November 26, 2014

How to fly a drone from your boat: Step 1

Ok, you've decided you're going to learn to fly a drone from the deck of your boat. Good call, combining a boat and a drone is an exciting endeavor. You can take photos of your boat from angles that would previously require a helicopter. However, you want to do this without bothering others or damaging your drone. In the following series of posts, I will walk you through the process of learning how to fly a drone from a boat.

Here is video of a practice launch from my sailboat.

video

(video above is compressed to fit on page, the raw video footage has high resolution: 1080x720)

How to fly a drone from your boat.

Step 1. Practice flying your drone from a stationary boat in calm waters.

Drop anchor in a quiet cove that is not in a restricted air space. Choose a light wind day. Wind is an issue. Practice on a day when winds are 5 mph or less. You don't want to challenge your drone with high winds at the beginning of your training. Each model of drone will be able to handle wind differently. If you don't yet own a drone, I recommend you visit the Amazon drone store. They carry the full selection of available models for prices ranging from 50$ to over 1000$. One sensible option, is to pick up a cheap model while you first practice over open water. If you're going to accidentally drown your drone in water, it's best to drown a cheap one.


how to fly a drone from a boat
Ryan launching the DJI phantom 2 Vision + from the deck of my boat.

Here, we are using the DJI phantom 2 Vision +. This is probably too nice of a drone to be learning to pilot from a boat. We are taking the risk of losing a 1000$ model in the ocean. However, we are only using this higher end model while we practice on stationary water in light wind. When we take the sailboat out into heavy seas we'll use a cheaper drone (with some retro-fitted water landing gear), as there is a decent chance we may splash down in salt water. That said, the advantage to practicing with this higher end drone is 2-fold. First of all, it takes incredible photos/video. Secondly, it has GPS based navigation, so it can hold a steady position. This makes for easy flying.

how to fly a drone from a boat
holding a locked GPS position

Is it legal to fly a drone?

Okay, your boat is on anchor and the wind is light. Next, as mentioned, make sure you are not in restricted air space. Often, waterways and coastlines are near flight paths for commercial airplanes or for coast guard, military or other officialdom. You do not want to bother these people or risk an incident with real aircraft. I have found that this page is an easy way to determine the location of No Fly Zones near your location. Additionally, you can check this FAA link to keep up with the latest federal rules for drones.
Even if you are not in a restricted air space, you want to be conscious of not bothering people. People go to the water to relax. Some people enjoy watching drones, but many people do not. Don't be annoying with your drone. Fly away from people and don't creep people out by flying near them with the drone camera pointing at them. Common sense and human decency go a long way with this activity.

learn to fly a drone from a boat
verifying the connection between drone and controller before launch
Make sure all batteries are topped off and the link between drone and controller is set. If you lose connection with the drone over water, it will probably splash down in the sea.

the carrying case for DJI phantom, with the batteries topped off


learn to fly a drone from a boat
ready to launch

Have one guy, let's call him the drone pilot, be in charge of controlling the drone. Have the other guy, let's call him the captain, be in charge of managing the boat. The captain should also be ready with a giant fishing net. This is good to have nearby in case the drone almost returns to the boat, but actually returns a few feet from the boat. With a big net you can scoop the drone from the air just before it drops into the water.
Or, if the drone is fitted with some homemade water landing gear, you can scoop the drone from the water before its electronics are fried (skip to last 10 seconds of this video link to see the homemade landing gear in action).

fishing net ready for a quick 'drone overboard' situation
Then, go fly the drone cautiously. Make a quick loop around the boat. Get comfortable, get confident.

how to fly a drone from a boat
my sailboat seen 40 feet above the starboard beam

learn to fly a drone from a boat
looking west to the Pacific Ocean

Finally, practice retrieving the drone from your boat. Boats often have standing rigging, spars, antennae and fishing poles to negotiate. First try to remove as many of these obstructions as possible. Then, launch and retrieve from the part of the boat that is furthest from these obstructions. 

the captain secures the drone, while the drone pilot works the controller
Here, I've cleared all halyards, lines and fishing poles from my cockpit to allow for an unobstructed landing space for the drone. The only remaining obstruction was the backstay.

