Friday, October 31, 2008

Baja Ha Ha - First Movement

Better Sail Boat Picture
Better Sail Boat Picture
Originally uploaded by purpleteeleaf.
A quick, picture-less update from Turtle Bay. We completed the first leg of the Baja Ha Ha in a catamaran record low time of several days and many hours of motoring. The winds were beyond light. They were almost negatively light -- if you can imagine such a thing. We did have a really strong, fun sail the first day and a half. Then we motored. Then we sailed. Then we motored. Then we turned off the engines a drifted an entire day at .5 knots. It was great! We swam off the back of the boat. I swam faster than the boat was moving.

* My sinuses. Jaime picked up a head cold someplace in San Diego which she then passed on to the rest of us. My head felt like it was going to pop most of the trip. It made the entire thing quite challenging.
* On the last day, I did a credible job of ripping the GPS dome off the bimini. This somehow managed to short out the entire system which includes our radar, chart plotter and primary GPS. Urg. Thank you very much, we were smart enough to carry paper charts, another computer with charts, and a handheld GPS. We'll tailgate other boats all the way down to Cabo so radar shouldn't be a big issue either. And then when we get to Cabo, we'll mail the damn thing back to Seattle and tell them to fix it or else.
* Dinghy motor? Don't know about this. I think DrC and Jaime just flooded it past all hope of recall for this afternoon.

* More dolphins. Actually, it was the squeeling dolphins in the bow wave that distracted me sufficiently to rip the GPS dome. Not feeling great about dolphins.
* Absolutely spectacular lightening show. This is something you can enjoy at sea only if you can see the strike from top to bottom and can't hear the thunder indicating the storm is at least 30 miles off. It was amazing.
* Stars, shooting stars, planets, satellites, constellations, more shooting stars. Mera and I enjoyed several star gazing lessons on the bows during night watch.
* Sitting in the cockpit last night, listening to the music drift over the water and watching the masthead lights flicker on the bay like june bugs on a summer night in Philly. The air was sweet and warm with a nice off shore cooling breeze, the wine was chilled, and DrC was in an unusually happy, talkative mood.

The Ha Ha is not for everyone, but it is absolutely where the crew of Don Quixote needs to be. We are all enjoying ourselves immensely. The girls and I try to participate as much as possible in the morning roll call, doing the VHF to SSB relay. It provides a notoriety that the girls (and I) revel in. Just about everyone is getting to know our names and our boat. They love the attention, they like trying to hook up with the other kids, and they really really REALLY want to go ashore to play.

What they don't appreciate is Mexican pastry; It's not sweet enough. Pearls before swine.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pacific Dinghy Dash - Qualifying Round

Adventures in Dinghy Dash
Adventures in Dinghy Dash
Uploaded by toastfloats, taken by FIL George.
Two sports announcers sit on a set framed by a wide expanse of California beach. They smile into the camera as the male begins:

“We’re here today in lovely San Simeon for the qualifying round of the Pacific Dinghy Dash. The weather is perfect for today’s competition: sunny, with 9 knots of wind blowing offshore. Our competitors have been dropping anchor since Tuesday, drinking wine and exchanging boat cards as they prepare for this key round of the year’s competition.”

The female announcer is dressed casually in upscale athletic clothing. As color commentator, she is a former participant in this sport. “Jack, it’s a great day to start the Pacific Dinghy Dash and a great place to do it. The surf is breaking about 10 yards out consistently at 3 feet every 7 seconds. We should see the crews relying on a straight in approach, riding the last wave with a strong push of their motors and largely keeping their feet dry.”

Jack nods sagely, “I agree, Julie. Points will be awarded today largely on style and dryness. I doubt we’ll see much in the way of innovative approaches.”

Julie looks out over the water, “Our first crew is off the s/v Sea Horse. You’ll notice the captain’s classic slow approach. He’s got a hard bottom dinghy with two crew... and there you see him slide up to the back of the wave... a hard throttle...”

“Oh yeah! Look at that!” exclaims Jack.

Julie agrees, “That was lovely, Jack. Did you see how his forward crew came in with one leg curled up on the outside. He put it down just as they hit the shallows.”

“And the captain throttled his engine at precisely the right moment. Those are going to be high scores, Julie. Sea Horse is really setting the bar high today,” Jack points out.

