October 29, 2014

Sailing from Catalina Island to Santa Cruz Island

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

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

Heading north, leaving Catalina Island in our wake.

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

sailing to anacapa island
Tacking past Anacapa Island

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

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

For more detail on sailing logistics (distance, time required per leg of trip) for this journey, please see my recent post.

October 27, 2014

Boats for sale - own a boat in San Diego and keep your home in Phoenix

There are currently thousands of boats for sale in San Diego. Motor yachts, sailboats and fishing boats are waiting for new owners. Come down to Harbor Island and talk boats with San Diego boat broker, Dave Koller (619) 977-5040.

     San Diego boasts more sunny, boat-friendly days than one skipper could ever want. A warm, dry air mass sits on us for most of the year, keeping the climate exceedingly pleasant. As the deserts to the east heat up in the afternoon, a gentle sea breeze builds in San Diego and cools off the coastline. If you're into sailing, you'll find most afternoons offer plenty of winds to fill your sails. If you're a power boater and want to fish off shore, you've got the calm mornings when the water turns to glass.

a lazy Sunday morning at Mariner's cove: a free anchorage spot in San Diego

      The cruising grounds surrounding San Diego allow boaters to reach some gorgeous destinations. For an easy weekend sail, you can head around Cabrillo Point off Point Loma and spend Saturday night at a free anchorage in Mission Bay. For fishermen, a half day excursion will put you in excellent fishing waters near Coronado Island. This summer has been especially good for Yellowtail, Tuna and Dorado. However, if you can get a few days off work, the ultimate Southern California boating destination is Catalina Island. Lying 73 miles from San Diego, Catalina is a Mediterranean like island with exceptional snorkeling and fishing spots. After your sea crossing, you can moor your boat in picturesque Avalon harbor, then head into town for dinner and drinks.

     Now, that said, the downside to San Diego boating is the cost of living in San Diego. There is a price to pay for all this pleasantness. Consequently, San Diego is not a cheap place to buy a house. But, there are some folks that have already figured out how to solve this conundrum. These folks are the out of town boaters. They’ve done the math. They realize that if you’re already living in Phoenix, Arizona or Las Vegas, Nevada, then you can stay put, enjoy your affordable housing and still have a boat waiting for you dockside in San Diego. They refer to their San Diego boat as, ‘the waterfront condo’.

     Both Phoenix and Las Vegas are about 4-5 hours of drive time to reach San Diego. While this is something to consider, it's hardly prohibitive. When you’re baking in the desert heat, a few hours in an air conditioned car is a reasonable cost for a nice weekend in the Pacific Ocean. If you leave Phoenix at sunrise on a Saturday morning, you can be cracking a Corona on the deck of your own pleasure craft by noon in San Diego. Not a bad way to spend the weekend!

boat for sale in San Diego
Meet Dave Koller, your friendly San Diego boat broker
    If you are considering buying or selling a boat in San Diego, I recommend you reach out to local boat broker, Dave Koller. Dave is a well-respected character along the waterfront, known for being both friendly and knowledgeable. 
     He was born in San Diego and is a true boat addict. He’s sailed extensively around Southern California, the Pacific Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. When he’s not out showing boats, he’s most likely fishing offshore for Yellowtail or else racing sailboats in San Diego Harbor.

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

So, come on down to Harbor Island and talk boats with Dave. Whether you’re thinking about a 30 foot Bayliner or a 60 foot Sparkman & Stephens, Dave’s happy to drive you around town, walk the docks and find you that perfect ‘waterfront condo’.

Dave Koller
(619) 977-5040.

boat for sale in San Diego
Dave pulling in an Albacore Tuna near the La Jolla kelp beds

boat for sale in San Diego
Boat broker Dave off Point Loma on his Endeavor 38.

October 26, 2014

Fishing in Catalina Island: Spearfishing for California halibut.

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

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

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

Fair Winds!

October 25, 2014

Humpback Whale tail slaps in Icy Strait


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

October 22, 2014

sailing in the Straights of Juan de Fuca


most of the time, the wind is either too heavy or too light to sail up or down the Straights on your way to the Pacific - but at this moment the winds were just where we wanted them

October 15, 2014

Sperry Top Sider Boat Shoes

my Sperrys holding down a cleat
Sperry Boat Shoes

       Sperry Top-Sider Boat Shoes have long been the quintessential shoe for the boating class.