Okay, this is enough to think about for now. In future posts, we will take the boat out into the open ocean, negotiate winds and talk about frequency interference. Stay tuned...


November 23, 2014

Learn to fly a drone from a boat.

It is a terrible idea that carries the possibility of becoming a great idea. Your first mate keeps the drone flying 30 feet above your starboard quarter. You heel your sailboat over in a small craft advisory and lean out on the windward side. The camera on the drone captures images and video that would have previously required a helicopter. You frame the best shot and hang it in your living room. You sit on your couch, crack a beer and stare at your beautiful boat captured from the perfect angle.

Your life feels infinitely more complete.

flying drone on sailboat
practicing the sailboat drone in calm waters on anchor


In theory, all this greatness is possible. In theory, this could be done for a couple hundred bucks and a little bit of practice and a little bit of gumption.

But there are concerns. Here is a list of concerns I came up with upon my first sailboat drone outing. 
  • How will the drone handle a stiff breeze? 
  • How can a drone 'return to a home position', if the home position is moving at 6 mph across an ocean?
  • Will the VHF and other signal frequencies emanating from a boat interfere with the drone-remote controller? 
  • If the drone lands in the ocean, will that destroy the drone? 
  • Is there effective water landing gear that could keep a downed drone floating and dry while you flip the boat around to retrieve it?
  • How do the coast guard and other authorities feel about recreational drones flying along the coastline?

At the moment, I do not have answers for these questions. But I will be researching all of this and posting the glory shots (if we get them) in the next series of posts.

sailing with a drone
first deployment from the cockpit


40 feet off of starboard in Mariners Cove, San Diego
South Mission Bay from a drone, looking west to Mission Beach.

For more, please follow this first instructional post on How to fly a drone from a boat.

November 20, 2014

Autumn sailing in San Diego

The seasons are finally changing in San Diego. There is a brisk chill to the air. Nights are cold. Days are still warm and the sun still shines, but we now have clouds out to decorate the sky. This is subtle, but it is enough to confirm that the seasons are changing in Southern California.

Autumn sailing in San Diego
Autumn sailing in San Diego

 Sailing in the Fall in San Diego

Autumn sailing in San Diego
High contrast clouds in a late Autumn sky

November 14, 2014

Nautical pendant lamps make great Holiday gifts.

The Holiday season is upon us. That means fewer warm days for sailing and of course, you need to shell out and pick up some gifts.

Well, what do you get for the sailor who has everything. A bigger boat? No, don't curse a sailor with a bigger boat. That's more wood to varnish.

What you want is to pick up a few nautical style hanging lamps. These make for unique and Sea-worthy gifts.
nautical pendant lamps
Red and Blue 'marine'buoy' pendant lamps

Nautical Pendant Lamps

Now here's where it all ties in together. I am the sole proprietor for a company that builds and sells nautical hanging lamps. You can follow this link King Tide Lights for my main site.
Or you can visit my ETSY page here ETSY store for King Tide Lights.


nautical pendant lamp
the 'duracel' medium size pendant lamp
nautical hanging lamps
Blue and Red Marine Buoy Pendant Lamps

These lamps are built from repurposed industrial steel. I've designed many of them to look like marine buoys. They create great downward facing lights for a reading area or corner of a room.

nautical pendant lamps
Medium size white and blue pendant lamp


Two large pendant lamps make for excellent dinner lighting


November 9, 2014

The summer that would not die

San Diego is a machine. It is a summer day machine. It will not quit. 
It is November. I don't remember the feeling of cold air on my skin.
I think we had a chilly day somewhere in March....maybe in March. 
Not sure.
The forecast calls for more sun and something about the 80s and the 70s continuing on till x-mas.
Possibly longer. 
It is all a pleasant blur.

another warm, pleasant day in November

November 4, 2014

San Diego boats for sale

There are currently thousands of used boats for sale in San Diego. Motor yachts, sailboats and fishing boats are waiting for new owners. Come down to Harbor Island and talk boats with San Diego boat broker, Dave Koller.

