Webb Chiles Responds

As promised, Webb Chiles got back to me when he returned from his break in Florida.  He is preparing his Moore 24 for his sixth circumnavigation and plans to leave San Diego without fanfare or media coverage of any type sometime in May or so.

His Moore 24, Gannet, is a fast, well built boat, but her cabin is smaller, much smaller in fact, then the Excalibur 26 cabin.  Because he will have to provision for a month or more at sea without promise of re-supply, his tiny cabin will likely be organized like a 3D puzzle.  If you’ve read about any of his previous voyages, he survives on little when necessary and he is certainly not outfitting with many of the extravagances that a cruising liveaboard might have on board.

I will post updates on his trip as they become available.  In the meantime, if you aren’t familiar with his travels and writing, spend some time on his website.  Much of his writing, including some of his books, is available for free.  I’d encourage anyone who’s visiting there to find something to buy on the site to support his ability to sail on.

His writing style retells his experiences through the senses involved.  He creates a vivid picture of what happened and is very visual in nature, but also combines the sounds and smells that a lone voyager may experience.  In the absence of the sensory overload of the modern world, it’s the simple things we overlook in an urban environment that Webb reminds us of.  One finds humor in his writings, usually dry, usually an inside joke that a limited audience will get, very clever, sometimes ironic, but definitely funny.

His Excalibur 26 was only his for about two years.  He starts…..

“Hello, Todd,…

“Of my Excalibur, as is stated in ‘downsizing’, I took delivery new at Jack London Square in January 1967 and kept her in a slip at Berkeley until August when the woman who was then a part of my life sailed her to San Diego, with a single stop in Santa Barbara.  The Excalibur, which I never named, was my first boat and that my first coastal passage.  The bolt through the mast securing the spreaders broke off Point Conception, causing one of them to dangle down ineffectively, but we made it to Santa Barbara without losing the mast.

“She and I lived aboard for a year and a half in San Diego’s Mission Bay.  In fact at Seaforth Marina on the other side of Quivira Basin where GANNET, my Moore 24, is presently and from which I will sail next month for Hawaii to begin what I hope will be my sixth circumnavigation.

“After living aboard for almost a year, I ordered an Ericson 35 and traded the Excalibur in on her.  That would have been in late 1969.

“I never raced the boat.  When I go sailing I want to think only of the wind and sea, not other people.  I did sail her a lot along the southern California coast and out to the islands and learned a great deal from her.

“I don’t recall the hull number and have no knowledge of what became of her.  However, an Excalibur 26 moved into Driscoll Marina a few months ago, and I was pleased to see one up close again.  They are pretty boats whose looks have stood the test of time.

“Wishing you continued joy of sailing.

“Webb”

 

Gannet, The Moore 24 Chiles will sail during his upcoming circumnavigation.  Additional information about the boat and its outfitting is available at www.inthepresentsea.com.

Webb Chiles, First Boats, and Selecting Sails

Webb Chiles – multi-circumnavigator, writer, adventurer – used to own an Excalibur 26.  It was, in fact, his first boat, purchased in the Bay Area in January 1967.  It’s mentioned on his website — http://www.inthepresentsea.com/ — and in some of his writings.

I found an article he wrote titled “Downsizing,” and could relate to it for a couple reasons.  One, he owned the same boat I did.  The same model year.  Hell, I could now own the boat he purchased new (probably not, but cool to think).  Two, I gave considerable thought to, and lost a lot of sleep when, trying to decide what size sail I was going to have built to install on my furler.  I’ll address the furler later, in a separate post, because I’ve come to love and hate it for different reasons.

I e-mailed Webb and asked for permission to quote from “Downsizing” and asked him if he wouldn’t mind sharing any of his thoughts, experiences, or stories involving his Excalibur.  I didn’t expect a quick answer but was very pleasantly surprised when he replied the next morning.  He explained that he was in Florida but that he would respond more fully when he returned home and said I could quote from “Downsizing” on my blog.

He starts out…”In late January 1967 near Oakland, California’s Jack London Square, I took delivery of my first boat, a new Excalibur 26, which was a kind of mini-Cal 40, the hot race boat of the time.  I was twenty-six years old, and it was a day I had been dreaming of for literally half my life,   I had taught myself how to sail the way I taught myself most things:  by reading and then doing.  I thought I knew how to sail; but this would be the first time I’d ever been the one in charge of the boat, as well as the first time I ever sailed alone.

“I was in a word, innocent, and the salesman had taken advantage of that innocence and sold me a lot of stuff I later discovered I didn’t need, including a 170% genoa.  For some reason the 170 and the mainsail were the only sails on the boat that day.  The working jib wasn’t ready, and neither were my outboard motor or winch handles.  Across the years this is beyond tolerance or belief; but such was my excitement that I pushed the boat away from the dock anyway to sail her to the slip I had rented at Berkeley Marina.