     This shoe has achieved iconic status – first among sailors, next among the ‘preppy class’ of Americans and now for all folks who appreciate durable shoes, boats and the maritime existence.

     I know very little about fashion and less about foot-ware, but mine have certainly worked out for me. My girlfriend gave me these about 4 years ago, and I have rode them hard and put them away salty and sopping wet - and not a stitch has popped and the sole still looks good.

          The shoe first came about in 1935, when Paul Sperry, a sailor and inventor, almost fell overboard on a slippery deck. This near mishap inspired Sperry to invest years perfecting Sea-worthy, non-skid boat shoes. Inspiration came to Sperry while watching his dog effortlessly maneuver across a frozen pond. In an attempt to emulate the grooves on dogs’ leathery paws, Sperry dug similar grooves into the rubber soles of his experimental top-siders. Thus began the world’s first boat shoe …
     Fortunately, there is now a Sperry store on Amazon that allows you to pick up a pair of these classic boat shoes at the best possible price. Go nuts. Get one for the wife!

Light Autumn Air in San Diego

sailing in light air with Gregg

San Diego is many things to many people. For sailors, it is also many things for many people. 
Pleasant is one of those things. Warm and comfortable are other things. 

Lately, I have been looking for a bit more thrill in my afternoon sails. 
I haven't been getting much thrill. 
But I have been getting lots of pleasant. 

I don't want to sound un-grateful, but - enough with the sunshine and light air.

Cloud cover and 10-20 knots would be very much appreciated.
Whenever you're ready SD, I don't want to rush you...

October 6, 2014

DIY: How to install solar panels on a boat.

        Installing solar panels was the most sound decision I've made in my boating life. Here, I'm providing simple instructions for you to install solar panels on your boat for under 300$. This is a relatively cheap price for solar on a boat and I have not skimped on quality components. If you do it right, you can bang this out in one weekend.

     I am writing these instructions for boat people, however, this is a similar set-up you would use for an RV or small cabin. It should be noted that this is a basic set up that provides a 'trickle-charge' onto your battery bank. This is perfect for keeping your batteries topped off while you are disconnected from shore power. So, while you're out fishing, sailing or anchored out - you can run your low intensity electronics (cell-phone/laptop charger, navigation/anchor lights, stereo, cabin lights, depth-finder, GPS ext...) and still have enough power on your batteries to turn over the engine and get you home. If you want to run heavy appliances (large freezers, dishwashers, hot water heater) off of a solar set-up, then you need a  bigger solar system.

20-watt solar panel on the stern rail of my 30 foot sailboat
    I had many incidents of being stranded at Sea with low batteries until I rigged this panel up. It's been 4 years since the install and I have never had an issue starting up the engine. Plus, there has been zero maintenance (as there are no moving parts). You let the sun do all the heavy lifting.

   So, I put quite a bit of thought into getting these components before proceeding. I talked to some engineers at my marina, re-read the solar chapter from Nigel Calder's updated classic, Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual. I chatted with the electronics guys at my boat stores. The consensus opinion was that all that's needed for the above mentioned application, is a 20 watt panel. I was pointed to this 20-Watt Mono-Crystalline Solar Panel. This recommended panel is the most recent version of what I installed 4 years ago, and it's only about 60$ from that link. This panel is mono-crystalline, which is preferred over poly-crystalline for this type of application. Size-wise, it's only about 16 inches x 18 inches, which is nice, since it doesn't take up much space on the stern rail.

In regards to the power it supplies...

Remember this equation:

Watt = Volts x Amps.

So... for this panel, you get:
Volts (VMP) = 18
Amps (IMP) = 1.11
therefore... 18  X 1.1 = 20 watts

    I have used this panel in Seattle and San Diego, so the whole range of sun/cloud conditions and the 20 watt output has provided plenty of electrons to keep my battery bank happy. (I've got two 12 Volt batteries, a deep cycle and a starter).

