Napa to Alameda and Murphy’s Law

I wave goodbye to Rick and he’s off!  Motoring from the marina in Napa, where the boat had been dry docked, to Fortman Marina in the Alameda Island Estuary where our little boat will have its forever home, as they say.  It’s about an hour from our office/apartment.

The trip was going to take most of the day, so I drove back home to await Rick’s call when he got close to the Estuary.  At that point, I’d drive to the Alameda marina and we’d drive back home.

SF bay snip.jpg

So here is Rick’s story: (I’ve added little notes here and there)

Took a day off work and we headed up to Napa.  Holly dropped me off at the marina in the morning so I’d have all day to get the boat to its new home in Alameda.

Although my son, Austin, had joined me for the trip up the river, he was now out of town and I’d have to go down the river to Alameda on my own.

Our little outboard was running good, had plenty of fuel in the tank and the plan was to motor all the way to the new marina. (Note: in the interest of being frugal, we purchased a second-hand outboard)

The weather forecast was that it would be overcast in the afternoon with winds expected to pick up to about 15 mph.

To be on the safe side, I brought my toolbox and sails on board.  (Note: this guy always has his toolbox with him, good thing, too, as you will soon see)  I installed the mainsail back on the boom but didn’t hank on the jib as I didn’t have a containment bag for it on deck.

Engine fired up nicely and I headed down the river.  I had my Humminbird 5” chart plotter on the steering pedestal working great.  I knew I needed the depth sounder as there are lots of shallow spots coming down the Napa River and the channel gets fairly narrow in places.

I used my cell phone to call the Mare Island Causeway bridge operator.  He was very polite and opened it for me and another boat.

mi_bridge.png

 

 

(Note: This isn’t a photo of the front of our sailboat…I’d kill for roller furling!)

Then I headed down to the Carquinez Straight and took a right turn into San Pablo Bay.

As I motored along at about 5 knots I noticed a sailboat behind me about .5 mile going in the same direction.  (Note: I’m not sure why Rick mentions this since the other boat doesn’t figure into the story at all, but whatever, it’s his story) When I was about 4 or 5 miles down the bay, about 1 mile off shore, my little engine began to sputter badly and then just gave up completely.  The wind had built and there was now an 18” chop that I had been bouncing through nicely.  But what it did was stir up garbage in the old fuel tank.  Even though I had a spiffy new spin-on fuel filter, it had clogged the filter enough to starve the engine for fuel. (Note: Rick didn’t say ‘spiffy’ he said ‘nice’ but he’d said ‘nice’ previously so I wanted to use a different word)

I had a spare filter on board so I went down to spin the clogged one off and it would not budge, I pushed, pulled, cajoled but it wouldn’t budge.  I went looking for my filter wrench but I realized it was not on board.

I wasn’t interested in hammering a big screwdriver through the filter to use it as a handle to rotate it off (even though this is a trick for oil filters) because I didn’t want gasoline leaking out all over the bilge of the boat!

Realizing this engine wasn’t going to start, I was glad I brought along a sail, after all it is a sailboat.  So, as I bounced around in San Pablo Bay, I started bringing up the mainsail.  As most sailors know, a sailboat bobbing around like a cork in water always turns beam to the wind.  In this position, it’s rather difficult to raise a mainsail.  (Note: The pressure from the wind on the sail makes it hard going to crank it up. PLUS Rick is standing on the deck by the mast while the boat is bouncing up and down in the chop.)

When the sail was halfway up I heard a loud bang and realized that I had forgotten to lock the steering well at the pedestal and the boat ‘backed down’, which slammed the rudder all the way to one side and popped the chain off the steering sprocket. (Note: Blankety-blank steering sprocket was installed upside down by previous owner and it’s a blankety-blank to rectify that)

 

I finished getting the mainsail up and secured it with the main sheet which brought the boat nose to the wind at which point I had no steering whatsoever.

I don’t care how many years you’ve been sailing, you can still be stuck in really stupid situations.

So, the first thing I did was go below to get my emergency tiller.

Guess, what?  I forgot to bring the emergency tiller on board. (Note: it’s in our office basement, lovingly given about a hunnerd coats of finish to make it glossy and shiny)

Now what, I’m scratching my head to find something I can use as an emergency tiller.

