A lovely, calm day on the water

Day 2 – We are motoring calmly towards the San Francisco Bay after spending an unexpected night at the Pittsburg Marina.  Btw, they don’t charge an overnight docking fee if you are towed into the marina!  That was a nice of them.  It’s a convenient location just a couple blocks from downtown and many restaurants.

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Entrance to Pittsburg Marina

First, of course, there was coffee at the KiteBar Cafe   (side note:  The channel is a favorite among windsurfers, no small wonder since all the flags were pretty much flying straight out from the flagpole!)

THEN we are motoring calmly towards the San Francisco Bay after spending an unexpected night at the Pittsburg Marina.

Not much happens on Day 2 – which is a pleasant, peaceful, sunny day on the water.  Motoring along there are fascinating things to see along the water’s edge.  Cranes (the mechanical ones, not the birds), abandoned docks, derelict houses, dredging equipment.  I am glad to have a personal computer in my pocket so I can search out all these interesting things.

Like this one: SP Ferry Terminal Remains.  Oooo, and there’s free parking!  See what I mean, the things you can learn from having a personal computer in your pocket!

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SP Ferry Terminal Remains

Here’s   East Brother Light Station   Its a B&B on a big rock, although you can simply visit for the day, as well.

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East Brother Light Station

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Isn’t that a cool building?  Now its a B&B, for about $495/night.

Here’s a bridge.

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Yeah, its a bridge, all right.

 

Here’s a seal basking in the sun.

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What a fuzzy picture, darn…

Here’s where ferries go to die, I mean rest.  Really I have no idea what the future holds for them, I shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions.

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Ferries napping

Arriving at Pier 39, we start into the marina – the right side, not the left side – which is an important distinction.  Where was I, oh right, we start into the marina, dutifully blasting our airhorn to let other boats know we are headed in – it’s a blind corner coming into marinas, what with the sea walls blocking our vision.

We’re through the opening and oh, great, a large blue and gold tour boat is headed out and they are BIG.  There’s plenty of room, no need to panic, plenty of room, see, plenty of room and thank the good Lord that the tour boat captain is used to dodging boats – boy howdy is he used to dodging boats in the SF Bay!

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Photo unabashedly stolen from their website.

We pull into our assigned spot, tie up with our usual lines and spring lines (this is important and there will be a test later) and go check in.

Ahhh, Day 2 is without incident.  Or so we thought 😉

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Ms Maggie’s proud captain…see her in the distance?

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Fleet Week Adventures: Drama & Trauma

Before I tell you about our trip to San Francisco Bay for Fleet Week, I’d like to set the record straight re sailboats.

We’ve rented numerous sailboats and catamarans over the years.  Mostly in the 35-40 foot range.  I wasn’t a chicken on those!  I don’t think it’s sailing, per se, that made me nervous as it was the size of the boat.

Just wanted to put that out there.

We’ve been going to Fleet Week for, I don’t know, 8 or more years?  Once the Maritime Museum had an event on the roof of their building and we brought friends and family to that.  The Museum is practically center stage so that was a nifty spot to watch the air shows.

This time it was on Ms Maggie.  We packed up provisions and such the night before so we could get on the water at the crack of dawn.

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Nah, this isn’t all of it

It was going to take our little turtle-speed trawler about 9 hrs to get to Pier 39, where we were spending our first 2 nights.

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Pulling away from the dock

The water was beautifully smooth and tons of tiny fish were poking at the surface!  I took a video but it doesn’t translate well to the ‘big screen’.

All was fine until we hit fog, which was completely unexpected, we turned a corner of the delta canal and plowed right into it.  Fortunately, it lasted all of about 100 feet but it was pretty dense at the water line.  Weird patch of fog just at that one spot.

We continued down familiar territory for an hour or so before turning left where we usually turn right (towards Stockton).

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We’ve counted 20 or more egrets & herons in our bay

We’d planned on topping of the fuel tanks in Pittsburg and pulled into the Pittsburg Marina in the afternoon, all according to plan.

Then our plan went to hell in a handbasket.