“Yes, but we’ll have to go some way to compete with s/v Vindsong. Look at that dink!” Julie cries, “We’re looking at an old fashioned, wooden row boat.”

“That’s a beauty, Julie. The line glued along the teak edge is both handsome and dramatically increases the difficulty for his crew.” Jack continues ominously, “Getting out of that craft is going to be a challenge.”

“But his approach is solid, Jack. Look at him come in with his bow crew talking him up to the edge of the swell. That’s nice.” Julie watches for a moment, “Yes! There they go!!! Vindsong is rowing hard hard hard.... And THERE! Great elan. Fantastic exit! They both just elevated straight out of that boat and over the side.” Her partner comments, “I don’t think they’ll be getting much for dry feet, Julie, but they sure get points for level of difficulty.”

Jack continues, “Now we have newcomers to the event, s/v Don Quixote. This crew has competed before -- and quite successfully -- in the Pacific Dinghy Dock and Dinghy Drag. They in fact medaled in the Drag not once but twice. They are considered a force to be reckoned with here in San Simeon.”

Julie is doubtful, “I don’t know, Jack. I’ve seen too many crews come down from the Pacific Northwest who think they know how to handle their dink after competing in high tide and strong current. Then they encounter the surf of the southern California beaches and have to start learning their sport all over again.”

Jack nods sagely, “I see your point, Julie. The Dock and Drag really require different skills don’t they.”

Julie explains, “Yes, the Dock is about gauging distance and the relative speed of the many moving craft in the harbor while the Drag is a very physical event requiring great strength and a hard bottom. The Dash is all about timing and feeling your way through the waves. Let’s see how these newcomers do.”

Jack warns, “It doesn’t look good for Don Quixote. Look at that...”

“The captain is coming on too strong. He’s not waiting for the waves. See how he allows his helm to just power in?” Julie observes.

“Isn’t that crew a bit young for this event, Julie? They’ve got three juveniles.”

“No no,” she replies, eyes on the Don Quixote boat, “family crews are common in this sport. My sister and I started at 9 and 12. Oh look,” her voice shades to a bit of horror, “they’ve timed it all wrong. Jack, they’re going to... oh no...”

Jack exclaims, “They’re going over they’re going over!!!” He pauses as if unable to believe what he’s seeing, “Oh that’s tragic! Look there’s gear everywhere!”

Julie interjects, “It’s okay, Jack. Look at that crew scramble. They can stay in the competition if they can just recover well. Remember, we average their scores over several beaches throughout the next three months. They just need to recover their gear and get ashore unharmed.”

Jack calms, “Yes, Julie, and now we see a crew who’s been working together hard up north. Look at them scramble.”

“They’re doing well, Jack. They got that dinghy back over in less than 5 seconds. I see all five crew. See how they automatically divided responsibility. Captain, helm, and first mate have got that dinghy aligned and ashore. The younger crew are gathering Crocs, towels, and hats.”

“Let’s shift to Bob on the beach. Bob?”

Bob holds a microphone near the drenched Don Quixote crew who are gathering and checking gear, “Captain? Can you tell me what happened?” He thrusts the microphone in DrC’s face.

“We were just &#*ing stupid,” DrC looks grim. Salt water drips from his beard. “I didn’t wait and time the waves, and Jaime gunned it just a bit too late. We should never have gone over. Stupid.”

Bob switches to Toast, “And you? How’s it look?”

Toast looks around and her eyes narrow, “Good. We’re good. In gear we lost two pairs of sunglasses and a baseball hat. Not bad. We’re definitely going to use the dry bag and a lot more tie downs in the future. The kids are all right. No one is hurt. I’ll be able to rescue all the electronics except maybe the cell phone, and it’s insured.” Aeron jumps up into the view of the camera, bouncing to pop into the screen and mostly just the top of her head appearing as she blurts out, “That was AWESOME! I want to do it again! Let’s do it again and again and again!”

Julie’s voice off camera reminds Bob, “What about the equipment?”

Bob asks the captain, “DrC? Your boat?”

DrC nods slowly, “We’re okay. Lost an oarlock and the seat, but Toast wanted to replace those anyway. I think the motor’s okay.” 