Dave Koller
(619) 977-5040.
davekollerbroker@gmail.com

San Diego boats for sail
Meet Dave Koller, your friendly San Diego boat broker

If you are interested in selling or buying used boats in San Diego, I recommend you reach out to local boat broker, Dave Koller. Dave is a well-respected character along the waterfront, known for being friendly and knowledgeable. 






He was born in San Diego and is a true boat addict. He’s sailed extensively around Southern California, the Pacific Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. When he’s not out showing boats, he’s most likely fishing offshore for Yellowtail or else racing sailboats in San Diego Harbor.

San Diego boats for sale

Dave’s scenic office is located in the heart of the boating world in San Diego Bay, right alongside the docks at Sunroad Marina on Harbor Island. This past summer, Dave sold a wide range of boats, everything from small, older sailboats to luxurious motor yachts. Currently, in 2014, there are approximately 3,000 used boats for sale in San Diego. Many of these come with moorings already established. As a licensed broker, Dave can get you access to visit any of these boats.


So, come on down to Harbor Island and talk used boats with Dave. Whether you’re thinking about a 30 foot Bayliner or a 60 foot Sparkman & Stephens, Dave’s happy to drive you around town, walk the docks and find you the boat in San Diego.

Dave Koller
(619) 977-5040.
davekollerbroker@gmail.com



San Diego boats for sail
Boat broker Dave off Point Loma on his Endeavor 38.


San Diego boats for sail
Dave pulling in an Albacore Tuna near the La Jolla kelp beds



In true boat addict style, Dave has just become a co-owner for a Capri 30 sailboat. Follow this link to see the maiden voyage in good winds.

Sailing to Catalina Island: distance and time from Los Angeles

Are you considering sailing to Catalina Island from Los Angeles? Here, I provide distance and travel times for a boat to sail to Catalina Island (Avalon or Two Harbors) from the most popular Los Angeles harbors (Dana Point, Newport Beach, Huntington Harbor, Los Angeles Harbor, Marina del Rey).

sailing to Catalina island
Sailing to Catalina Island: routes from Los Angeles

In my opinion, the most compelling reason to live in Los Angeles instead of San Diego, is the close proximity of Catalina Island. In San Diego, we can drive to Mexico in 30 minutes. This is nice. However, in LA, you can sail a boat to the island, leaving midday on a Friday and arriving sometime Friday evening. That is very nice.

Once you get to Catalina - there's lots of bays and bights between Avalon and Two Harbors to fish from and drop the anchor. For the most comprehensive resource on sailing in and around Catalina Island, pick up Brian Fagan's Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California. This will help your boat out of trouble...

I thought it would be a good online resource to have these distances and travel times. There are lots of folks sailing to Catalina from Los Angeles, so hopefully this will be of use.

Sail to Catalina

Distance in nautical miles:               (1 nm = 1.15 land miles)
Dana Point to Avalon:                          33
Dana Point to Two Harbors:                 38
Newport Beach to Avalon:                   26               
Newport Beach to Two Harbors:          32
Huntington Harbor to Avalon:               25
Huntington Harbor to Two Harbors:     27                   
LA Harbor to Avalon:                          25
LA Harbor to Two Harbors:                 22
Marina del Rey to Avalon:                   38            
Marina del Rey to Two Harbors:         31

I plotted out these distances based on my route (direct), and took an approximate start point for each distance at the outside of each harbor. Each mariner may experience a slightly different distance, depending on their mooring location and line of sail, but consider these good approximations.

sailing from Los Angeles to Catalina
chart plotting the waters of Southern California

I have made these routes in a 30 foot sailboat (1976 Newport), and considering the range of conditions I experienced (current, swells, headwind), let's say - my average speed for these trips was 4.7 knots. This average speed accounts for some sailing in good to moderate winds and then the engine turned on at moderately high RPM when the wind goes light. For most folks with a sailboat near 30 feet, just under 5 knots is probably the correct average speed for mixed conditions.