Just about 90 seconds out from the Pittsburg marina the engine noise hesitated, and the engine died, again.  We’d just had it at the mechanics to repair the problem and here we are experiencing it AGAIN!  In the middle of the channel.  Drifting with the current.  Aargh.

Rick yells at me to drop the anchor while he opens up the hatch to the engine and climbs down – wait, that sounds too easy – its more like put this foot here and that hand there, then bend and squeeze down into the hatch.  The problem before had been diagnosed as air in the fuel line so he tops off the filters and hand pumps a little lever to move the fuel through the lines to get the air out.

We are drifting toward Channel Marker 13 (I think it was) despite the anchor.  Slowly…inexorably…drifting toward a marker with sharp edges around it and a stabby metal ladder that will cause damage.  I’m not telling Rick this, he’s got enough to worry about, down with the engine, sweating, pumping air out of a little fuel hose for 45 minutes.

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Painting by William Seltzer Rice.

Isn’t that a pretty painting? That’s what the channel marker looked like, but scarier…

I start planning how to keep the boat from hitting the channel marker.  Adding fenders to the sides of the boat,  pulling up the anchor and trying to coast past the marker, throwing my body into the path of danger.  Something, anything!

Then, while most boats go slowly by us, seeing that we are in a bit of a fix, one boat roars by and its wake bounces us around and tosses, no, HURLS the hatch cover into the air, smashing into Rick’s head.

I throw him a towel.  You know how much head wounds bleed?  Yeah, like that.  and me?  I’m still not panicking!

He clambers out of the engine hatch to hold the towel to his head and decides that 45 minutes of effort hasn’t helped (I’ve tried to start the engine periodically during this time).  Best to call BoatUS for a tow.  I mean we are literally a stone’s throw from the marina where we got fuel.

The tow boat arrives quickly and finesses us into a slip.  They are so good at their jobs!

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See the matted blood above his ear?  I was nice & didn’t take a photo of all the blood dripping down his face & neck.

During the wait we started calling around to find a diesel mechanic…on a Friday night…at 5pm.

Finally, we find a guy who says he’ll come down after rush hour.  We head off for dinner and our mechanic hero arrives about 8:30.

Long story short – or is it too late for that 😉  He is terrific, knowledgeable, friendly and helpful!  JustInTime Marine (Just In Time Marine)

Richie figures out that the problem is the fuel pump thingamajig which pushes the fuel through the line – its toast.

The pump must be original to the boat so its lasted a loooong time.  Now the issue is finding the part on a weekend…are we stuck here until Monday?

Then Just-In-Time Richie says ‘hey, you trawler guys always carry spare parts.  Let’s see what you’ve got’.  Rick gets the parts bin out and digs through it.  Low and behold, not the part but an entire fuel pump is there!

J-I-T pops it in and voila!  We are cooking with gas!  I mean, diesel!  Wow, thank you, Lowell!  (the previous owner)  What a testament to being prepared!

J-I-T leaves at 11:30pm.  Our wallets are just a bit lighter and our spirits are much lighter!  The next day we sleep in late and then shove off, headed for Pier 39, finally.

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C & H (C & H), pure cane sugar (pure cane sugar), from Hawaii (from Hawaii), growin’ in the sun (growin’ in the sun )

Oh, I forgot to follow-up about Rick’s wound.  He took some pain meds, but we haven’t done anything else.  We don’t feel like trying to find an Urgent Care facility and its stopped bleeding so that’s good, right?  I don’t see his skull when I part his hair so its fine, for now  😉

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The ONLY thing that makes it worth getting up early is a pretty sunrise like this.

Sailing Bliss…or is it…

We both love to sail.  Well, maybe what I SHOULD say is that we both love being on the water.

What we don’t love is:

  • Not sailing cuz there’s no wind
  • Sailing when its blasting 25 knots
  • Not enough hands to help with the work (or not having a boat with the best equipment)
  • Engine is placed on the wrong side of the rudder
  • Me, being a scaredy-cat

No wind means either you sit floating waiting for the wind to show up (becalmed) or you start the motor.  OK, starting the motor means you give up.  So let’s wait a little bit longer for the wind, LOOK, that boat over there is starting to move, so we will, too, yes, we will, too…just waiting for the wind, just waiting…damn, just start the stupid engine.

