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, Sailonline.com 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 your 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.