Cat Harbor, Catalina Island by Sailboat

Knowing our daughter would be back in school late in August, we took a short four day trip to Cat Harbor, Catalina last weekend, soaking up pointers like we do every trip.

Starting early Thursday morning (easier to get a mooring and old-timey sailors didn’t like to depart a harbor on a Friday if they’re going overnight) but still oversleeping by an hour, we took off from Oceanside for a long but uneventful trip to Cat Harbor, Catalina Island, California.  Taking the right at the buoy outside Oceanside, we set Tulum IV on course and stayed on the same heading the same way,,,,for 10.5 hours.  Some folks would sort of be astonished that it takes us 10.5 hours to do 51 miles, until you understand that we can’t go faster than 5.5 – 6 knots, don’t know our RPM’s (cause the gauge doesn’t work) and are not really sure about engine temps.  But, we’re still game to do it,,,,so off we went.  Oceanside to Catalina is a northwest slog for most boats, on a sailboat heading into the winds, it’s a real slog.  Yep, we had wind on the nose the entire day (not much) and didn’t sail at all.

Coming back on Sunday morning, we left really early (first light) and were able to get out into deep water without the short steep swells we had in the past.   This time we took a more direct approach to the swells heading out of Cat Harbor, like directly west, until we could make the southerly bearing in which those swells would mainly be behind us and we could surf them.  However, like the last few trips back from Cat Harbor, the wind was in the wrong direction to even think about sailing, so it was another 10 hour motor to get back to Oceanside.

Here’s some interesting pointers we picked up on this trip, as we learn things every trip:

  • The day before we left I had finally gotten our fridge and freezer fixed and was convinced I could run it on the way off the engine when my panel told me I was inverting.  I was inverting, but it was off the batteries, not the engine.  Needless to say, we drained our batteries but we were fine as the solar panels and generator recharged them.  We’ll get this fixed.
  • When mooring, no matter how many times you do it, talk through it with anyone helping you.  We had a bit of a challenge getting our mooring this time when we simply failed to put it on the cleat due to miscommunication.  It also doesn’t help when there are lots of people telling the bow person and the helmsman to do different things.  After we actually got on the mooring, we found out we were between two very nice boats who happened to own the moorings they were on,,,and had an expectation that another boat wouldn’t get put between them.  This led to some interesting exchanges, but it was settled.  While on the mooring, I wanted to test the new bridle that I had made and attached it over the bow to the morning line.  The boat behind me had the same set up, but the boats on either side of me didn’t; meaning I would come pretty close to those boats during the normal afternoon wind cycle.  They were not amused.  I changed back to the mooring setup with no bridle the next day to allay their concerns.
Dyneema Bridle Attached to mooring line- note equalized and doubled line

Dyneema Bridle Attached to mooring line- note equalized and doubled line

  • We like Cat Harbor on the west side of Twin Harbors because we don’t have a lot of trouble getting moorings.  The Cat Harbor side is more sedate with the 1/2 mile walk able to wear out the kids a bit, but not as much noise or hustle and bustle.  Last weekend with no major events going on; the Isthmus side was busy as were 4th of July and Cherry Coves.  It was a good hike to see all this on the fire roads, wore the kids out and allowed us to stretch our legs.  We were able to see one of the elusive Catalina Bald Eagle and met a couple who would be crewing on a boat doing the 2016 Baja Ha-Ha.  Our Marina neighbor is also taking off in October to do the 2016 Baja Ha-Ha, I’m jealous.
Looking down at Isthmus Cove

Looking down at Isthmus Cove

4th of July Cove

4th of July Cove

Cherry Cove

Cherry Cove

  • Loved talking to one of the boats in Cat Harbor who had done the Baja Ha-Ha in 2011 and had come home after some cruising to have a baby.  Hated letting go of their boat before getting the outboard started.  Lesson learned.   Getting towed back to our own boat under the watchful eyes of our “really nice boats” neighbors,,,,priceless.
  • Hot water coming out of your freshwater toilet and sinks while underway (with the water heater off) should be an indication that something might be wrong.  It was to me.  Still have not figured this one out, working on it.  In my opinion only,, freshwater toilets take up a lot of freshwater and I can’t wait to get rid of mine, seriously thinking about an Airhead or a Nature’s Head sort of set-up.
  • Family votes are always funny.  On the way home from Catalina, we had a family vote to name the dinghy (which NOW PLANES).  The winning name was “Boaty McBoat Face”.