Julie agrees and as the camera pans back to reveal Jaime, Mera and Aeron cavorting in the surf while DrC and Toast drape shirts, towels and hats over driftwood to dry, “While this was a hard introduction to the Dash for the Don Quixote crew, their experience has earned them a spot. They reacted quickly, gathered their gear, and they chose their hardware well. The engine is an old Yamaha two stroke. DrC can spend an hour cleaning it out, and it’ll start right back up. This isn’t so true of some newer, lighter more maneuverable hardware. What the crew sacrificed in speed, they made up in durability.”

Jack chuckles, “Well clearly they are going to need it. Don Quixote may be putting a lot more dents in that dink before we see them coming in smoothly.”

Julie laughs in agreement as Jack tells the camera, “Now let’s go to Steve who is monitoring the preliminaries for the Smooth Jybe @ 25 Knots.”

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Baja Ha Ha - Prelude

We Finally Haul Out
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
The Ha Ha starts for many boats years before they actually leave their home port. The Conger Family has prepared for the Ha Ha for nearly three years. We always wanted to do this rally "for the kids." Our time in Canada sealed the deal for the adults as well. The Ha Ha is a quick and easy way to meet and greet a lot of cruisers. It's also a fantastic way to connect with other family boats.

Our Ha Ha socializing also began well before the event. We met our first Ha Ha bound boat cruising the west coast of Vancouver Island in August. At the time, we were not very diligent about writing stuff down so we promptly forgot their name and boat. It's embarrassing.

Emeryville in the Bay Area was a positive haven of Ha Ha boats. It helped that by September, the rally committee had sent out our cruising packages which included a Baja Ha Ha sky blue and white flag. By running this up the spreader, we were able to attract the attention of boats all over the marina. Because we had our good friends s/v Rubber Duckies, Excellent Adventure, and Totem to distract us, we didn't spend much time with Ha Ha'ers in Emeryville. However, ever since, it's been almost a default stance.

There was s/v Wish on the dock at KKMI. s/v Vindsong and s/v Sea Horse trapped with us in San Simeon. s/v VictoryCat on the hard here in San Diego. There was s/v Sirius Star -- a father and young daughter team looking for other kid boats -- and at every turn we hear about another family "desperately seeking kids." Dinners, movies, drinks, and long chit chats on the VHF quickly become the norm, with those bright blue and white banners waving an introduction from any distance.

But what consistently slows down our socialization is work work and more work. Three years of constant effort to make us ready to cross the border was apparently insufficient. We've been in the yard far more than we've been out during the past month. We've spent an obscene amount of money and the yard grime is ground into my heels so badly that I think the only way to restore their original pink color is to slice them off.

We are, however, all done with that. I don't know if our alternators will ever work correctly. I think that's an open question. We've now got folks who know what they are talking about saying we should strip the whole thing out and start over with a considerably more simple system. Okay. If that worked, I'd do it. If dancing naked on the beach singing Disney show tunes with a string of Christmas lights draped over my shoulders worked, I would do it. The good news is that everything else is ready to go.

SSB? Check
Outboard? Check
Autopilot? Check
Provisioning? Check
Paperwork? Check
Cat? Check
Haircut? Check
Engines? Check

So we head out for the Baja Ha Ha with only two things that hover over our boat like Damocles sword: those alternators for whom voodoo is apparently the strongest form of mechanical improvement option available and a complete lack of Mexican currency. The good news on that later is that with the peso plummeting along with the dollar, we don't expect folks to have any trouble taking dollars at our first port until we can get to a Mexican bank.

Good bye United States. I'll be back in a few years. Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guest Post - Seattle to Emeryville

George at the Winch
George at the Winch
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Editor’s Note: George is my father in law. He cruised for nearly three years on his Valiant 40’ with his wife Nancy. We asked him to help us crew the boat from Neah Bay to San Francisco. He also joined us on the San Francisco to Santa Barbara leg. The following -- reprinted with permission -- was his account of our northern passage.