Blasting 25 knots?  You need to reef the sails (shorten them, making less surface for the wind to catch) or you take them down completely.  There’s also the ‘me being a scaredy-cat’ inserted here.

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Its nasty waves, bashing against the boat – it’s a good little boat, though.  Too much wind on the sails and it naturally turns into the wind a little bit, like a safety feature!  The problem is more than you really have to pay attention to what you’re doing, either steering or manning the lines, and it gets hard on the feet and knees to be balancing while heeling all the time.

When only 2 of us are handling the boat, it can be really tiring.  The lines have to be pulled in and let out and tightened and let out and pulled in and tightened and the main has to be pulled in and let out and tightened and the traveler has all those things to be done to it, too.  I couldn’t find my sailing gloves so I was using my motorcycle gloves.  Can’t possibly pull on those lines all the time with my bare hands, I felt like the skin was being ripped off.  Plus, here’s another little complaint, while pulling on those lines I have to brace myself on my knees, the nerves of which were damaged in a car accident (not our fault) so that was painful, really painful if I didn’t do it right.

Then there’s the time I destroyed the steering, cuz I’m a dope.

We were sailing with Rick’s parents, his brother and sister-in-law, Ron and Ingrid and nephew James.  I can’t remember what we were trying to do, oh yes, it had gotten very windy so Rick and his bro (who is good on a sailboat) were on the deck of the boat (and I had my heart in my throat because of the wind chop), trying to take down the sails so we could stop in at Angel Island for lunch.

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Info re Angel Island here

Its a great place to visit!

Anyway…I’m at the helm, idiot that I am, I forget to give the boat a little more throttle so to keep it headed into the wind so they can get the sails down.  I’m struggling with the wheel and feel it ‘pop’ and lo, and behold, no steering!  Oh, yay.  Again, no steering.

I had pushed it too far and the blankety-blank cable had popped off the sprocket again!  Criminy.

Now we are in a little harbor at Angel Island with no steering.  But this time, we had the emergency rudder right at hand!!!  See, we DO learn from our (I mean my) mistakes!  My hubby slaps it on and we wander over to the 10 minute dock at the marina and decide we don’t care, we are having lunch and we’ll deal with it all afterwards.

Now, lunch is over and we are trying to figure out what to do, we are a couple hours out from our home marina and the wind is crazyCRAZY and we have to use the emergency tiller.

Rick decides it would be better to motor home than to try to sail using the emergency tiller.

The chop is so bad we are very glad we aren’t sailing.  Yet it’s not so bad that some racing kayakers aren’t out in it.  I can’t believe they are so far from shore in this weather.   They’re pretty spread out but, naturally, it seems we are on a course to hit one.  Weird how that works, all this space and we have to avoid the kayaks.

Fortunately, the way into the marina is via a long, very sheltered estuary and we have all recovered enough from our ordeal to set our sights on dinner at a restaurant in the Jack London Square on the Oakland waterfront.  A lovely end to our adventure.  Jack London Square info

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By the way, we figured out how to fix the blankety-blank problem with the steering cable.

Picture a bicycle gear and chain.  The bicycle chain looks the same along its entirety.

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Pretty cool, actually, turned into a chandelier, right?

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Anyway, the steering chain is similar except it ISN’T the same along its entirety.  So, if you turn the wheel far enough the chain becomes a plain cable which no longer meshes with the sprocket and it slips off.  Stupid design.

So, MacGyver, I mean Rick, put a clamp at each end of the chain where it attached to the cable so it can’t be pulled past the clamp and pop off the sprocket.  Genius, I say, genius!  In the Zombie Apocalypse, this guy is one you want to have around!

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Get your ZA Survival Kits here

Now, I was much more comfortable on the boat, one less stupid mistake for me to make!

Why is the engine in the wrong place and what does that mean?  Ours used to have an inboard but it disappeared long before we bought it.  We could add an inboard for a huge amount of money or add an outboard off the stern of the boat for a lot less money.   Here’s the post on the outboard engine

When the propeller is in front of the rudder, you can steer more easily cuz the water is being pushed into the rudder, then the rudder gives it direction.  When the propeller is behind the rudder, you get less effective steerage.  You are aiming the rudder and then pushing the water with the propeller.  The rudder doesn’t have a lot to work with.  Rick got used to it but it meant getting into our dock slip was a bit more of a challenge.