Overall, a great trip with some serious lessons.  10.5 hours getting there and 10 hours to come home.  Once home, our sail cover decided it was dry rotted and made me question the usefulness of our lazy jack system, which is also dry rotting.  Upcoming repairs include the engine start panel, a new water pump, cockpit speakers as they literally had bits and pieces falling on us in the wind, sealing up the lower clamshells in my chain locker with epoxy and fiberglass and deciding to take the lazy jacks down and put on a new sail cover.

You can read about our spring trip to Catalina in the “Reviews of Places We’ve Been” category.





John Steinbeck and the Western Flyer

Prior to reading Captain Curran’s Western Flyer Story, it was an interesting centerpiece of literary history but nowhere on my mind.  After reading the story on Captain Curran’s website, I rushed out and bought my own copy of John Steinbeck’s book highlighting the Western Flyer, “The Log of the Sea of Cortez”.  The book I bought was part of a compilation set called:  “John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath and Other Writings 1936-1941: The Grapes of Wrath, The Harvest Gypsies, The Long Valley, The Log from the Sea of Cortez” and the same book is available on Amazon or you can buy it individually in paper or electronic copy.   After reading Captain Curran’s story about the boat’s extensive restoration, I was hungry for more history on the boat itself and John Steinbeck’s travels on it.  So I just googled “Western Flyer” and lots of info popped up, apparently this is a much loved and historical fishing boat that’s been saved from the brink of destruction, now getting overhauled in an attempt to save as much of the original boat as possible.  You can check it out online at the link above.

I am fascinated and drawn to this story because of my own experiences in the Sea of Cortez.  It’s a bit humbling to know that Jacques Cousteau himself read “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” prior to Calypso’s arrival in the sea itself in the 1970’s and considered it one of the seminal works (at the time) on the biology and bio-diversity of the Sea of Cortez.  Of course, once Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso were done studying the Sea of Cortez, their study became the seminal work on the Sea, still quoted today.  On a personal level, I remember sitting on the deck of our boat and watching the Calypso steam past our anchorage in the Sea of Cortez in the 1970’s; which was a huge highlight for cruisers in the area at the time.

The fact that someone has made an effort to save the Western Flyer is most honorable, but if you take the time to google the fate of the Calypso, you’ll see that some have attempted to save and restore her, but petty human greed and bickering are taking their toll as much as the sea ever did.

If you sail or travel or have those aspirations, I challenge you to sit down with a copy of the classic, “Log of the Sea of Cortez” and give it a read.  Or re-read it.  Let me know what you think of it, could make you want to go there!!!




Come Sail Away

My friend who writes on “” wrote this and it’s a great, well researched article with good info

Weird Guy With The Dog

I’m sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea
I’ve got to be free free to face the life that’s ahead of me
On board I’m the captain so climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I’ll try oh Lord I’ll try to carry on

I look to the sea reflections in the waves spark my memory
Some happy some sad
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had
We live happily forever so the story goes
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold
But we’ll try best that we can to carry on

Come Sail Away – Styx

Chad from Live Free 2 Sail Fast recently asked me to write some information about the boat I hoped to purchase and how I came to my decision.  I have spent endless hours reading, watching videos, going to boat yards, talking…

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Book Review: “The Complete Ocean Skipper” by Tom Cunliffe

Honestly, I work on the blog as I go with overall projects in mind and things that come up that I can apply to something interesting, educational or funny on the blog.  My book reviews will go in spurts, as I’ve read the books already, but sitting down and thinking of a more in depth review takes a bit more time and I’m selective about what I review on this site.

The Complete Ocean Skipper by Mr. Tom Cunliffe is the 3rd book he’s written and probably by far one of his most comprehensive.  His other two books fall in line with Mr. Cunliffe’s personal RYA experience and he has vast offshore experience with which to write this book.  He’s he’s sailed all over the world and England has some nasty and serious sailing weather.  The other two books are titled The Complete Day Skipper and Complete Yachtmaster and are worth a look.  I have the 1st Edition Hardcover published in 2016 by Adlard Coles Nautical via Bloomsbury Publishing, with ample pictures and 270 pages.