   Okay, so now, you've got your solar panel. But, before talking about the install, the only other solar component you need to get is a solar controller. This is necessary for controlling the charge coming off the panel. It enables the charge to be fed to the batteries at the right levels. It is a simple device, but it's critical and you want a good quality controller. My research pointed me to the Morningstar SunSaver-10, Charge Controller, 12V. It has worked flawlessly for me, so I wholeheartedly recommend it. That's another 60$ from that link.
the SunSaver-10 controller mounted in my cabin

Ok, here's the quick and dirty on how to put this together. The basic set-up is this:

 1.   You mount the panel on your stern rail (or where ever the panel gets sun and is out of the way).
 2.   You attach marine grade copper wires to the panel. These are DC wires for a 12 Volt system, so   one black (negative) and one red (positive).
3.   Run the wires into the main cabin.
4.   Attach the wires to the controller.
5.   Attach another set of the same marine grade wires from the controller to your battery.
6.   The red (positive) goes on the Pos. terminal, the black (negative) goes on the Neg. terminal
7.   Crack a beer and relax while the sun tops off your batteries!

Now for some more detail.

     For mounting the panel. Your panel will have an aluminum rail on the perimeter. Drill holes in this and attach 2 aluminum flats to serve as a center mounting rail. Attach these strips of aluminum with stainless bolts and nuts. To prevent galvanic corrosion (aluminum touching steel) use plastic washers. Then, attach these white plastic rail mounts to the new aluminum flats (or something similar). The beauty of these plastic rail mounts is you can adjust their tightness on your boat's stern rail. Therefore, you can push the panel around it's axis so that the panel is facing the sun throughout the day.

    Okay, let's assume your panel is now mounted somewhere on the top of your boat. Next thing is, connect the panel to the controller. First thing, get yourself some Marine Grade copper wire. Get at least 30 feet of black and 30 feet of red. Check your specs. to determine wire gauge.

marine grade copper wire for 12 volt DC electronics

    Decide which terminals are best to use and attach wires to the bottom of the solar unit. There should be a contact box with a waterproof lid surrounding it on the panel.

Then I use plastic zip ties to snug up the wires to the rail and down to the cockpit. Then find a small hole in your cockpit, or drill a small hole and run the wires into the interior of your boat.


   Okay - the rest is simple. Attach the incoming wires to the 'Solar + and -' screws, then attach a new set of wires on the 'Battery + and -' screws. Run the battery wires to the battery terminals.

And of course, use marine grade ring terminals to fit over the battery posts.

Also, remember to measure out the wire length needed for each leg of this journey, so you don't need to splice wires or throw away your first attempt!

Well, that should get you there.

Morningstar SunSaver-10, Charge Controller, 12V
 about 60-70$
20-Watt Mono-Crystalline Solar Panel
about 60-70$
aluminum rails/plastic mounts/bolts/washers/zip-ties
about 70$
marine grade wire/terminals
If you want to be book educated on the topic, before you jump in...get the boat electronics bible
Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual

Price-wise, you should be just under 300$ and you have not skimped on quality products.

This is a small price to pay for an eco-friendly system for keeping your batteries topped off.

It sure beats getting towed back to port.

Good luck!

October 5, 2014

When the wind just dies...


     Often when the wind report calls for 5-10 knots, you head out with some expectations.

Then when you find yourself a mile offshore and floating in a dead calm, you remember the problem with having expectations.

DIY: How to build new companionway doors for your old sailboat

       Here is my new, collapsible companion way door for a 1976, 30 foot Newport sailboat. Alright, this is a piece of cake - nothing to it. I am not much of a carpenter - but I was able to piece this together for about 50$ and a few hours of mucking about with saws and varnish. Guidance and inspiration for this project came from Don Casey's classic sailboat maintenance bible, This Old Boat.

So, here are the pieces of the old door. They are withered, on their last legs. I went to Home Depot, and bought a 8 foot by 4 foot sheet of 1/4 inch weather resistant Birch plywood. This is about 40$. You can try other weather resistant woods (teak ext..)

You just pencil out the dimensions and get cracking with a circular line saw.

You just replicate the dimensions and angle of cut from the old set of doors. It is pretty intuitive. But you have to put in this staggered cut in each - so as to keep rain from entering through the cracks between each piece. So, I cut in half the depth of the Birch at about 1/2 inch in distance into each board. So each piece slide together like puzzle pieces. Check the arrows, the complimentary cuts.

Trim the height to get it just right. So the hatch slides over properly. You can power sand the bottom piece to get it right. Or re-cut if the correction is large.

