbors out to Avalon or Two Harbors.

Boating around Los Angeles

In conclusion, try renting a boat first. Make sure you absolutely love it.
If you do love it - commit!

You won't regret it...

July 22, 2015

The funniest boat names for boaters who love word play

One of the great mysteries of the boating world, is the rampant use of word play in boat names. Often called 'old man humor', word-play or puns still hold sway in the world of funny boat names.

And this makes perfect sense to me... because who doesn't like a dingy named "Row vs. Wade"??

What's not to like?

funniest boat names
screenshot from the funny boat name page

Our friends at All Things Boat have recognized the huge number of hilarious names based on nautical word play and - they've written up this page that lists some of the very best funny boat names. If you need a quick laugh or else perhaps some inspiration for a name on your next boat, then head on over and see if you find something that gets you chuckling.