Looking through my toolbox, the biggest thing I had in there was an 18” crowbar, one of the reasons the darn toolbox is so heavy. (Note: I love a good crowbar, don’t you?)

crowbar.jpg

I was able to hook the edge of the crowbar sort-of into the edge of the emergency rudder post and managed to get some steering. (Note: Think about it…most sailboats have large steering wheels or a 3 foot long tiller.  Rick was using an 18” crowbar, so his leverage was minimal and he had to hold on tight and manhandle it.)

One of the things about sailing in the bay area, no matter where you are, north bay, south bay, east bay, the wind is always coming from the Golden Gate, which means I was nose to the wind to slog my way south to Alameda. (Note: Rick used a different word than ‘slog’ but ‘slog’ is so descriptive, don’t you think?)

Sailing a 30’ boat upwind means it won’t point very high. It also means it’s going to take a looong time to go the several miles I needed to go to civilization. (Note: Why didn’t he call the tow company?  He doesn’t really know, he just thought he could do it himself)

The nearest port of call to my position was Richmond and the nearest marina was the Richmond Yacht Club.  It took all afternoon for me to make it to the yacht club and I got in just before sunset. (Note: I don’t want to contemplate how hard this would have been to do in the dark.  In fact, I don’t want to contemplate much of this episode, I can’t imagine being out there like that.  I’ve married MacGyver!)

MacGyver.jpg

I sailed in past the breakwater past the boat docks to the guest dock at the yacht club where there was a bit more maneuvering space. (Note: not all marinas have this kind of space to maneuver!)  When the people on the dock, who were tending to small dinghies saw me coming in they let me know this was a private yacht club.  I waved at them with my emergency tiller – a crowbar – and yelled, “I got no steering, guys!”

My first pass, I missed the dock, so I did a 360 in the turning area and came in again letting the mainsail go in time to drift into the dock.  Everyone grabbed the boat since I had no fenders or lines out and I jumped up across the cockpit to let the main-sheet go in order to depower the boat.

Ah, safe at last.  I picked up my cell phone to have the wife come and rescue me.  (Note: I got there way after dark since the car’s nav system didn’t realize the fastest way to the marina was via a tunnel that was closed.  Rick immediately fell asleep in the car, he was exhausted)

I realized the boat would have to be there overnight, to which the yacht club was amenable.  (Note: In fact, the next day he was a minor celebrity coming into the harbor ‘hot’ like that and not crashing into anything!)

Rick at the helm.jpg

Even though I was able to replace the fuel filter, the motor still refused to start.  Evidently the bad fuel had gotten all the way into the engine and clogged things up.  I took a look at the steering and realized fixing it would be a chore because I had to release tension in the cable in one of the pulleys to get enough slack to get the chain up and over the sprocket.  (Note: this stupid steering issue was a continual problem until we, I mean Rick, figured out how to fix it)

The next morning, after being sufficiently frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to fix it in a couple hours, I called BoatUS and got towed all the way to our Alameda Estuary berth.  Evidently an ego adjustment was necessary. (Note: Honestly, this guy has no ego about anything, he’s so laid back about everything!  I, on the other hand, tend to get nervous easily, which I hate!  And try to fight since I, as you can tell, married MacGyver! If you have to be in an emergency situation, Rick is the guy to be with.)

My triumphant entry into Fortman Marina was at the end of a tow line and I could see my wife standing on the shore taking pictures and having a good laugh. (Note: I wasn’t really laughing that hard, more of a snicker and even then just a little one.  If boats are for fun, we’re having some fun now 😉

th.jpg

 

 

 

 

Back in the water!

The outside of the boat is DONE – sanded, primered, caulked, refinished, painted.  The mast is back on with a fresh coat of paint, too.

We are ready to put ‘er back in the water.

Launching has to be timed perfectly.  There are 4 important factors to consider:

  1. Schedule at Rick’s work
  2. Schedule at the Napa marina
  3. Schedule of the tides
  4. Schedule of the wife, me

Rick needed to plan the boat launch so that he could move WITH the tide, not against it—primarily because the outboard motor is wimpy with a capital W.  No sense in making the trip harder, right?

The Marina’s launch truck had to be available, Rick had to plan his work schedule about 2 weeks ahead so he could be off work AND I needed to drive him up there and then pick him up after docking at the Fortman Marina on Alameda Island.

Putting the boat back in the water is a simple process.  The specialized trailer slips between the dry dock supports.

The trailer slips right into place.

The trailer slips right into place.

IMG_0023_3675

The rig.   Oooh, look at our paint job!