Sailing to Catalina

At that average speed, the approximate time it would take to get from A to B is:

Time needed for each leg (if averaging 4.7 knots)
                                                
                                                           Hours (in decimal)
Dana Point to Avalon:                             7
Dana Point to Two Harbors:                    8
Newport Beach to Avalon:                     5.5               
Newport Beach to Two Harbors:            6.8
Huntington Harbor to Avalon:                5.3
Huntington Harbor to Two Harbors:      5.7                 
LA Harbor to Avalon:                            5.3
LA Harbor to Two Harbors:                   4.6
Marina del Rey to Avalon:                     8.0            
Marina del Rey to Two Harbors:            6.6

Of course, sailors rarely use a completely direct path from one point to another (either due to some tacking or to unintentional meanderings) and so, it would be wise to plan an hour on top of these estimates.

sailing from Los Angeles to Catalina
Sailing the Alize' into the welcoming glow of Avalon harbor.

    As I mentioned, you need at least one cruising guide on board. I think Fagan's book is the most comprehensive guide for sailing Central and Southern CA. It has kept me out of trouble a few times. Plus, this book has a great section on anchorages around Catalina Island and a thorough section on harbors in Los Angeles. Pick up a used copy below.





Fair winds !


I've posted similar nautical information for other sailing regions, please follow links below:

Sailing from San Diego to Los Angeles: nautical miles and time required for a sailboat trip (Mission Bay, Dana Point, Newport Beach, Huntington Harbor, Los Angeles Harbor, Marina del Rey).

Sailing from Seattle to Puget Sound harbors: distance and time for common sailboat trips (Blake Island, Kingston, Edmonds, Bremerton, Port Townsend, Gig Harbor, Tacoma, Everett, Oak Harbor, Victoria, Friday Harbor).

Sailing distance (nautical miles) and time for a sailboat trip from San Diego to Santa Cruz Island (Mission Bay, Smuggler's Cove, Avalon, Two Harbors).


If this information was helpful for you, please share the post on the social links below. Thanks!


November 1, 2014

Sailing the Capri 30 off shore in San Diego

Dave Koller has become the proud new co-owner of a Capri 30 racing sailboat. The lines are drawn back to the cockpit. All the hardware looks intact. She's ready for some stiff winds.

racing capri 30 san diego
Ready to rip: Capri 30, light and fast

      San Diego has had a fairly light wind summer, so it is nice to have a few Winter storms arrive. We took the Capri 30 for a spin in a small craft advisory and got her heeled over pretty well, definitely got the starboard rail sunk deep in the water - two knuckles deep.


racing sailboats in san diego
Chris and Dave in the Capri cockpit


Curran at the helm

Bringing her back into the barn.




October 31, 2014

The best sailing books of all time: Adrift by Steven Callahan

Adrift, by Steven Callahan (1986)

adventure sailing book
       Adrift is a great book to read if you need to put your troubles in perspective. You may think you're having a bad day because traffic was brutal on the way to work and then this thing happened in the office and now you have to rewrite a super long email - but unless your day ends with you being left to die on a small piece of plastic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, then you're not really having too bad a day. 

      In January 1982, Steven Callahan left the Spanish coastline in a 21 foot sailboat with the intention of crossing the Atlantic Ocean. He'd already made this journey once before, so his confidence was high. He was travelling solo. Unfortunately, during this crossing, fate was not smiling on his humble sailing craft.  6 days out from the Canary Islands, Steven's small boat sank for unknown reasons. He collided with some unmovable object, possibly a whale. In a panic, he scrambled into his tiny inflatable raft and cut the cord with his sinking boat. Thus began his harrowing, slow-motion drift across the majority of the Atlantic Ocean. 

