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

The bolts didn't want to come off. I had to soak them in WD-40 and some other stuff for a few weeks. Then propane torch the steel bolts - in order to separate them from the aluminum mast.

Once I had this removed, I headed north to Minnie's in Newport Beach, California.

Minnie's to the rescue. After 10 minutes searching in their hardware bins, my girlfriend found a perfectly good replacement. This cost me all of 7 dollars...

Very cheap fix.

I made the trip back from Newport Beach to San Diego, then installed the new gooseneck - redrilled some holes- and voila!

New gooseneck connector on my Newport


new gooseneck - problem solved
Moral of the story - if you're in Southern California...always try Minnies first.

It's a gem of a store.

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 many solar panels do I need for my boat'? The best way to phrase this question is 'How much solar power do I need for my boat'?

Once you know how much power you need, you can find a panel, or a combination of panels, that match your power usage.

How much solar power do I need for my boat?

First, you need to 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 easily decide which size panel you is appropriate.

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.

Okay - so 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.

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. In the post, I also provide links to the panels and solar controller that I recommend for boats.

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.

July 14, 2015

Boating to the Farallon islands: sailing distance from San Francisco.

Sailing from the Golden Gate Bridge out to the Farallon Islands is one of the great boating adventures in Central California. It can be challenging though, so you don't want to be too cavalier about this endeavor. We wrote this page to lend insight on the day trip for the sake of both power boaters and sailors. Do your research, wait for a safe window and then get out there and have a great time.

boating to the Farallon islands
Golden Gate Bridge out to the Farallon Islands

Sailing to Farallon Islands

The distance from the Golden Gate Bridge outside of San Francisco to the Farallon Islands is approximately 29 miles (25 nautical miles). You need to take currents and tides into consideration when approximating your speed to the island chain. A 40 foot boat, moving about 6 kn/hr should be able to make the round trip in 8 hours, so a full day on the water.

There are other considerations for this boat trip, but first and foremost, you want to give the Farallon Islands a wide berth when you're rounding them. There is no reason to cut any corners on this pile of rocks. There's been many unfortunate incidents where boaters cut in too close, here is an exceptionally sad story that occurred during the Full Crew Farallones Race.

 Some boaters like to leave San Francisco on a slack tide, just as it's beginning to flood. If you leave in a max flood, make sure to stay near the North Coast for a back eddy, but watch for rough conditions in the Potato Patch, especially on an ebb tide.

You want to check marine conditions before you commit to the Farallon Islands. You want reasonable swell height and swell period. 5-8 foot swell with a short period (less then 10 seconds) can be miserable, but the same swell size with a longer swell period (more than more than 18 seconds) can be reasonable. Know your comfort level with open sea conditions. There's no reason to push it out there.

boating to farallon islands
The Farallon Island group

You can monitor VHF Channel 12 to stay informed on large boats coming IN and OUT of San Francisco. This information is transmitted at 15 and 45 min. past the hour.

Many boaters prefer rounding the islands on the south side. It's generally a better way to see the islands. Make sure to check your charts and GPS repeatedly so you're certain you're clearing the rocks with plenty of margin of error. Swells can stack up as they get closer to the islands and waves start to break, so if the ocean is already up - it will be even more chaotic as you near the rocks.

sail trip to Farallon islands
we saw some Risso dolpins while crossing the channel

If you're sailing, the route you take will be dictated by the wind. Plan out your tacks - take advantage of a stiff breeze when its there - and be ready to reef if things pick up. Most folks end up with a nice downwind sail back under the Golden Gate into San Francisco.

If you're thinking about this trip or other boating adventures in SF Bay and surrounding coastline - you want to have a good set of nautical charts on board. We like the Maptech chart book for the SF region. You get the zoomed out big charts of the Bay. Then for each specific area - you've got the zoomed in high resolution charts to help with anchoring or approaching harbors.
These charts are waterproof, and virtually indestructible. We've been neglecting and abusing our Maptech book for a decade and they still looks crisp and new..Amazon gets you a bit better price than West Marine.

Alright - fair winds!

July 12, 2015

The Catalina island fox, wildlife for boaters

As a means to get off the boat and stretch our legs, Jess and I hiked up Divide Road Trail outside of Avalon and made it up to the south island summit. This isn't much of a summit, but you can see down to the windward side of Catalina Island.

