February 28, 2015

How to install a sailboat winch pad

If you're installing a winch on a sailboat, you may want to install the sailing winch on a teak winch pad. I just re-seated a new stainless steel chimney flue on this winch pad. The deck of my Newport 30 sailboat has a curve right in the spot where the stove pipe exits the deck, so the teak pad lets me flatten out the plane of the chimney flue. The pad is generally used as a platform for winches, but it also worked out well for this project.

buy a teak winch pad
Teak winch pad used to mount a fireplace chimney
I found this teak winch pad for sale online. I think you can find these at some boating stores, perhaps West Marine, not entirely sure. But either way, this is a nice piece of teak and looks good with a coat of varnish. 

For my application, I drilled out a 5 inch hole with a circular drill bit, then sanded down the base of the winch pad, till the slope of the pad was complimentary to the slope of my boat deck. Then I laid down some 4200 sealant and drilled the teak pad down into the balsa core fiberglass deck of my boat. This makes for a solid, water-proof attachment. I've never seen a leak on the inside of the boat.

drilled out hole in teak winch pad
we drilled a 5 inch hole in the teak winch pad

This is the pad I used, I recommend it. Looks pretty, ages well...

February 15, 2015

Boat drone over San Diego

We got this shot flying the Phantom drone above the sailboat in Mariner's Cove.
Gorgeous shot at about 50 feet in the air.

February 8, 2015

Is your boat insured in 2015?

      I just returned from some traveling this winter and when I got back down to my boat, I realized something felt different. Something felt a bit more unhinged. And then I realized, 'oh yeah, i let my boat insurance expire'. I am now the owner of an uninsured boat. This is a bit unsettling. I have decided to wipe the slate clean and attempt an unbiased pursuit of a new insurance company. I have not settled on one company yet. But, I am making the calls and seeing who is best suited to insure my 38 year old sailboat. I found this helpful review of the top boat insurance companies and thought I would pass it on. Here is a link to a Comparison of boat insurance companies for 2015

If anyone has any recommendations for me, please let me know. I should be able to find something for under 500$ for the year. All the best!

insurance reviews san diego

February 4, 2015

The Gary down in La Paz

My good friend - Gary Caprario - has made the leap to salty expat down in the salty expat town of La Paz, Mexico. Follow his adventures at http://www.simpleseas.com/

He now lives a simple life of swimming with whale sharks and fixing boat problems in the hot, subtropical climate of southern Baja. If you are down around the docks of La Paz, reach out to him on his website. Maybe he will take you out for a sail!

The Gary at the helm of his 36 Catalina

a windy sunset near La Paz

exploring Espiritu Santo on foot

January 30, 2015

Boating distance from Seattle (Ballard Locks) to nearby harbors

Seattle is a world class home port for boaters. The cruising destinations are arguably better than all other west coast ports. I was docked in Seattle (Shilshole marina) for 4 years and did as much cruising around Puget Sound as possible. 
     Before you untie the dock lines, its good to know how many miles from Seattle (Ballard Locks) to all nearby harbors and marinas. When I was boating around Seattle, I could never find all this information online in one spot - so, I made my own page.
     Here I provide the: distance from Seattle to Eagle Harbor, distance from Seattle to Elliot Bay, distance from Seattle to Kingston, distance from Seattle to Edmonds, distance from Seattle to Blake Island, distance from Seattle to Bremerton, distance from Seattle to Port Ludlow, distance from Seattle to Gig Harbor, distance from Seattle to Tacoma, distance from Seattle to Quartermaster Harbor, distance from Seattle to Everett, distance from Seattle to Port Townsend, distance from Seattle to Oak Harbor, distance from Seattle to Friday Harbor and the distance from Seattle to Victoria.

Distance: How many miles from Seattle (Ballard Locks) to nearby harbors / marinas.