Then the trailer’s supports lift the boat from the spindly ground supports.  The package then maneuvers around and backs onto and down the ramp.

Backing down...

Backing down…

Slowly being lowered into the water...

Slowly being lowered into the water…

She's floating!

She’s floating!

...empty slip...

…empty slip…

We get the boat gassed up at the Napa marina’s floating gas station and I wave to him as he motors down the river.  Bye, Rick!  See you in Alameda.  😉

Its Potty Time!

Today I am sitting in the backyard typing on my laptop.  It’s a beautiful day, albeit a teensy bit cool.  I’ll probably only be able to sit out here for an hour before it gets too chilly.  Still, I’m outside!

Rick is outside, too.  He’s in Napa, working on the boat…still…as usual.  He reminded me this morning that it’s been almost exactly 1 year since he bought it.  The Susurrus has come a long way but there is still much to do.

Looking through the vines

You can see the masts on the other side of the grapevines.

Recently, Rick installed the potty!  Yippe!  That was a dealbreaker for me.    Rick put in a holding tank a couple weeks ago.  The boat was built back when it was perfectly acceptable to dump your waste overboard (or rather ‘underboard’ since it went from the toilet into the sea.  Now, we aren’t allowed to do that unless we are 3 miles offshore.  And I’m not going to go into the whole debate of how boaters really aren’t the issue as much as the landlubbers’ waste polluting the bay, although you can guess what side I’m on…).  So we have a new potty, new lines and a holding tank where none existed before, yay!  And after my embarrassing episode involving a powdered creamer container last summer, I am particularly glad of it!

Holding tank and pipes into and out of.

Holding tank and pipes into and out of.

Seawater is used to flush, see the little filter at top right?

Seawater is used to flush, see the little filter at top right?

Yay!

Yay!

The stove is in – alcohol, because that’s the least dangerous cooking fuel – propane tanks are pressurized, for one thing.  Many of the lights have been put in, too.

That was a pain, not because of the effort to put in the lights, but the effort to find the right ones.  Rick wanted LEDs because they use the least amount of power, but most of the websites/packaging don’t bother to list how many watts or lumens – I forget which one.  Dim light?  Forgedduboudit!

Darn it, it’s getting chilly.  But not quite cold enough for me to give up and go inside.  Once I go inside the laundry will be calling me, so I’m perfectly happy ignoring it out here.

He worked on refinishing some wood last weekend, for the bathroom cabinets.  Remember when he scavenged some stuff from a salvaged Islander?  Well, he’s using those pieces – cutting off the damaged parts to create the cabinet framing.  My man is handy, isn’t he!

Beautiful cushions, happy hubby!

Beautiful cushions, happy hubby!

Speaking of ‘handy’ here’s a picture of the Rick on the cushions that Cindy Trupski made for the boat.  She’s also extremely gifted.  Rick found the material online – it’s a Tommy Bahama fabric.

We are getting closer and closer to being on the water 😉

A hubby with a hobby is a happy hubby!

I have a very happy hubby. 

Rick is the type of guy who always has a project, working with his hands, researching this and that, reading up on repair, refinishing, installing, best buys, best product, on and on and on and on and on.  Naturally, with all his researching, I learn stuff, too.  Sometimes more than I need or care to know but I’m a good sounding-board, if nothing else.

He spent the whole day Saturday doing boat-related stuff.  Online he found out about a guy who was parting out a salvaged Islander and went to his yard sale in San Leandro.  Unfortunately, the floorplan of that Islander didn’t match ours, so the cushions and carpet wouldn’t have fit, but Rick did buy a stainless steel bracket for an outboard motor – paid $25 and they are over $200 new…it needed some spiffing up so, Rick spent the rest of Saturday night and some of Sunday taking Brasso to it.  I took a nap.  All his energy wipes me out. 

oooh, side note:  I think I’m gonna need one of these hammocks on the boat!  What a lovely way to nap!

I used to have a hammock, in a previous house, under a lovely trellis – such a peaceful place to be in the summer, listening to the lawnmowers and barking dogs and giggling, squealing kids playing on their Slicky Slides!  Seriously, though, I had some super-duper Sunday naps out there on my green and white hammock from Crate and Barrel.

After a bit, he came into the bedroom, lay down and started talking about all the different options for a motor…I’m sure I was asleep for some of it!  In fact, I dreamed I was typing what he was saying and started laughing about a typo (I know – boring dream) which made me laugh in my sleep, which made him figure out I was not paying very close attention, heehee. 