“The distance was about nine miles:  three west tacking out the channel between Alameda Island and Oakland; three northwest under the Bay Bridge; then three back east to the marina.  Even though the wind was moderate for the Bay area, short tacking that genoa without winch handles was hard work.

“I still remember the joy I felt when I cleared the end of the channel and was finally out in the chop of San Francisco Bay.  I was sailing, sailing my own boat, and I didn’t have to pull the jib across again for almost an hour.   My hands were bloody on the tiller, but I didn’t care.

“After a final tack, I was able to turn downwind for the marina.  My slip too was downwind.  I had expected to be entering it with the outboard, and decided to lower the mainsail outside the marina and sail in under jib alone.  Faced with the same situation forty years later, I’d do it the same way.

“I don’t recall the square footage of the genoa.  Certainly it was considerably less than the genoa on my current 37’ sloop, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.  But it seemed enormous as I kept easing the sheet, trying to spill wind and speed as I turned into the slip.  The bow did hit the dock, but not too hard, before I leapt off and secured dock lines.  After I lowered the flogging sail–this was before furling gear–I just sat in the cockpit and looked at my boat.  It was a great, great day.  Bloody hands and all.

“I learned a lot from the Excalibur.  Reading can only take you so far.  Enough so that seven months later I made my first coastal passage when the woman who was then a part of my life and I sailed out the Golden Gate and south to San Diego.”

When I contacted Ullman Sails to build a new head and main sail for my boat, I was still slipped in Dana Point.  Their initial recommendation was to go with a 150 genoa based on the generally light winds experienced off the Dana Point coast.  I knew, however, that I would eventually relocate up the coast to Long Beach where the winds are almost always stronger.  I also knew based on my experience with the Excalibur to that point that she sailed better, and just as fast, with the smaller sails in my inventory.

Webb continues,”… Among my earliest lessons was that a 170% genoa is not much use on San Francisco Bay.  It is probably not much use anywhere unless you are racing, and not often even then.  I’ve never owned another.

“My next two boats, an Ericson 35 and EGREGIOUS, the Ericson 37 on which I completed my first circumnavigation via Cape Horn, had only 150% jibs.  EGREGIOUS’s was cutter rigged, so the 150% wasn’t even a genoa, but a jib top, with the clew high off the deck.

“Spending more than three months south of 40º South on the first leg of that voyage, I didn’t use the 150% as much as I did a smaller working jib; and when I bought my next boat of ‘normal’ size, the S & S 36 which I named RESURGAM, I ordered a 135% genoa, even though by then I trusted and installed furling gear, which made handling headsails much easier.

“In between EGREGIOUS and RESURGAM, I sailed an 18’ Drascombe Lugger, which was yawl rigged and had furling gear on her 30 square foot jib.  I wondered about that until I got in bad weather in her out at sea and learned how useful it was to be able to reduce sail quickly without having to move my 156 pounds to the bow of a boat that displaced only 880 pounds.

“RESURGAM was the first boat on which I had a good instrument system.  She was, as have been all my boats except for CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, a 1970s IOR design, with fin keel and spade rudder, big foretriangle and smaller high aspect ratio mainsail.

“Over the years and miles of the circumnavigation and a half that I did in RESURGAM, the instruments helped me fine tune her and verified what I had sensed on EGREGIOUS, that as the wind picked up, I could keep furling the jib without losing speed.  In fact, boat speed often increased as RESURGAM heeled less and came back on her lines.

“Although THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is only a foot longer than RESURGAM, she is noticeably larger, with five more feet of waterline, almost two more feet of beam, and a much taller mast.  Having found RESURGAM often overpowered by a 135% genoa, I ordered only a 130% for HAWKE.

“Obviously there is a trend here, and it doesn’t have anything to do with my getting older.  The first part of the equation is that I kept finding that my boats didn’t need a big jib going to windward in anything more than the lightest breeze; and the second part is that I frequently set spinnakers off the wind–conventional symmetrical ones with a pole on EGREGIOUS, and pole-less asymmetricals on RESURGAM and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA–and snuffer bags had made spinnakers easier to handle.      Two years ago I started using a Facnor gennaker furler, which has revolutionized how I sail.  Knowing I can quickly roll up  asymmetrical spinnakers from the cockpit if the wind increases, I set them now more than I ever did and use my jib as a reaching sail less when the wind is below fifteen knots.  Above fifteen, unless the wind is from dead astern, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is near hull speed under working sail.