HEADLINE: Don Quixote Leaves Rain Soaked Liberal NW Tree Huggers Behind for Southern Sunshine and Adventure
on Sep 6 Sat 2008
by George Conger
Sep 6 Sat. Elliott Bay Marina Seattle to Neah Bay 11am. Non stop. Motor mostly. 1.5 hr sail near Admiralty Head. Pasta w red sauce.  78nmi covered 
Sep 7 Sun.Neah Bay 6 am. There are no alternators working. (Remember there are two on a catamaran) No electrical help available Neah Bay. What the heck! We don’t need no stinking alternator. Motor out to Cape Flattery. Nearby are a few rocks and then Tattosh Island and lighthouse. Sail between and out. Rocks to south look like Easter Island heads. Must have been impressive for first native peoples, at that time. Future casino site, they are thinking.
Sail at night on Bimini only 3.5 knots in 13 knot NW. It’s dark out here, cold, and we are doing things conservatively. I can’t remember if we are saving battery by hand steering or not. Ham potatos and veges. 93 nmi to Gray’s Harbor WA.
Sep 8 Mon. 2pm  Light conditions 12-20? In order to see what can be done about alternator problems we head for Grays Harbor. The entrance Bar is out beyond entrance. We barely noticed an increased size swell as we passed over it. Depth was 39 feet. This was at end of flood and at turn to ebb. Bar not a factor at all in these conditions. To Westport Marina. Into bay, turn right at second (wrong) entrance to harbor. Tie up Pier 6. Walk about trying to find a “marine’ electrican. We get one (sort of) he says “well we can take one off and take it to Aberdeen 20 miles away where they have real Marine equipment and facilities. Smaller harbor there, go figure.
Starboard alternator put on port side by dean, Port alternator ok, no fuse. Or was it Starboard alternator no working? Switch alternators back again. I am totally confused.
End “Reparis” result: 2 engines running 1 good alternator. One put back on starboard engine but not hooked up because no engine pulley to water pump belt. Need 3 pulleys to operate, at the moment anyway.
Don’t try to figure this out unless you have been on boats a lot or just missed your old mechanics school classes. Question remains, is it ok to use nylocks on engine or alternator. To be answered later, or now by email to dean.conger@ if you know the answer.
Pork Curry w rice (of course) and red wine. Your on deck, I am going to hit the bunk and savor that curry.
Crew Jason finishes first 24 hours of seasickness (it’s ok he does this everytime) and enjoys unique cure plus some Bonine. (he becomes a Bonine addict over the next 48 hrs)
Continue on at about 5pm. Just in time to run thru the Cargo ships exiting Columbia River at night.
Lesson in range lights on ships. Green or red helps if can see those tiny lights.
One passes in front. Another. He turns south. Another behind. Another towards coast estim 5-10 miles out. We are about 15miles out.
Sep 9 Tue. Winds up to 30 knots. Cape Blanco nearby. Hey, there is no propane. What? No hot cuisine? Jason (recovered) and I did not sign on for this! Mutiny looms it’s ugly head. Let’s go into Port Orford, OR. Anchor, moor, moor, yell and scream, anchor (no this is too close to the rocks), and finally anchor. Dean and Jason to shore w empty propane tanks and return with no local info/wisdom.
Off in 30 knots (what the hell, the weather guy said it would be the same for 3 days, worse, we believed  him) 30 knots to 32 knots, boy we are moving now. 35 knots. Hope that was just a gust. 15 minutes later 38 knots. Boy, some wind huh? 40 knots. Wait a minute, we are in a %*&^ gale! 42 knots. Goodby loved ones at home. Rise up 12 footer and get weather helmed to starboard, sideways to wave….Ease the sheets. Can’t, they are already eased. Put in 2 reefs. Can’t they are already in! Take in the cockpit windows and protection. Can’t. Might cause lift under dodger/bimimi. Ok, a little jib out please. What the hell, you want more sail up? Discussion ensues.
3 hours of terror running broad at 150 degs to wind and waves. Not enough terror to not eat pesto! Please pass a bowl up to the helm. Boy it was great.
Gale Pesto recipe: Olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, S and P, Ground Fresh basil over Tagliatelle. Presentation was not the focus. It looked great in a plastic bowl. Who’s to complain.
Magical stuff pesto, or pasta. When you eat it the world changes. Happiness ensues, Tummy full. Pleasant thoughts. The wind just dropped to 35 knots. Heavens to Mergatroid! Who would thought 35 knots was like a Sunday sail? Faces brighten. Is there any more Pesto? Whoa, we entered N Calif waters hrs. ago. Crescent Bay behind us. Trinidad Head behind. Eureka behind.
Sep 10 Wens. I dunno, a blurr. I wasn’t on watch. 
Sep 11 Pass Cape Mendocino? Lat 40 25’ 24N by 124 23’47W  Punta Gorda Light. Point Cabrillo light. Point Arena light.
Thu Motor south. Dean catches dead cormorant but keeps his dignity. Burial at sea.  It’s hereditary. Nancy caught a live Booby. No! Not me!
Sep 12 Fri Motor into Bodega Bay and Harbor for fuel and a little rest before Golden Gate and it’s activities and weather. Daylight trip tomorrow. Veg Soup. Delicious.
Sep 13 Sat. 4 am Toast and Jason motor out of Bodega Bay without getting stuck, lost, or confused. Strike last comment. Me-range lights? What range lights? All I see are red and green lights here and there. Was it red right returning and green out? Which green? There must be 10 of them...
Point Reyes 18 nmi. Motor.
Pt Reyes Light FIW 24 mi q 5 secs. Left turn to Bolinas Bay and chute N side of 24 fathom bank. How deep is it? Uh, 6 times 24 is 144 feet minimum. No breakers, swells or terror there today. Point Bonita light and Cove port side. Cargo container ships starboard side. Saturday boaters bouncing like rubber ducks in a bathtub.
Thru the gate. Pictures. Call everyone to internet the GG cameras. Dale calls via cell phone and replies, “Are you anywhere near a Cosco freighter?” Yes, it just passed south of us (about 5 times faster) and spoiled your view.  Sailboat races all over the bay. Spinnakers galore. Hallow luya! We have arrived.
Into port at Emeryville near the Bay Bridge and murdered Hell’s Angels leader. This must be near Oakland!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Long Shlep