I admit I picked up this book because I had read a previous review that said Mr. Cunliffe was actually one of the growing list of famous older sailors who were starting to admit/tell folks that Fin Keels were ok for deepwater boats.  I liked that, so I grabbed the book and there’s a lot more than I bargained for.  I like Mr. Cunliffe’s writing, plain and simple.  It seems he has a fair voice and takes the time to explain pros and cons of whatever he’s talking about, but he won’t shy away from saying the truth.  One of these truths is that the fin/spade keel mix doesn’t work well on poorly made boats and there ARE documented instances of fin keel’s coming off boats.  Yep, there are, I’ve read them and I’ve read the Coast Guard write-ups on some of them.  But, Mr. Cunliffe also says that Fin/Keel can work for deep water boats like other keel/rudder mixes as well as admits that he has a “dram” or two of the spirits on passage (I’m ok with this, good on you Tom).  One of the better sections you don’t find in too many modern blue water sailing books is a pretty complete navigation section, including detailed instructions for  sextant use and calculations.  I’m pretty impressed with it, in the days of electronic charts and touch button everything, Mr. Cunliffe still chose to make sure this went into his book, which is a testament to his agenda.

So if you want or need a book with a bit of a different voice about deep ocean or blue water sailing, perhaps give this one a try.


By reviewing and recommending this book, I take no personal or professional responsibility for what you do on the water after reading this book.  On the water, the lives of you and your crew are in your hands.

“The Checklist” and “Mariners Trip Planning” by Chris Couch

I stumbled across reference to Captain Chris Couch’s books while reading the July 2016 Edition of Northwest Yachting, Volume 30, No 1.   Not something I read all the time, but it has a lot of great articles and I hope I can find more volumes.  Inside, I stumbled across the section detailing some of the adventures of Captain Chris Couch, a delivery Captain and Poet who has now added author to his list of accomplishments.  Reading the snippets from “The Checklist“, I was hooked and ordered one for about $13.00 or so plus shipping.

After reading it and the other book that was thrown in, “East Pacific Weather and Mariners Trip Planning” I’m impressed.

The Checklist is exactly what it sounds like, a checklist to use daily, weekly, monthly for Mariners on all sorts of boats, not just sail or power.   Sections covered are what I need:   Maintenance, Spare Parts, Basic Safety Equipment, a massive troubleshooting section, trip planning, Quick Checks, Mechanical Checks ect.

However, it’s more than just checklists; as the book includes info you need at  your fingertips like:  Rules of the Road, weather resources in real time, basic navigation tools, Marine Radio, Mexico/Canada/US Customs, Distances and Important Phone Numbers you might need eventually.

Mariners Trip Planning  is all about the weather, swell, current, bar entrances, distances and basic navigation in an easy to read, easy to take along format.  

Best of all, some of Chris’s Poems are included in each book as well as outstanding Marine Photography which I’m betting he took on several of his longer passages.

Both these books are going on my reference shelf on Tulum.  They are published by Compass Headings Publishing and written by Captain Chris Couch.  They retail for $12.95 each plus shipping and are thin enough to take with you in most situations.

This Blog has no financial interest in Captain Chris Couch or Compass Heading’s Publishing and makes no money from telling you that this book might be a good thing to have with you for reference.

Article to share from Swell Voyage

Patagonia Honolulu Event with these amazing ladies: Lauren Bosworth, Jen Homcy, Ashley Lukens, and Haunani Kane. Thanks for the photo Austin Kino! Last year, Patagonia contacted me about participating in a series of events about ‘women in activism’. I felt excited. To me it meant that I was being recognized as an ‘activist’…

via Journeys to Activism Patagonia Event Tour: Our choices define us — Swell Voyage

International Readers- Thanks

This tiny blog site is getting readership from countries all over the world, which is awesome.  Most countries have coastlines and most sailing is done in the littoral areas of the world, with unrealized sailing potential all over.  When I lived in Central America, the gringos were the ones with the boats, but that’s changed since I was there in the 70’s,,,and it’s GREAT.

I’ll be reviewing a great book by a British Author in the next couple blogs and I’ll be doing a more in-depth review of Captain Couch’s “Checklist“.