Distance in miles (nautical miles)

Seattle to Eagle Harbor                                       4.8 m  (5.5 nm)

Seattle to Elliot Bay (downtown harbor)              6.1 m  (7 nm)

Seattle to Kingston                                              6.5 m  (7.5 nm)

Seattle to Edmonds                                             7.4 m  (8.5 nm)

Seattle to Blake Island                                         8.3 m  (9.5 nm)

Seattle to Bremerton                                          13.5 m  (15.5 nm)

Seattle to Port Ludlow                                          20 m  (23 nm)

Seattle to Gig Harbor                                         21.3 m  (24.5 nm)

Seattle to Tacoma                                                23 m  (26.5 nm)

Seattle to Quartermaster Harbor                       24.8 m  (28.5 nm)

Seattle to Everett                                               25.2 m  (29 nm)

Seattle to Port Townsend                                  28.7 m  (33 nm)

Seattle to Oak Harbor                                        35.6 m  (41 nm)

Seattle to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island)          53 m  (61 nm) 
(via Admiralty Inlet)

Seattle to Victoria (Vancouver Island)               56.5 m  (65 nm)
(via Admiralty Inlet)

A nautical mile is based on the circumference of the earth. One nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude on a chart. A nautical mile is slightly more than a land mile (1 nautical mile = 1.15 land mile)

boating distance from Seattle to friday harbor
I plotted out these Puget Sound distances the old fashioned way
     For each distance, I used the outer navigational markers from each harbor as the starting/ending waypoint. For the Seattle starting point, I used the navigational markers just outside the Ballard Locks.

    If you're heading out into Puget Sound and beyond, you need at least one good boating guidebook (cruising guide). When I was out exploring Puget Sound, I always had three on board, because when it comes to getting into ports safely, I prefer to be over informed.

I like the 2014 Waggoner Cruising Guide because it has broad, helpful travel info. on all ports from Seattle up to Alaska. This is a very affordable way to get loads of valuable boating information.

For more detailed information on boating and sailing around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, then I recommend A Cruising Guide to Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands: Olympia to Port Angeles. This book is regarded as the definitive guide book for local Seattle boaters.

If you're looking for a saltier guide book for those looking to drop anchor in secluded bays, bights and 'gunkholes' in the San Juan Islands, I would recommend the old classic, Gunkholing in the San Juan Islands: A Comprehensive Cruising Guide Encompassing Deception Pass to the Canadian Boundary. This book also helped me find productive spots for harvesting dungeness crabs...

If you're a power boater, the distances provided should be all you need to approximate your travel time. If you're a sailor who wants to put the sails up, then your travel time will be much more variable. I've written a more thorough post, that approximates the time required to make these trips (based on a 30 foot sailboat). 

ballard locks to Puget sound harbors
taking my Newport 30 through the Ballard locks

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January 21, 2015

Diving for California Spiny Lobster around San Diego

In California, during winter months, it is legal to dive down into the Pacific Ocean and harvest a few California spiny lobsters. The Department of Fish and wildlife lobster harvest rules are stringent: you need to grab them with your hands and you need to size them out under water, but the payoff is huge. It's nice to end your night with a few of these crustaceans. Each one of these tails makes for a full meal.

how to catch a lobster in san diego
I recently snagged these legal sized California spiny lobsters near Mission Bay
My friend and I prefer free diving at night, as the lobsters wander farther out into the open at night. They leave their rocky crevices and seek out food. This makes it easier to swoop down and grab them with your hands. We work the rock wall along the Mission Bay jetty. This is a legal area to dive for lobster.

lobsters are just under the surface of the water along the jetty wall
These spots are common knowledge, so I am not giving away any secrets here. Another spot to explore is the kelp beds along Point Loma, You can either snorkel along the coast or get your dive gear out. If you're willing to go the extra mile with scuba tanks, you can get down 30-50 feet and find some good sized 'bugs' tucked along rock ledges near the floor of the kelp beds.

Diving for lobster around San Diego

a quick surf before dropping down into the Point Loma kelp beds

Dave got these on a night dive near the OB jetty wall
Then of course, the best part of the lobster experience is eating the tails. We cook them up in my boat right after coming to the surface. I boil the tails, toast the bread and melt the butter. Sometimes, I will cook up some angel hair pasta as well. But, fresh lobster tail and a glass of wine is really all you need.