It Doesn't Get Any Better
It Doesn't Get Much Better
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
There is only one way to see San Francisco; You must walk it. I lived in the Bay area while attending college for nearly five years. I’ve visited by car, train, bike, and foot. If you only have one day, in my opinion the best way to savor the city is The Long Shlep. Dress in layers, wear really comfortable shoes, and bring a big appetite.

Start by taking the BART to the Powell Street Station. When you come up from the station, you’ll be confronted with the city at it’s most bustling and busy. You’ll be tempted to take the Trolley as the fare station is right in front of you, but frankly, that’s for tourists. It costs a lot and you miss some of the most interesting bits of the city. Enjoy the view of the Trolley, take pictures as it goes by, and feel smug in your knowledge that you’re seeing the better bits without paying the extortionist fare.

Follow the trolley line north on Powell Street. This will take you through the commercial district, past a million tourist shops, and up to Nob Hill. From here, you will see spectacular views of the TransAmerica building and the Bay. Just past Nob Hill, drop east from the top of the hill on Clay to dive two or three blocks into Chinatown. Wander freely through this area marveling at the shops, restaurants, and commerce. If you start late, you might find this a good place to grab a dim sum lunch. I can’t recommend a restaurant since all the names are in Chinese. They are all absolutely terrifying from the outside; The food is always outstanding on the inside. Don’t think too hard about what you’ve accidentally eaten.

Make your way north on any street paralleling Powell through Chinatown. This will send you directly into North Beach. North Beach is to Italy what Chinatown is to China. The smells wafting out of the restaurants shift to pasta, sausage, fennel, garlic and onions. On Columbus is one of the ten best chocolate truffle makers in the country. Stop for a cafe or cocoa and truffles. My favorite is lemon but the girls were partial to cinnamon (Mera), hazelnut (Jaime), and coconut (Aeron).

Continue north until you hit Fisherman’s Wharf. There is only so much of this massively touristy street you can stomach, but a little bit is a lot of fun. You’re probably not hungry, which is good. The seafood here is excellent but very very expensive for small quantities. If you do choose to eat, get a place that lets you sit outside and watch the people go by. An fun stop in Fisherman’s tucked over to one side is the Musee Mechanique. This is a warehouse full of old amusement machines: pachinko, cinemascope, the original Pac Man. The collection is eclectic, but tremendously enjoyable. There is no charge to enter, but be prepared to drop a roll of quarters in the machines.

Now that we’ve hit the water, we start drifting westward towards the Golden Gate. You will pass through a series of historical landmarks, each offering their own attractions. First, you’ll see the Cannery. This monument has been converted into a shopping mall. If you like to shop, I recommend here or at the next stop -- Ghiradelli Square. At Ghiradelli, you need to at least enter the ice cream salon as you’ll get a free square of chocolate just for walking in the door. In the main dining area, you can watch the chocolate being made. You’d think you would be full, but good luck getting out the door without splitting a hot fudge sundae or picking up a pound of mixed chocolates.

