December 18, 2008

early morning snow sail

After much speculation, Seattle finally got some decent snow. The boat performed well and the diesel engine started up right away - despite the low temperature.

December 16, 2008

i'm fine

i want everyone to know that i am fine - nothing to worry about, there's this little space heater and it keeps things near comfortable - which is all i need - seriously, I'm fine.

December 15, 2008

blame canada

a sub-freezing air mass has slid down the fraser river valley in canada and spilled out across the pacific northwest - this is hardly boating weather - it should last all week. I may cave, I may have already caved - tough to say. Brandy, books, blanket. Brandy, books, blanket.

December 12, 2008


the autumn was good, the winter is now here - the air is near freezing again and inches of rain are falling, we have a gale warning all weekend, with snow on the water predicted - this is brandy weather - port wine aft of cabin.

December 11, 2008

Townes Van Zandt

Townes is often called the songwriter's songwriter.
That seems about right. He's also pretty good at telling stories.

November 21, 2008


This was a cold day. You can sort of tell Federico is a little annoyed to still be out on the water, and this R.Kelly/snoop-dog duet wasn't sweetening the pot at all.

just a couple dudes in a cockpit

November 12, 2008


Due to low harvest numbers in Marine Area 10, crabbing season has been extended till January.
Lately, we have been baiting the pot with whole chickens. Sometimes when you pull in the pot, it's still just the chickens.

Garrison Keillor adds a warm touch to the liveaboard lifestyle. Before I moved onto the boat - I liked Garrison enough, he was not an unwelcome part of the weekend.

But now it is different.
Garrison and me are like homeboys on the open seas. I now have nothing but time for his long winded stories about a bunch of regular joes holding down stools at a coffee shop in Lake Wobegon. Even the 'Guy Noir' skit seems funnier.

November 2, 2008

This is the first fish caught while under sail. The fish is a bottom feeder, a starry flounder, caught with a piece of turkey near a sewage outlet in the Piper's Creek watershed of Puget Sound. Steve and I ate this fish because we were hungry. We could have eaten the piece of turkey, but we ate the flounder.
This flounder is a humbling stepping stone on the path towards the real thing. The real thing is to catch a salmon while sailing. That's the real thing -

October 28, 2008

unflappable speaker

In the past year, many components of the boat have broken and required maintenance. This speaker, however, this low-end indoor speaker remains unperturbed by the maritime environment.
This speaker is all heart

October 22, 2008

dispensing local knowledge

Micah has an expansive knowledge base and is familiar with the sound of others graciously deferring to his expertise. In this 1 minute impromptu clip Micah asserts authority on the following subjects:

1. Directional traffic of commercial barges in Puget Sound shipping lanes.
2. The majestic nature of Mt. Ranier
3. The height (ft.) of Mt. Ranier
4. The height (ft.) of Mt. Ranier in comparison to Mt. Shasta
5. The reason for human error in thinking the mountains are of equal height (sea-level bias)
6. The distance (miles) from Seattle to Mt. Ranier (as the crow flies)
7. The time (hrs.) driving from Seattle to Mt. Ranier (along curved roads or 'rat-holes')

Barker negotiates both time and space.

Claire and Joel deftly ride 2-3 foot swells

a query

As Zach and I were puttering out of a Canadian harbor, we passed this behemoth tanker. It was an Arabic tanker, covered with Arabic writing and Muslim icons. It struck me that I had never seen that in America. I may be out of my mind, but has anyone seen a clearly marked Arabian tanker in an American Harbor since 9/11?

I know we are receiving Middle Eastern resources, but are they arriving in vessels decorated with Arabian designs and the word Iran? I wonder if this is an overlooked fine print rule that came with the Homeland Security Act. Yes to oil but from now on deliver it in unmarked packages.

Dan Dan the Drummer Man

Dan plays drums for a bunch of Seattle bands. He once toured with Iron and Wine and opened for The Shins. But all that stuff means nothing to him, he's in it for the music. He's in it for the beat.
I think this clip captures that.


Part of being a good cruising skipper is finding out where we will drop anchor for the evening. I often overlook this part, then scramble at the last minute.

a full cockpit

The 'more the merrier' rule certainly applies aboard Alize. We have 12 lifejackets on board so according to Coast Guard Regs, that sets the upper limit on passengers - although the only guy wearing a PFD in this shot is the toddler. That is because of the other axiom which applies on the Alize, 'kids don't float.'