Cooking California Spiny Lobster

a quick meal coming together: lobster, toast and butter

January 11, 2015

Boating to Catalina Island: distances from LA harbors

Most boaters in Los Angeles eventually take their boat out to Catalina Island. It's helpful to know how far the main LA harbors are to the Catalina Island harbors (Avalon and Two Harbors). I am providing the boating distances from: Dana Point to Avalon, Dana Point to Two Harbors, Newport Beach to Avalon, Newport Beach to Two Harbors, Huntington Beach to Avalon, Huntington Beach to Two Harbors, LA harbor to Avalon, LA harbor to Two Harbors, Marina del Rey to Avalon, Marina del Rey to Two Harbors.

Taking your boat from LA to Catalina Island.

Dana Point to Avalon:  33 miles (38 nautical miles)

Dana Point to Two Harbors: 38 miles (44 nautical miles)

Newport Beach to Avalon: 26 miles (30 nautical miles)

Newport Beach to Two Harbors: 32 miles (37 nautical miles)

Huntington Harbor to Avalon: 25 miles (29 nautical miles)

Huntington Harbor to Two Harbors: 27 miles (31 nautical miles)

LA Harbor to Avalon: 25 miles (29 nautical miles)

LA Harbor to Two Harbors: 22 miles (25 nautical miles)

Marina del Rey to Avalon: 38 miles (44 nautical miles)

Marina del Rey to Two Harbors: 31 miles (36 nautical miles)

(distances are measured from the outer navigational buoys of each harbor)

Boating to Catalina Island

taking your boat to Catalina Island
Boating to Catalina Island: distances from harbor to harbor

If you are a power boater, these distances should be all you need to approximate your travel time. If you're a sailor who wants to put the sails up, then your travel time will be much more variable. I've written a more thorough post, that approximates the time required to make this trip (based on a 30 foot sailboat).  Keep in mind, the California current moves north to south. Most weather (wind) comes out of the northwest. Depending on the direction of the swell, you may be in a swell shadow (and wind shadow) for most of the journey between LA and Catalina Island. 

If you're planning on taking your boat out to Catalina, you will need to have at least one boating guide book on board. Brian Fagan's book is the standard guidebook for the area. The Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California. There is a very thorough section on boating in and around Los Angeles and exploring all the anchorages and harbors around Catalina Island.

You will also want a handheld GPS chartplotter in the cockpit while you cruise the Southern California waters. This will help keep your boat off the rocks. I just used the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc 2.6-Inch Waterproof Marine GPS and Chartplotter to help get me up and back to Alaska, through the Inside Passage. I don't leave the docks without it. This handheld serves as a nice compliment to a wall mounted large screen chartplotter, as the handheld allows you to move around the boat while still monitoring location.

January 9, 2015

How far is Catalina Island from San Diego?

Most San Diego boaters eventually get around to making the trip out to Catalina. Before they go, everyone wants to know how far is Catalina Island from San Diego. I can answer this question quickly.

There are two harbors in San Diego: Mission Bay and San Diego Harbor. Assuming everyone is going to arrive at Avalon, the main harbor on Catalina Island, then there are 2 possible distances: Mission Bay to Avalon or San Diego Harbor to Avalon.

How far is Catalina Island from San Diego?

Mission Bay to Avalon Harbor:
72 miles (or 63 nautical miles)*

San Diego Harbor to Avalon Harbor:
78 miles (or 68 nautical miles)*

*distances given are from the outer navigational buoys of each harbor

how far is Catalina Island from san diego
straight line from Avalon Harbor to San Diego Harbor

If you are a power boater you should follow this line, with a bit of wandering. If you're a sailor who wants to put the sails up, you will follow this line much less stringently. I have written a more thorough post, that approximates the time required to make this trip (based on a 30 foot sailboat). 

how far is Catalina island from san diego
we hiked up to this Avalon overlook upon arrival

If you are thinking about making this trip in a boat, you definitely want to have a boating guide book. Brian Fagan's book is the standard for boaters around Southern California. The Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California: Golden Gate to Ensenada, Mexico, Including the Offshore Islands  There is a good section on boating in and around San Diego and tucking into anchorages around Catalina Island.