Why am I such a scaredy-cat?  Well, you can easily die within 15 minutes if you go overboard into the San Francisco Bay.  It’s that cold!  June temp is an average of 52.8 degrees F (11.5 degrees C) .  I don’t want anyone up on the deck for any reason and on a sailboat, that’s an impossible thing to ask.

Even Rick, the most sensible, calm person, who knew how to handle himself with ease, would go up to the front to raise the jib or the main and I’d be a nervous-nellie – dumb, I know.  I tried not to show it but he figured it out :-\

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Maybe I’m such a baby about it because there is no easy way to retrieve a person who’s fallen in.  Especially when you’re with people who are newbies.  YOU! Throw out the cushion!  YOU, don’t take your eyes off the person, and YOU take the lines!  While I’m going to a beam reach and counting to eight and flipping a U-y and coming back around, aiming for upwind of the person, releasing all the lines and letting the boat drift into them >whew< I don’t mean to insult anyone reading this (particularly those we took out with us) but it’s a big responsibility and I felt that burden – needlessly, it seems, since no one fell in.  I used to rehearse it in my head all the time.

Maybe it would be better if I was sailing in a warm place; you fall in and you love it! file000825896197.jpg Leave me here…come back for me on the return trip 😉

The America’s Cup

When Rick heard that the America’s Cup would be held in the San Francisco Bay he decided he would see it from the water.

When we purchased the sailboat Rick had given himself a deadline that we’d have enough done to be able to be out on the water for the America’s Cup.  At the time, the race was a year and a half away, plenty of time!  But we barely made it.

Being fed up with the old motor (purchased second hand anyway, screw being frugal) Rick went to the Oakland outboard shop and purchased a branch new 15 horse Mercury kicker motor – called a kicker because it is specifically designed with high torque pushing a heavy boat using a small engine.  Hmmm, maybe it should be called a ‘pusher’ instead?

We installed it using all the same hookups as the old Merc had but now it was New and Dependable!

Rick and I took it out sailing a few times to get a feel for the boat, how it handled in chop and how it floundered around when there’s no breeze (give up and motor, already!)

America’s Cup was in September so Rick invited some family members, including his parents to come along with us.  Rick’s mom loves sailing and insisted on dragging Dad with her.  We headed out.  We motored around to the City side of Treasure Island and decided that now was not a good time to try to sail.  The crush of boats was incredible.  We all had the same idea.  Even ski boats were out there trying to catch some of the race.  We motored over to the Turn 2 buoy (southeast of Alcatraz Island) … where we puttered around very slowly like every other boat in the crowd, trying to avoid each other while staying in position.  Well, most of us tried to avoid the rest of us.

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Our best example of a close call was when a 50’ plus sailboat under full sail, UNDER FULL SAIL!, going about 10 knots sailed through the spectator fleet expecting everyone to get out of his way because we are “under power” and he is “sailing”.  He missed other boats by maybe 5’ with all the other captains screaming and honking at him as he went by – and he barely looked in our direction!  (This happened again when we went out to see the Blue Angels – tons of boats, all motoring at the slowest speed possible, basically staying in one spot’ish and some jerk sails through us.  Keep in mind we were hunkered out of the way as close to the sea walls as we could be and he has to be sailing right there…where we are…jerk…)

 

This is how qualified that guy was to hold a steering wheel in his hand!

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Side note:  Look how cool the Blue Angels look against the Golden Gate Bridge!

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All in all it was great fun to watch those big America’s Cup boats come flying around the Number 2 buoy, staying up on their hydrofoils around the turn going as fast as an offshore power boat.  You can see the guys on board leaning into the turn like they’re in a sports car.  Wow.

It was one of those once in a lifetime events that we were glad to be able to see in person.

Rick can check off another item on his Bucket List 😉

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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.

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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.

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(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?)

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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!)

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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!)

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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 😉

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