4 guys in a boat listening to Led Zeppelin

I feel like I gave the punchline away with the title.

couple's sail for free

Joel Barker and Claire enjoying an Autumn sail. We spent the day leisurely discussing the merits/legitimacy of David Foster Wallace's recent suicide. I think we decided it was illegitimate and distasteful, but perhaps inevitable considering all the hints he has been dropping ever since 'Infinite Jest.'

October 14, 2008

good winds in August

man...say what you will about the rain in August, but there was plenty of wind, nobody would deny that...

Echo Bay, Sucia Island

There are bays on Sucia Island that are warm enough to swim in a bathing suit alone. My father and I just returned from one of them - then the sky did this.


My friend Dan works at a flag store in Seattle. He told me I could buy an American Naval Ensign flag 'at cost'. So we went down there and he picked this one out for me. It is 2 foot by 3 foot. I was a bit apprehensive, that's a lot of flag. But now I'm into it, I'm into it big time.

Crew rotations

After each week, one crew member would go home in the car that the next crew member had drove up to whatever port we were docked in. Zach is showing Prado how to use a dentists toothpick to open the lockbox in case he is harassed by border patrol.

Dungeness on a Hawaiin sling

Noble harvest is all about giving God's creatures a fighting chance. Sportfishing with a bunch of schmucks in Cabo? Gimme a break; that's like phoning it in.

But spearfishing in the Pacific Northwest...well, I'm biased, but that just strikes me as a noble harvest.
Your face numbs right away and unless you have tanks and you can sink below 20 feet, I assure you the visibility will be poor. There are heavy currents and 90% of the creatures you want to eat will see you first and split. But not the crabs, they are different, everyone knows that - they walk sideways.


The boat came with a weather weary wooden tiller. It snapped on a heavy weather day last Winter. First, I repaired it with a metal plate and screws. Then I had a moment of clarity. Tillers should be solid and with no history of structural damage; you shouldn't cut corners with wooden tillers. This new tiller is Mahogany and curves just so slightly. Some folks convert their helm to a wheel. I'll never be do that. I am a tiller man. Tiller for life.

October 5, 2008

Two cruise ships passing the stern

The meat of the 2008 summer, the augusts and julys of the year were a bit of a bust weather wise. Its a good idea not to pin your heart on the weather when you live in Seattle, but gimme a break, July and August were heartbreakers. And then came September. September was a gem. Seems like the whole month was in the upper 70's without a lick of rain. Of course, now its October and pissing vinegar and will be till next September. But the point is, when the sun breaks, you owe it to yourself to make the most of it.

September 24, 2008

Division of labors

My Dad is an excellent cook, he prepared a creamy seafood penne pasta dinner with only crab meat, string cheese and a few odds and ends in my cupboards. From that meal on, our roles were defined - I would sail, while Pat worked the galley. Pat was a Navy seal in Vietnam so he has nothing to prove in the maritime environment, he even cleaned up well. This made for a pleasant week on the water.

Dungeness Crab

Crabbing season 2008 just ended. It was a good harvest. These crabs were pulled from Hunter Bay, a quiet backwater bight of Lopez Island. For bait we used a jar of Geoduck Oysters.

It is a lazy man's game, you can toss a perforated can of seafood into the bait box, dangle the crab pot off the side of the sailboat, wake up in the morning and haul up the pot. When it works, its decadent.

It doesn't always work.

Leaving Port Townsend, rounding the corner past the lighthouse at Point Wilson and heading into the Straits of Juan de Fuca is an invigorating experience, when accompanied with a father, the experience take on even more weight. If it weren't for a buoyant hull, Alize would have surely sunk under all this gravitas.
One thing about Pat Curran, he loves bluegrass and Texas singer/songwriters. The week spent traveling from Seattle to the San Juans was heavy on Townes Van Sant, Guy Clark, David Grissman, Tony Rice, Gram Parsons...ext. You can hear a little bit of mandolin in this clip.

September 23, 2008

Graciously, Anjali is adapting to some of the hardships at sea. This image harkens back to a day when i had not yet finessed the bathroom situation. Those were the salad days of Alize, the care-free, 'anything goes' days. Now things are much more tightly regulated and the plumbing issues are resolved. There is even an electric toilet flush which runs off of a car battery, if that's your style.