Anyway, the bracket connects the outboard motor to the boat and allows it to be lifted out of the water when we don’t need it.  It’s spring-loaded so it will take some of the weight off the engine when we lever it up and down.  Of course, when he bought the bracket he hadn’t yet completely decided whether or not to get an inboard or an outboard – but he figured he could clean it up and fix a spring and resell it.

Rick also went to the dry-dock facility in Napa and talked with them about the logistics of getting the boat there and costs associated with taking it out of the water, loading it onto supports and then, when Rick is done, putting it back in the water.  They call that a ‘round trip’ 😉  He was very enthusastic because they have plenty of room for our boat and he can work on it there and there isn’t some firm timetable that he has to adhere to.

Anyway, he’ll leave it for a few days at their guest dock while they prep the space for it.  They have to pull it out during high tide.

OK, back to Saturday, he spent a lot of time at the boat checking out the electrical system – doing some tests on it, mapping out where the wiring is going and where he wants to put new wiring.

 It was pouring rain most of the time, which turned out to be a very good thing, because he discovered a big leak in the bathroom by the sink.  The previous owner had done some stanchion repair and forgotten to caulk the bolts, which were letting in the rain. 

 Rick caulked it all up and it should be fine, now…we hope…

 He removed the old electrical panel and tried to clean it up but it will always look a bit dingy – it’s over 40 years old, after all. 

 Today Rick’s off to Fresno to look at a 2 stroke outboard with an electrical start and no tiller.  All those things to factor in: 

– 2 stroke weighs less but you have to put an additive in with every gasoline fill-up. 

– An electrical start costs more (and weighs more) but you don’t have to manually pull on a cord to start it – something to factor in when the engine is 3’ below you and you have to bend over the transom to reach it!  Can you say ‘awkward’?

– Tiller or no tiller?  Well, a tiller means you have to turn the outboard with the tiller, no tiller means that you hook it up to the wheel on the sailboat.  If the engine came with a tiller, then Rick would have to figure out how to disconnect that and hook it up to the wheel.  Again, can’t really use the tiller when you have to reach over the transom.

 He had found some used inboard engines but they were about $1500-2500.  Not including having to pay someone to install it.  Although we did find a guy in our trade program, IMS, who could do that.  It would be nice to have a ‘real’ engine and not look like trailer-trash on the water, but the cost is incredible in light of our tiny budget.  Oh, maybe ‘trailer-trash’ is an insult?  Well, OK, we’d look like rednecks on the water…

 Once the motor is purchased, Rick and a kid (our kids are 25, so they aren’t really kids, except in our minds)  will go up to Vallejo and install it, THEN it gets motored up to the dry dock in Napa where Rick will begin cleaning the hull and installing the new electrical stuff – lights, bilge pump, motor, electrical panel, water pump (I think, although we’re still talking about that).

 We’re analyzing the stove issue – alcohol, propane, CNG, electrical?  Propane tanks need their own special, vented space, which this boat doesn’t have, so propane is out.  Electrical would drain the batteries faster.  Alcohol is less dangerous but it doesn’t heat as, uh, hotly as other means.  Since we already have a CNG truck, we’re thinking of going that route.  We know where to get tanks refilled, after all.

 I asked Rick how he’d go about refilling the tank after docking in, say, San Diego.

He said he’d pull the tank and call a cab.  I’m like “And what cabbie is gonna let you bring some big scary-looking bomb-like tank into their cab?”  And looking for a pic of a CNG tank, I found a bunch of questions on blog posts where people are asking for how-to’s on changing their stoves from CNG to propane because so many marinas aren’t carrying CNG anymore…hmmm…plus a chart showed that CNG burns less hotly than alcohol.  Aaargh, you see how easy it is for my brain to hurt!

 There are some damaged stanchions on the boat.  Because we have to replace them anyway, I’d like to have a transom seat like this one:  It’s built into the stern rail system and would be such a cool place to sit…but it’s about $450, not including the cushion and back rest, so…not yet.  Budget, I tell myself, budget!

 Yeah, for those of you asking, that’s me on the seat…well, maybe not 😉

Days 4 through 6 with the Susurrus

The boat’s original name was Susurrus, according to the racing plaques inside.  Comes from Latin, meaning whisper.  I’m not sure we’d keep that name…

On Day 4, Rick went back to Vallejo and paid the balance of the purchase price, poked around all over the boat taking pictures and measurements, checking out the electrical stuff and loading into his truck all the sails and various items left in the boat. 