        For 76 days, Callahan survives on wit and cunning alone, hand-spearing fish, fending off sharks, distilling potable water from the ocean. As the north equatorial current slowly pushes his flimsy raft towards the Caribbean Islands at 10 miles per day, Callahan is left with plenty of time to ponder life and death and, apparently, collect material for a phenomenal Sea-faring adventure book.

   Adrift spent 36 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It's a riveting read and if nothing else, it will encourage you to double check the quality of your emergency raft before you make your next ocean crossing.

October 29, 2014

Sailing from Catalina Island to Santa Cruz Island

   We recently sailed my Newport 30 (1976) to the Northern Channel Islands. When you're departing from San Diego, this is quite a journey. We stayed a few days on Catalina, then made our crossing to the Northern Channel Islands.

sailing to avalon
Avalon casino looking good, as ususal
     Making the jump from Catalina to Santa Cruz Island takes some planning, as it is a long day of sailing. Make sure you're weather window is clean. The winds can get strong coming down from Point Conception.
      We left Two Harbors at 3 am, then sailed North all day and arrived in Smuggler's Cove on Santa Cruz Island just as the sun was setting.


Heading north, leaving Catalina Island in our wake.

    We sailed close enough to see detail on Anacapa Island. I am regretting that we didn't attempt to anchor and explore Anacapa, but she will be waiting for us next time.


sailing to anacapa island
Tacking past Anacapa Island

  Despite the electrial problems I was dealing with on my sailboat, I was beyond stoked to drop anchor in Smuggler's Cove on Santa Cruz Island. The sun was beaming and we had nothing to do for the next few days except explore the island. 


westsail 32 on anchor
A beautiful Westsail 32 anchored next to us in Smugler's Cove

For more detail on sailing logistics (distance, time required per leg of trip) for this journey, please see my recent post.
Distance and time for each leg of sail trip: San Diego to Santa Cruz Islands

If this information was helpful for you, please share the post on the social links below. Thanks!

October 26, 2014

Spearfishing halibut in Catalina


spearfishing California halibut catalina
I hand speared this California Halibut in between Avalon and Two Harbors

We anchored the Alize' in a secluded bay just north of Toyon Bay on the leeward side of Catalina island. After snorkeling around for a few minutes, I spotted this gorgeous California halibut, Paralichthys californicus, trying to hide in the sand. Fortunately, I had my Hawaiian sling on me and put the trident tip right through its flat head. The fillets fed us for many days.


If you're planning a similar fishing trip to Catalina, make sure you have at least one cruising guide on board. Fagan's book is the standard, authoritative guide for sailing Central and Southern CA. They have a very thorough section on anchorages between Two Harbors and Avalon on Catalina Island. This resource should keep your boat off the rocks and in safe harbor.




For boaters that are thinking about making this journey in their boat...I've posted some good distance and travel time info. for San Diego to Catalina

Sailing from San Diego to Catalina Island: distance and time for a sailboat trip (Mission Bay, Oceanside, Dana Point, Avalon, Two Harbors)

and also boating info for making the LA to Catalina journey...

Sailing to Catalina Island: distance and time from Los Angeles

October 25, 2014

Humpback Whale tail slaps in Icy Strait

Icy Strait hosts an incredibly vibrant biological community. Long summer days and nutrient rich upwellings of cold Pacific Ocean waters keeps each of the trophic levels well fed. The whales come here to gorge on small fish and invertebrates- then migrate to Hawaii for breeding. They are so satiated from their feast in Icy Strait that they don't eat while procreating in Hawaii. Not one luau - nothing.

video

Ryan, Micah and I were overwhelmed with the level of whale activity in Icy Strait. This whale was slapping the water like it would never have a chance to slap water again. Apparently, this is a feeding technique. The tail slaps sends out shock waves into the water. The shock waves then disorients the schools of fish they are harvesting, making it easier for the whale to scoop them up.

The whales at Point Adolphus tired us out and filled up our memory cards. After an incredible afternoon, we left them alone to continue slapping tails, blowing, breaching and fluking without us.