Head for the water front and walk around San Francisco Maritime Historical Park. As a sailor, it’s hard to resist marveling at all the boats at anchor or on balls who managed to get themselves situated without the use of motors.

Up up UP the hill and over, you are now enjoying a bird’s eye view of the Marina District. As boaters, we now yawn a bit at the beauty of the marina and yacht club. Just how many boats can you see in one life without coming somewhat jaundiced. However, a walk down the small streets near Marina Blvd will reveal some of the most expensive and beautiful real estate in San Francisco. The long walk through this residential neighborhood is rewarded on the west end by the Palace of Fine Arts. Currently under renovation, you can not walk under it or through the park, but you can enjoy the view or visit the new Exploritorium.

Marina District
Marina District
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Do you have any energy left? If so, keep walking another mile and a half up the hill to the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a serious hike up a very long hill. Remember that you have to gain roughly 250 feet from the Marina District. From either a block from the Palace of Fine Arts or from the parking area at the end of the bridge, you finally get back on a bus back to your origin at the Powell Street Station.

The Long Shlep is 5.6 miles if you leave from the Palace, 7.2 if you start home from the Golden Gate. By the end of the day, you will feel as though you have truly seen San Francisco, enjoyed some amazing food, and started to fall in love with this wonderful city. I could spend weeks in San Francisco and never run out of things to do. But one spectacular day with my girls was enough for this trip.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

That Didn't Work

It's Always Something
It's Always Something
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
If Murphy owned a boat, he would have been considerably more pessimistic. Our haul out experience in San Francisco was not particularly successful.

PHASE 1: Select a Yard
Jason: You can haul a catamaran in Napa.
Napa Shipyard: That will be a jillion dollars, please.
Toast: Let’s go somewhere else. Ooo... Bay Marine will do it.
Don Quixote: Okay, whoppeeeee, I’ll take you to Bay Marine.
Bay Marine: What a beautiful boat! Tie up here. We’ll haul you as soon as you get done with our pricey and unhelpful electrician. (In fairness to Bay Marine, they were really helpful... except for their electrician.)
DrC: Where are the parts?
Toast: What parts?
DrC: The parts I ordered which are critical to us hauling out.
Toast: Oh. Those parts.
Seattle Parts Guy: OH! Those parts. You wanted THOSE parts. We back ordered those parts. They’ll be in Emeryville in two weeks. When did you want them?
DrC: I wanted them yesterday in Richmond.
Parts Guy: You can have them Thursday...
DrC: We’ll be gone by Wednesday.
Parts Guy: So sorry.
DrC: *deep sigh* Okay, send them to Sacramento. We’ll have our land contact forward them to a yard.
Bay Marine: Not hauling? Oh. Here’s your bill, what’s your hurry.

PHASE 2: Find a Mechanic
DrC: Let’s fix everything else over here at this yard where all the boats look like they dropped out of Sail magazine.
KKMI: Sure! Come on over! We’ve got your basic economy package. Tie up to this incredibly rickety dock with no water and power and we won’t even charge you! We also have expensive mechanics and electricians. But here’s the deal... ours know what they are talking about!
Don Quixote: Whoopppeee! I’ll move you 20 yards.
Girls: Why? What? Huh? Do we have to do school?
Ron the Electrical Guy: You wired the alternators wrong. See if you’d just followed these cryptic installation instructions you wouldn’t have burned out two alternators and 15 fuses. Yes those instructions -- the ones written by a complete dimwit possessing the IQ of a rock. The one Toast would have fired 15 minutes after delivering the first draft and that’s assuming she hired the illiterate to begin with.
DrC: Toast, I really think you should go into the business of rewriting boat gear manuals and selling them to cruisers on the side.
Toast: I’ll take that under consideration.

PHASE 3: Convince the Experts
DrC: So about this auto pilot... It’s the brain or the panel computer.
Toast: I think it’s a mechanical problem.
Kurt the Hydraulic Guy: It could be the pilot brain. Or an electrical problem.
Toast: No. It’s a mechanical problem.
DrC and Kurt in harmony: If we only had a brain.
Toast: NO. It’s. A. Mechanical. Problem.
Kurt: Hey! Look at this ball joint! It totally can’t move.
DrC: Oooo.....
Kurt: HEY! Look at these brushes in the motor. They are completely gone! The motor can’t operate.
DrC: Ooooo..... Toast, look at Kurt the Hydraulic Guy! He figured out our problem with the autopilot. You’re not going to believe this, but it’s a mechanical problem!