Rick came home around 7:30pm and all he could talk about was what he’d discovered – the brand of the marine batteries (Kirkland from Costco!  Who knew Costco sold marine batteries?  Waaay cheaper to buy that brand, about ½ the price),  the number of winches (8), the number of electrical outlets, how big the lazarete is for storage and what color we should we paint the hull and should it match the new cushions of the interior and what color should the sail covers be?

He also went to West Marine and got their huge catalog, so he’s going through it bit by bit and checking out prices and reading their articles, researching and studying – which is what Rick does really well.

Rick’s been online for hours looking at Craigslist and discovering that there are places where he can get rebuilt engines – so now do we put in an outboard for $500 or an inboard for $2500?  I think I know what we’ll do, can you guess?

The articles he’s reading show that he can even rebuild the winches, if need be.  One is sorta stuck but the others work smoothly.

 Day 5, we pull the sails and other stuff out of the back of the truck and check everything out.  For the foul-weather gear  1 jacket is ok but the other jacket and pants are ripped too badly so in the trash they go.  2 life-jackets are old and tired but good enough to be put to use in an emergency.  The life-pillow, whatever, is ugly and looks like someone peed on it, but it’s usable, too.  It doesn’t smell, so we’ll keep it.  We’ve still got our gear and life-vests from when we took lessons, fortunately.

Most important are the sails.  There are 5 of them and Rick is excited to see what we’ve got.

 4 are in their own bags, most of them stained and faded, but solid.  One of the bags is even stencilled with the boat’s name on it.  We pull out the first one and it’s dirty but in good shape – a mainsail – and it has the boat manufacturer’s info on it.

The 2nd is a jib, also in good shape!  The 3rd one is also a mainsail, larger than the first but it has a small rip along one side and will need to be taken in for repair.  It’s a Pineapple sail, a good brand, and they’re out of Oakland, so we’ll take it to them.

The 4th sail is the one Rick is most enthusiastic about.  It’s a spinnaker.  We haven’t learned to use one of those yet, so I think a class at Spinnaker Sailing inRedwood City is on our To Do list.  You can’t just throw a spinnaker sail to the wind and expect good results!  It takes finesse.  It’s a beautiful sail, wide horizontal stripes of orange, yellow, light and medium blue.  It’s been repaired numerous times but that’s ok.  It needs some repair now, but that’s ok, too, because they are so thin, like parachute silk, that I can do it on my sewing machine.  Well, I can once my sewing machine has been tuned up.

 The 5th sail is unusual, I can’t recall the name – something that starts with a B and doesn’t make sense…bowler? blurb? bouncer? bummer?  I dunno but somehow in my mind its related to throwing up, strange – ANYway, it’s used along with a spinnaker, on the opposite side.  Another sail we have to learn how to use – either that or sell it.  It was wet when we got it out of the bag so we draped it over Austin’s car to dry.

Now the sails are in the basement awaiting their futures.  We’ll have to get a bag for one of them – that bag will look mighty odd, all fresh and new, compared to the other tired but serviceable bags.  Hmmm, can I buy used sail bags?  eBay, here I come!  …turns out I CAN!  I just saw a bag for $60…too expensive for me, though, I suppose I could make one.  My sewing skills are somewhat minimal, but I’m pretty sure I can sew up a bag…with a drawstring…

Day 6 has Rick at DMV paying for the registration.  Here’s where buying an old clunker has its advantages!  Not only was the line at the DMV very short, the Los Gatos branch, registration for this 30’ sailboat is only $83 a year!  Now that’s happy news!

 Rick will be back up toVallejo on Saturday and Monday.  Will he buy a used outboard motor?  It’s certainly a lot easier to install!  He could do it himself – that is with the help of one of our sons – need a skinny butt to work down inside the lazarette.  Once that is done and some electrical repair, he’ll sail it – I mean, motor it – to the dry dock  in Napa.  Oh, what’s a lazarete, you say?  Its the storage area under the cockpit of the sailboat, accessed by lifting one of the seats along the side.

If Rick gets an inboard motor, then we have to wait for that to be installed before taking the boat to the dry dock.  And THAT means a month of slip rental at the marina. 

I think we might end up like many of our HOMETEC Architecture clients, buying a cheaper solution now and planning on upgrades later, when we can afford it.  No big, our egos can handle it 😉