So if you’re reading this somewhere besides the US, tell your friends to jump on and take a look, they might like it.  And tell em to follow us,,,as we’re coming to a country near  you in 2018!

Pre-Ocean Checks/Pre-Ocean Inspections and Captain Chris Couch

The ungodly heat for most of the summer (where I live) drives me toward our boat,  but it can’t happen every weekend, so I write about related subjects here.

Whether you own a speedboat for the River, an ocean-going yacht, a sailboat or an airplane; you probably run through a checklist in your head for at least one thing prior to departure: fuel or beer;  but this isn’t nearly adequate and a more detailed list is probably used by most,,,,should be used  by ALL operating vessels or airplanes.

A checklist mentality has been driven into my brain since early in my career and I’ve never  been able to shake it off,  but sometimes my checklists work better in my brain when they’re printed and on a knee board or laminated spindle I can grab at a moments notice.  After my numerous “business trips”,  to some of the hottest places in the world, I noticed my memory and hearing were slowly deteriorating and I was more easily distracted, so I started writing down more important matters on my phone.   One of these matters was what was needed prior to putting the boat to sea, no matter how long we had planned on being out for.

One of the techniques I had drilled into my head from an early age and used all the time during my “business trips” were Pre-Combat Checks (PCC’s) and Pre-Combat Inspections (PCI’s).   These could easily be called Pre-Ocean Checks (POC’s) and Pre-Ocean Inspections (POI’s).   Here’s a bit more information I found about them and have edited a bit for reading ease:

a. Both are intended to accomplish the same thing, which is to have a leader ensure that certain mission critical pieces of equipment are ready. The only real difference is who is doing the inspecting.

b. Commanders (or the Vessel Master) do PCIs.  Platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, and squad leaders (crew or Admiral) do PCCs

c. They are the detailed final checks that all units conduct before and during training and combat operations. You must perform checks and inspections before each event/trip or exercise to check personnel, equipment, vehicles, and mission knowledge. By requiring your unit (crew) to adhere to standards, you ensure that every individual and every piece of equipment will be ready. Pre- combat checks and inspections are an individual and leader responsibility. It is impossible to overstate their importance. Checks and inspections are your greatest asset to combat those twin enemies of unit readiness—apathy and complacency. It is human nature for people to get used to their surroundings and begin to overlook minor problems. By doing regular inspections, you will be able to correct small problems before they become big problems. Some common checks prior to beginning a mission (or trip) include but are not limited to:
• Open water essential equipment
• Understanding of the trip and specific responsibilities
• Food and water
• Navigation
• Deficiencies noted during earlier inspections that have not been corrected yet. 

In my mind, the Pre-Ocean Checks and Pre-Ocean Inspections should be done in separate iterations based on the following:  Pre-Ocean Checks should be done by whichever crew is designated with that responsibility; in a detailed manner in order to cover all the bases needed.  Pre-Ocean Inspections should be done prior to leaving the docks to ensure things are done that will keep the boat afloat and all safety systems are working and enabled.  I do my Pre-Ocean Checks the night before we leave and probably early on the mornings we leave, my wife does her’s the same way, then I do my Pre-Ocean Inspections with my engine warming up but still in a competent and methodical manner.

While reading something I grabbed while getting parts in San Diego, I was impressed with a story about Captain Chris Couch (a poet, writer and Delivery Captain).  I was really impressed with the detailed write-up about the fact that more and more boaters are going into potentially dangerous situations with less and less actual navigation experience and without any sort of “checklist mentality”, they were just coming to their boats, starting them up and taking off.  Captain Couch decided to write his own version of a Pre-Ocean Checklist, calling it the “The Checklist” and starting his own publishing company for this, his poetry and his Navigation Primers called “Compass Headings Publishing”.   I just bought my own copy, and could not be more impressed.  I had dropped a note into the purchase order online letting them know I was impressed with the magazine article and received a personal email back from Captain Couch.  This is a personal touch that let’s me know he cares and has a great product.  I’m impressed.

For those who care, I have no financial partnership or agreements with Captain Chris Couch or Compass Headings Publishing and simply write as a way to possibly let others know about useful products that might help them.  I know this checklist will help us.