The bad thing about sailing around the San Juans in the Winter is all the low pressure storm systems, the good thing is that nobody else is there. We sailed for days without seeing another boat on the water. The sun came out this afternoon as we drifted downwind through Rosario Straights. Glaciers scraped through the region a million years ago and dug out deep submarine canyons between the islands, creating fjords that are not on the Norwegian scale, but are certainly awesome. The water at this spot is 800 feet deep, that's a lot of water.

Therein lies the conflict with waste disposal. Many American and all Canadians boaters dump their toilet waste directly into the water. If you press them on why they feel entitled to sully the Gulf or San Juan Islands, they will probably mention that with all this water, surely their mild pollution will dilute and become fish food.

This is not advised, and on issues like this it is best to trust the advisers.
Unless, you're in Canada, there's no pump-out in Canada, so let 'em have it.

September 18, 2008

Living aboard

Moved out of the Densmore house and into the boat full-time in November 2007 - just in time for the Pacific Northwest Winter. The feel-good summer and pleasant Autumn were just fond memories. The new season brought: wool, lot's of it - spiced rum, sometimes heated - when the stove worked - a beard, mostly for effect, also for warmth - and lots of grimacing.

Ballard to Eagle Harbor

As luck would have it, the sun came out for one last weekend in the late Autumn of 2007.
Winds were light, but we crept slowly over to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island. It was one of those ridiculously pleasant sails. Pleasant is the only word for it. As if the conditions were not pleasant enough, when we arrived at our reciprocal moorage at Eagle Marina, the harbormaster informed us that a sauna was heated and waiting for us, now that is downright pleasant. In the video Steve Springer and his French Canadian girlfriend, Eugenie, enjoy a light lunch and later marvel at harbor seals. Shala spent much of the sail relaxing deckside - am I wrong or is this all super pleasant?

Steve is notable for his deep understanding of molecular evolution and also because he is attempting to earn his doctorate while living in a van. These two features are not at odds with each other; they are actually synergistic.

Lab Sail

The Raible Lab focuses on development biology. This means we are interested in the genetic/molecular decisions which underlay the morphological changes which allow a fertilized egg to transform into an adult organism. To explore this question we perform experiments on zebrafish (Danio rerio), a small tropical freshwater fish. This fish acts as a proxy for all vertebrates. Sometimes our findings are compatible with humans, sometimes they are specific to fish. Here we have Tor Linbo (lifejacket) and his wife Tiffany, Cynthia and Alex (Post-doctorates) Alex's wife and daughter, and then some assistant crew. This was in the short-lived phase of short Lake Union sails, which largely consisted of picking up people and bars and dropping them off at other bars 30 minutes later. It was very convienient for the guests but laborious and stressful for crew.
This video also provided an additional service. It calmed my mother's nerves. After Mom viewed the first sail video seen here, she thought I was in the habit of sailing dangerously while objectifying women. This video stands in stark contrast to that idea; mom ate it up. All is restored.
Neoprene culture is huge in Puget Sound. If you're not knee deep in a 6 mm. thick bodysuit, you're yesterday's news. Heady, footies and gloves are critical, but most important is the right attitude. The visibility will be poor, your face will numb within seconds and if you surface with anything edible, it will probably have near-toxic levels of Mercury or PCBs - but the point is to have fun and feel proud to engage with the natural world on such an intimate level.

Here, Troy and Dan are nesting in the cozy womb of the main salon. Micah was stuffed in the quarter berth, he didn't mind it though. He even wore the striped quarter berth shirt to communicate his compliance.

At the time, late autumn 2007, this was the farthest journey out for Alize and her crew, Troy Bainbridge, Micah Wait and Dan Hunt. We sailed to a boring retirement community near Admiralty Inlet in North - Central Puget Sound - called Port Ludlow. There is little to do there, especially for four bro's. But we managed to fill out the better part of three days by spilling drinks throughout the interior of the boat, actually if your focus you can catch Troy Bainbridge knocking over a beer in this clip. All is all, we had a solid time and it was a great test run for longer trips to come.

September 17, 2008

Anjali Kumar is an absolute sweetheart. She is half-Indian and half-Irish, and is always down for an adventure. The weather in the San Juan Islands had turned from moderately crappy to straight up piss poor. The crew that was supposed to surface for the return trip - bailed out. I won't name names, you know who you are. I was solo-sailing with a head cold, this is beat street. Anyway, one phone call to Anjali - and she was on her way North. Anjali is no fool and she knows you don't turn your back on a sail trip through the San Juans. We had a great time, my cold passed and we found some excellent sailing conditions near Cypress Island.