Then give it a light sand and she's ready for varnish.

       I know there are a lot of varnish afficionados out there- I am not one of them. But I was advised to go with Sikkens Cetol Natural Teak. The prep work is minimal. I lay 2 heavy coats of this stuff down and I am good for a few years. When it is time to re-coat, it just requires a light sand, then apply the Cetol.

       And here she is all finished - the new doors give a cool, two-tone effect of Birch with Teak trim on the door.

September 27, 2014

How to sail your sailboat: coming to terms with your slowly, sinking ship.

  Here's the bad news. Your bilge is not dry, in fact, it is wet. And not just wet, there are many inches of stagnant water sloshing around your bilge. Now here is the good news. You are not alone. Many Sailors, if not most Sailors, are going about the business of their lives, puttering their vessels in and out of harbors while all the while, their boats are slowly drowning in the Sea.
   Tragedy? Not really. This is common practice. All that's required to deal with this problem is a healthy sense of detachment from the undeniable fact that your beloved sailboat is persistently taking on water.
      You want a dry and crisp, water-tight boat, but, in fact, you own a sinking ship.

bilge always taking on water
My bilge: always damp, and by damp I mean flooding with Sea water.
  Don't get me wrong. There are things you should do. And you should do these things. But, you will sleep much better at night once you accept your boat's mortality.

Until that acceptance comes I recommend the following:

Make sure your electric bilge pump is in good working order.
Is the float installed at a height that maximizes the drainage.?
Is the pump mounted at the best possible location in your bilge to maximize outflow.
Is the size/model of the bilge pump (electric rating/water volume outflow) appropriate for the size of both your boat and your battery bank?

Is your battery bank and /or shore power situation in good working order. i.e. If you were to leave your boat alone for many months, do you have confidence that there would be a reliable source of power for the bilge pump (in case, it is being called upon to drain often)?

Is your manual bilge pump in good working order?
Check the gaskets and build up of rust on the inside of this contraption. These are often neglected parts of a sailboat.
And where is that manual pump handle?

Look for leaks in all the likely spots (the seacocks, the propeller shaft, depth-finder .... any place on the bottom of the boat where the hull has been opened up to install some hardware). This part can be done from the inside while the floating.
   However, most fixes will require hauling out the boat to properly reseal these breaches of dryness.

    In closing. Fight like hell to keep your bilge dry and your boat un-sunk. But do not beat yourself up, if despite your best efforts, your bilge remains un-dry and is always taking on a few inches of water.
In general, a few inches every month is fine. Don't panic.
A few inches every day is a crises. Panic.

Please follow the links below for the full 'How to Sail your Sailboat' series:

How to sail your sailboat: putting your boat on the rocks with style.
How to sail your sailboat: owning your cockpit.
How to sail your sailboat: climbing the mast.

September 24, 2014

How to sail your sailboat: mixing a cocktail while underway.

    There are a few, precious moments when a Captain can relinquish command, release the tiller and hand over the helm to a trusted crew member. In this rare moment of reprieve, it is not unheard of for the Captain to mix up a cocktail.
    But, this must be a quick endeavor because a good Captain should never fully trust his crew, especially when they are at the helm. You need to get in and get out of the galley in less than a minute. You like your crew, but you don't love your crew. Back to the cockpit!

The key to the Captain's cocktail is simplicity.

   Here are a few considerations. You may or may not have refrigeration. To be safe, assume not. I rarely do while out sailing. You may have ice at first, but ice melts eventually. Assume you are one week out to Sea and the ice has melted. Concerned? You should be.
   But, you are prepared. You have mixers that don't need refrigeration. Individual cans of mixers. Just pack the boat with these cans. Ginger ale, club soda, lemon soda...
   They never go bad. They are never flat. But they are often room temperature.
   Ginger ale and bourbon will not let you down.
   You have a jar, you add the bourbon, you add the ginger ale.
   No ice! (unless you have ice, then ice!)

         Back to the cockpit!

Please follow the links below for the full 'How to Sail your Sailboat' series:

How to sail your sailboat: putting your boat on the rocks with style.
How to sail your sailboat: owning your cockpit.
How to sail your sailboat: climbing the mast.
How to sail your sailboat: coming to terms with your slowly, sinking ship.