How to make the Dinghy Plane

Yep, this is an issue,,,and it can’t be solved with Viagra.  My dinghy won’t plane.  I’ve been frustrated by it, although Michelle has no idea why it bugs me so much.  She doesn’t understand that it will cut down on the water coming over the bow, it will make the ride smoother and I’ll hear less complaints about cold salt water from the various other occupants.  Every time we go to Catalina or have the dink out, I work on it.  I’ve serviced my engine, ensured it was large enough for the dinghy, looked at the dinghy specs (it’s a 11 ft Caribe RIB) and still can’t make the damn thing plane.  So in my frustration, I took to the mother of all info sources,,,,the internet.  While there, I researched and studied others with the same problem and found that the proverb about Occam’s Razor is right again,,,,the simplest solutions are usually the best solutions.   Turns out, I simply need to put more air in the tubes and that will probably do the trick, but I also may have a slow leak,,,so I researched that too.

I was surprised that the three things I wanted could not all be found either on Amazon or the West Marine Website, but I was able to find all of them on the Defender Marine Website, and received great customer service.  You also don’t pay sales tax if you live outside of Connecticut,,,yeah.  So, I went ahead and ordered a double action hand pump that will pump enough air to fully inflate the tubes, some Inland Marine USA Sealant (which can be put into the tubes to block slow air leaks) and a set of Davis Instruments Doel-Fin Hydrofoil fins for the outboard.  These ARE available on Amazon and came highly recommended  by some of the folks who had the same problems with their dinghy’s, so I figured I would give it a try.

If you read this and some of the info in it helps you, then I’m doing ok.  This is my art, this is part of my passion with boating.  I’ve been on and off a boat since I was 5.  Never thought I would be back and interested but it just happened.

A Ride to the Gas Station

Weekend on the boat,  GREAT- Helping a stranger with a simple assist, even better-

Last weekend me and the Hot Girlfriend/Wife and the quiet-demure children spent the weekend on the boat.  We live 3 hours from the boat, so the usual routine is to go to the boat after work, usually arriving there about 9pm, Fri’s.  After a warm beer or a decent glass of wine, we turn in.  The plan for last saturday was to allow me time to work on the boat and the girlies to take the paddleboard to the beach near us; which they did.  Nice surprise for me to discover that neither West Marine or Oceanside Marine Supply have the fuel or oil filters I needed, so my work on the engine was cut short.   However, there’s plenty to do on the boat, so I kept busy.  Several of the slips next to us are empty, so it was no surprise when a decent looking older Catalina, probably a 32, was pulled into the slip.  I didn’t pay it much attention but as soon as I found out she had an engine problem, I made sure they knew I had tools as needed.  Turns out, they knew more about engines than I ever dreamed about.   Sunday was a nice day and we prepped to leave that morning.   The Catalina owner mentioned that they still had engine problems, and wanted directions to the nearest gas station.  The nearest gas station to the Marina is over a mile, so I offered to give him and his gas cans a ride, which he accepted.  On the way to the station, I learned that his Catalina did indeed take regular gas and not diesel, and he has one of the vintage and highly dependable Atomic-4 engines on his Catalina.   The couple who were the next owners were taking the boat on it’s maiden voyage (for them) from Marina Del Rey to San Diego, with a bit of an overnight detour in Oceanside beside us.   The folks could not figure out what was wrong with the engine, but more gas and full Jerry Jugs is always great, so we ran to the gas station to get them filled.  During our conversation to and from the gas station, I learned that both owners were Master Chiefs in the United States Navy and based in San Diego, with his rate  being Senior Machinist.   I think this means he works on engines on Navy Ships,,,,so he has no problems dealing with his little Atomic-4 on his new boat.  Once back to the boat, his wife and him worked on some more problem solving and discovered that one of the battery cables was loose, which was their original problem.   Within a half-hour, the boat was fired up and the little Catalina was gliding gracefully out of her slip bound for San Diego.  On the other side of us, we have another Catalina, a 39.   She’s a good looking boat and is getting ready for Baha Ha-Ha this Oct;  her owners sail her frequently and have great things to say about her.

While a ride to a gas station is no big deal, it made me feel good to help a young couple and duel active duty military like me and hot wife.  Not a big deal,  but perhaps a small way to pay it forward or earn some credit for all the times that we’ll need help in the years of sailing ahead for us.