One nice thing about having my boat up at the conference was going for a sail with my boss and his family. The winds sort of puttered out on us, but it was nice to get the whole family out on the water.

There is a special place in my heart for those fearless friends that went out on the Alize in the middle of Winter 2007/2008. I really didn't know what I was doing and it was miserably cold. This is just when I began sailing in the relatively open waters of Puget Sound as opposed to the safer, freshwaters of Lake Union and Lake Washington. These people really put their necks out there. So great.

I never tire of this angle. Alize's rigging was a bit run down when I bought her. All the lines work, its just you wouldn't want to rock climb with them. I am replacing them one by one, as time and cash flow allows. Here is the speaker on my stereo system deftly tied down to the main hatch. This keeps the crew in the cockpit in an upbeat mood, even when the air temp dips. My 130% genoa headsail is reefed, that is because I didn't own a smaller jib, now I do. That stereo speaker has since stopped working and been replaced.

Mike is a great guy; he loves to get out on the water, regardless of the conditions. When I was moored on H-dock, Mike was my neighbor. He had recently bought a 50 foot blue water boat named Bamboo. It was a real fixer-upper. He spent the winter of 2007 gutting out everything inside the boat, including a bathtub.

Once Mike and I sailed to Bell Harbor Marina in downtown Seattle while a storm was building. We didn't care, we wanted an Elvis Burrito in Belltown. Upon returning from dinner the winds had picked up to 35 knots with 6 foot swells. I told Mike I was out of my league and we should only continue if he felt he was comfortable with the conditions. Mike didn't flinch, he grabbed the tiller and we were off into the night. It was the heaviest conditions I had ever seen. We surfed down the face of waves, the winds wrapped my halyards in knots around the mast, my boat took the gravest beating I'd ever witnessed; very thrilling but a bit intimidating.

When we arrived back at our home port at 11 pm. I said, "Damn Mike that was the heaviest shit I've been in. I'm glad you were on board." He said, "Yep, me too, I've never been in anything like that either." I looked at him funny. I had figured with his confidence, he had been in those conditions often. Just goes to show, you don't need experience to be confident - especially when you're in someone else's boat.

There are four lifting 'bascule' bridges between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. If your mast is higher than 46 feet, you need to signal to an operator with a series of horns, so that the bridges are raised as you approach. This stops traffic. It is a drag for both boaters and commuters. Avoiding the bascule bridges was a major motivation for my move to a marina in Puget Sound. Here we see the University Bridge and I-5 in the foreground. The boat is docked at Ivars, great seafood and drinks - horrible freeway noise.

Federico Prado has been a huge supporter of Alize. He loves to take turns at the tiller, he also loves blondes and warm air, so for Prado, this is a bit of a glory shot.

September 16, 2008

I purchased the boat before I had a mooring. This meant I docked Alize in some dicey berths before I found my permanent home in Shilshole Marina. Mostly I was stuffed awkwardly between large commercial vessels in the Ballard shipping canal. So, some of my first trips in the boat entailed sailing from the Ballard shipping canal into Lake Washington. This is great fun. Kirkland is not much of a destination, but that's the great thing about sailing, even a round trip to Kirkland can be a good time.

Another important point needs to be made. The music playing is Led Zeppelin. After I bought the boat, one of the first things I did was press eject on the CD player. Physical Graffiti popped out. Now it is ritual to play Physical Graffiti on my boat. Many other boaters do the same thing, except with Jimmy Buffet.

A cool Finn cleans my fin keel

'Big ballast in little Ballard'

The boat has a fin keel with an internal ballast of lead. Total displacement, ballast, is 8,500 pounds.

The draft, is 5'4". So, when I get in water that is less than 6 feet deep I start losing my cool. It's not pretty.

The Scandinavian gentleman is scraping shellfish from the leading edge of the fin keel. I didn't know it at the time, but I was paying him75$ an hour to scrape my shellfish. 75$ an hour is standard pay for remedial chores at this Ballard shipyard. I now remove my own mussels.

New boat!

The boat fell into my hands somewhere in July of 2007. At that point, both the boat and myself were 31 years old. My knees were in pretty bad condition but the rest of me was doing fine. Meanwhile, the boat had serious issues below the waterline (bent propeller, misaligned engine, fiberglass voids,crappy paint job) but all in all, she was a beauty!

Since then, I've spent 5K fixing all these issues. Engine is now correctly aligned, fiberglass voids resolved, great paint job, new propeller.... a bunch of other work. She is ready for action....