Enjoy the journey!!

January 7, 2015

Sailing trip to Espiritu Santo in December

We sailed out from La Paz to Espiritu Santo in December 2014. The Winter is the best time to sail in Baja Sur. By the Sea of Cortez standards, December sailing conditions are not too hot and not too windy. These are a few more photos of our journey.

winds starting to pick up at sunrise

Captain Gary at the wheel of the Catalina 36

a dried out trigger fish

our hearty crew
Plenty of hikes into the island of Espiritu Santo. We found Gallo Bay to be filled with natural treasures.

The Aussies found a dead Sea Turtle in Bahia Gallo

The renaming ceremony on the 'Sea Turtle'

Gary and I at the helm

a jumping Pacific White Sided dolphin

January 5, 2015

Sailing around La Paz in December.

We just returned from sailing in La Paz over the Christmas Break. We had high winds, sometimes uncomfortably high winds - and beautiful anchorages out at Espiritu Santu. December is normally the perfect month to sail in Baja Sur. As you are well clear of the hurricanes and the temperatures are not too hot or humid. We found this to be true, however, on 3 of our 5 days sailing, there were 15-30 kph winds coming straight down the Sea of Cortez. This kept things interesting...

Bahia La Paz from the window of our room at Hotel Perla

The marine protected island Espiritu Santo is a 3-4 hour sail/motor from La Paz. We anchored at Playa Gallo and Playa Gallina. The snorkeling and hiking are both phenomenal.

Playa Gallo and Playa Gallina

We anchored in the part of the water that transitions between aquamarine and navy blue. This is about 40 feet of depth.

Gary and his 36 foot Catalina, Sea Turtle
My old friend from Seattle, Gary Caprario graciously hosted us on his 36 Catalina. 

A beached fiberglass whale 
Anyone know where we found this beached whale? Hint: it is a one day drive from La Paz...

December 14, 2014

Clever boat names and the clever boaters who love these names.

A clever boat name for the ethically dubious mariner

clever boat names for criminals

      There is something unequivocally awesome about a clever boat name. Who doesn't love a funny boat name?

      Okay, there are some of you out there that hate puns. Maybe your grandpa overdid it with the wordplay, maybe your sense of humor is more high brow. But seriously, a good boat name is a thing of beauty. The boating website All Things Boat has curated a page on boat names. They have organized funny boat names by the classic boating personalities that gravitate towards these names. It is pretty darn funny. These photos are taken with permission from All Things Boat's clever boat names page, check it out, you'll get a good laugh!

Clever boat names for the esoteric sailor

clever boat names
either a Seinfeld reference or a very whimsical boater

December 10, 2014

Fixing a faulty bilge pump switch

My old bilge pump switch finally crapped out. The wire contacts looked like they had far surpassed a tolerable level of corrosion, so it's now in the garbage can. I'm leaving soon for a Mexico road trip that will last through December. The last thing I want is to leave my boat unattended in the rainy season of San Diego with a faulty bilge pump switch. 

So, I went down to the boat store and got one of these new switches with the metal ball rolling around like a can of spray paint. Long story short, the install went fine, except the switch didn't pass the test. As water filled in and over the switch, the switch floated up but not enough to activate the pump. 

DIY troubleshooting a bilge pump switch
my bilge, always swampy

Well, that's not good. I am going to blame this on a slightly un-level surface that the pump was mounted on. However, I'd like to think the switch would have a larger margin of error for activation.

I tried to rectify the situation by moving the switch to a new spot in the bilge, but as you can see I don't have much room to move in there.

Anyway, the point of this post, is that I did find a remedy that I like. I grabbed an old neoprene beer cozy and cut it up into pieces that fit on the end of my bilge switch. I then dried off the top of the switch, and epoxied the cut up beer cozy on the end. I epoxied three layers of neoprene beer cozy on top of each other.

Now, it has a lot more float.

fixing a bilge pump switch
chopped up beer cozy give more float to the bilge switch

I've tested it out many times and each time the bilge pump switch rises to the occasion.

I'm heading to Baja with my mind at ease...

Hopefully this is helpful to someone with a similar problem.