Sailing out - just north of Avalon

Once we got up on this summit we were met with an inquisitive Catalina island fox (Urocyon littoralis). This is a small, friendly fox that seems perhaps a bit too comfortable with humans. Each of the Channel Islands has their own sub-species of island fox. Each sub-species has adapted to a slightly different island niche and taken on its own characteristics. The Catalina fox has clearly evolved to show no fear of humans.

Catalina Island Fox


catalina island fox
sniffing around for lunch

There is no 2 ways about it. They island foxes are pretty damn adorable.

the catalina island fox
Catalina Island fox: handsome devils
The island fox has a beautiful coat of fur that blends in perfectly with the dry chaparral landscape of Catalina. This is sagebrush, manzanita and live oak country. The fox seems right at home

Goodbye island fox...until we meet again.

July 5, 2015

Boating site with a great list of dirty boat names

Boaters are simple people. They like to get off of dry land, float out in the water and possibly crack a beer. If general, they also like chips and salsa and maybe a few more beers. If there is some fishing involved or maybe a good sail, then all the better. But, if nothing else, there will be boats, there will be talk of boats and there will be beers.

Boaters also like boat names that are a little bit dirty. If they can come up with a name that is somewhat nautical and somewhat dirty, then that's a home run.

No one knows why this is a thing, but it is.

Maybe the dudes are thinking that a hot, single lady will be sitting on the shore and see a boat named 'TailChaser' pass by. Next thing, the lady jumps in the water and swims over to the boat to see what's up. This has never happened in the history of boating. But, like I said, boaters are simple people. They are hoping for the best and not too concerned if the best doesn't happen. At the end of the day they just seem to like dirty boat names.

Our friends at All Thing Boat, have put together a really funny page of boat names that are a little bit dirty and a little bit nautical, here's there list of dirty boat names. If you want to let the world know that you still got it...go ahead and pick one of these.

a few of the names - Sloop Doggy Dog is a crowd pleaser

June 30, 2015

Catalina Harbor

We have made a habit of visiting Catalina Harbor each time we sail out to Catalina Island. Sailing to Catalina Harbor is surely one of the great pleasures for any Southern California boater. You leave behind the more popular, leeward side of the island and enter into the much more wild and windswept Pacific Ocean side.

Catalina Harbor has a storied history, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo dropped the hook here on his epic journey into California. Richard Henry Dana and his trade ship would hide out in Cat Harbor to take cover from Santa Ana storms blowing from the east. Rum-runners evaded authorities here during the prohibition. And then Hollywood discovered this gem. Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed here, as were many others. If you look close you'll see that the final scene from 'Suicide Kings' with Jay Mohr and Christopher Walken was shot from a boat in Cat Harbor.

Catalina harbor
Sailing from Two Harbors around the Northwest headlands of Catalina Island

To get there, just point your vessel North from Two Harbors and wrap around the headlands.

Turning the corner around the tip of Catalina Island
There's a sea urchin harvesting operation up here, you may see these guys in action.

Catalina harbor
Sailing Southeast just outside Catalina Harbor
Then head down the windward side of the island. With luck you will have good winds as you sail down past these cliffs. you can see, the wind shut off for us here - we had to start the engine.

Approaching Catalina Harbor

Sails down, approaching the entrance to Catalina Harbor
And then tuck into Catalina Harbor, the gem of Catalina. The Harbor is about 25 nautical miles from Long Beach, LA. If you're planning to explore the west facing side of Catalina Island, or any other Channel island / coastline off of Southern or Central California, then make sure you have the boaters handbook for the area. This is Brian Fagan's classic boater's guide to the area, it's got all you need to know..

June 24, 2015

An excellent review of boat insurance companies for 2015

Our friends over at All Things have just released their annually updated boat insurance comparison. This is an overview of the basics of boat insurance and also a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most popular boat insurance companies in the U.S.

This is good resource for anyone that is new to boating and needs to decide on a reasonable policy.
It is also a good resource for anyone that is getting a little tired of their current provider and wants to compare boat insurance options.

We began with Boat Insurance Agency in Seattle, Washington. This worked out very well for us. Since, then while moving around, I have gone through Progressive and Boat U.S. Honestly I don't have too many complaints. However, I have never filed a claim - and that is when you truly find out how good your insurance is...

It's not that enjoyable to read through all the details and policy info. for each provider, however, this review does take a lot of the pain out of it. See if the page helps you compare policies from the best boat insurance providers in the U.S.

If you're going to anchor poorly, make sure you have insurance first!