PHASE 4: Wait for the Mechanical Problem Parts
Toast: So how long to fix the brushes and the alternators?

KKMI Guys: Oh we can get you out of here by Thursday, maybe Friday.
Toast: Not Wednesday?
KKMI: Nope. Gotta build these babies from scratch. Love the French.
Toast: So we could have gotten the magic sail drive parts and hauled Thursday if we’d had them sent to Richmond?
DrC: Yep. Looks like it.
Toast: If we only had a brain.

PHASE 5: Find a New Yard
Toast: I’ll call every yard between here and the Mexican Border.
Long Beach: This boat’s too long.
Newport: This boat’s too tall.
Ventura: This boat’s too late.
Santa Barabara: This boat’s too fat.
San Diego: This boat is just right and we’re going to charge you three times more than the boat yard in San Francisco! And you’re just going to take it up the bank account because You Have No Choice! Isn’t that great! Aren’t you happy! We’ll throw in a paint job with really really bad paint for an extra $700 if you’d like. What day will you be here?

* *

The cure for the disease of Boat Envy is to spend a week trying to get one fixed. If you have a friend, relative, or spouse who needs a vaccination, just send them to live with us for awhile. We are highly contagious.

Friday, October 03, 2008

It's a Big Deal

Approaching the Gate
Approaching the Gate
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
s/v Excellent Adventure invited the girls and I for a sail Saturday. There were a number of really good reasons I did not want to go:

Aeron fitched a pit and jumped into it, refusing to bathe. This not only induced in her mother a strong desire to strangle her, it also resulted in one of those cowboy western standoffs wherein I was stupid enough to say, “If you do not take a shower, you can not go with the Hudsons.” Ugh. I should know better.

Mera slammed my head between the sliding glass door and the navigation table while I was cleaning the scum out of the tracks. I had a splitting headache and a rather scary lancing pain from my neck to my butt.

Hello! I own a sailboat. I live on a sailboat. Why the heck would I want to “go sailing” for the afternoon. Bah humbug!

But the kids really superduper wanted to go, and I’m basically in love with Laureen and Jason. So we strongarmed Aeron into s/v EA’s shower, and I boarded for an afternoon of sitting in an ibuprofinic stupor in the cockpit with a cherubic baby catatonic in my lap. The Hudsons fortunately had a few other friends aboard to help with lines and helm. The wind was brisk, the sun was shining. It was a perfect day for a sail on the Bay.

Jason pointed his 47’ Lagoon straight for the Golden Gate Bridge and ZOOM! off we went. Excellent Adventure is a wonderful boat in the old school of Lagoon manufacture. Back in the day, Lagoon was well known for racing catamarans and the only thing compelling about the otherwise horrid movie Waterworld - the protagonist’s spectacular blade thin catamaran. It was not long before we were ripping out to the Bridge at plus 10 knots.

As we approached the Bridge, all the adults started getting excited and pointing. This struck me as peculiar in a group of otherwise rational crew members who had probably been under the Gate a million times. They mustered me out of my seat to see “It.” It was a 290 foot sailboat under full sail escorted by a fleet of hundreds of small pleasure craft, buzzing around like bees around a hive.

The Back Side
The Back Side
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
s/y Maltese Falcon is one of the most stunning craft on the water today. She has the proportions of a sailing vessel of yore, but the sleek, modern lines of a 21st century craft. She stands nearly 200 feet with three enormous, independently rotating masts. The pictures -- mine, Jason’s and those of the many professional photographers present on Saturday -- do not do her justice. In person, she is simply amazing.

Our intrepid Cap’n Jason did his standard bold and heart stopping maneuver, positioning us to swing across her bow just before she passed into the Gate zone. We took a lot of photos, had our breath stolen by her beauty, and pissed off a lot of other craft whose bows we zoomed in front of. Later as the Falcon rounded Angel Island, we had another opportunity at low speed to get up close and personal. We even exchanged very happy words with the crew, and a few warning honks with the captain.

Trail magic begins when you are ready to open yourself to experience. Had I not grudgingly agreed to shlep my children over to EA, I would have missed the high point of our visit to the San Francisco Bay area. Thank you, Jason and Laureen. What a treat!!!