“I’ve sailed about 25,000 miles in the past eighteen months, completing my fifth circumnavigation, so my 130% jib is due for an honorable retirement.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s next jib will be only a 110% or maybe even a 100%.

“It’s taken more than forty years, but I think the trend has reached an end.”

Once I had decided on the use of a furler, sail selection seemed to be made easier.  I asked Ullman to construct a set of sails for me that were a little on the heavier, stronger side, even though I knew that they would not be the fastest sails I could put on my boat.  I settled on a 130%, figuring the winds off Long Beach would allow me the use of this size the most, and reasoned that with the more heavily constructed sails, I could furl off some of my head sail in conditions that demanded reefing, and still make it back into Alamitos Bay.

The heavy 130 does not do particularly well in light wind.  It takes a good puff to fill and shape the sail, but if the winds approach 10 knots, the Excalibur and I move along just fine.  I find that in winds of 15-20 knots, not uncommon as the breeze rounds Point Fermin, my sail combo works best.  When it gets above 25 knots, I’m definitely reefed and furled.

Downwind is a little tough as well.  Getting my 130 to fill in light winds is almost fruitless.  I need a good 10 knots to shape the heavy 130 and going wing to wing is only successful some of the time as I don’t have a pole to push the 130 out to catch as much of the breeze as possible.

I don’t want a light set of racing sails that will have to be replaced in a year or two, even if they mean I’ll be a knot or so faster.  If I wanted that, if I could afford that, I’d be on a different boat.  I rarely find the need for a sail bigger than the one I have installed on the furler.  In my mind, bigger is not better.  In my experience, an easy handling sailboat on a smaller sail is a better sail than fighting a large one all day, particularly when sailing single-handed.

In the meantime, I’ll sail.  I’ll get passed by some.  I’ll pass others.

Making Friends

As I mentioned earlier, my initial experience with sailboats and sailing was very Columbia centered.  I knew very little about any other boats until I was older, and even then it was limited to most of the common, popular boats manufactured and residing in Southern California.

I hadn’t even heard of an Excalibur sailboat until the day I found mine.  I was lucky in stumbling onto my boat.  It’s a good handling boat that’s pretty quick as well and very versatile for a smaller coastal racer/cruiser.

I’ve been lucky in other ways, too.  I’ve written back and forth with other owners on sailnet.com.  I’ve had a number of owners and potential owners contact me about boats they’ve purchased or hope to purchase and ask my opinion of things.  I’ve had previous owners tell me about their boats.  I’ve had some share stories involving Mr. Crealock and others send me pictures.

With the internet shrinking the size of the world, I’ve gotten to watch Charles Olcott start his website – www.excalibur26.com – and see his boat taking shape after a slumber under a plastic tarp.  His upgrades are well thought out and may be used as a guide for someone else looking to make their own boat sail-worthy after a period of neglect or absence of use.

Charles Olcott’s Silent Knight:

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Neil Porter won his boat, Lily Girl, in an Ebay auction that I got to watch in real time and was excited to share some of his early projects with the boat.  We’ve recently exchanged e-mail and he still has his boat.  He loves the boat but may be outgrowing it.  If he does, I’ll let the world know.   His boat is a very, very nice example of a turnkey Excalibur.

Lily Girl:

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LilyGirl2

Neil Fletcher wrote me.  He was bummed because he lost out on the sale of one Excalibur only to write me less than a month later to let me know that he found a much better boat that he now owns.  I told Neil after missing out on the first boat to be patient.  His boat was manufactured 40+ years ago and has gone through a succession of owners waiting for him to find it.  He did.  His new boat looks great.  I hope to share a little more about it in the near future.  It also has one of the coolest Excalibur names I’ve come across.  If you don’t know the source of the name Anduril, look it up.  I’ll let you do the research for yourself, as that’s part of the fun, but Anduril is probably the most fitting name for an Excalibur sailboat I’ve come across.

Anduril:

Anduril1

One day I’d like to see a group of Excaliburs cross the channel between LA and Catalina in formation and then spend a Saturday night in Avalon together.  Maybe another time we could all enter Newport Harbor together and sail near the source of the original manufacturing facility in Costa Mesa.  I realize the plant was inland a mile or so, but it doesn’t mean we couldn’t get as close to it as we could, tack away, dock, and have dinner together at one of the restaurants on the bay.

I’d like to continue to collect photos and as much information about this boat and post them on this blog so that they become available to anyone who wants to download them.  I’d like to relay sailing stories from current and former owners of Excaliburs about their experiences with this boat and post them here.  If you’re proud of your Excalbur, tell me about it.  If you own an Excalibur and live in a place other than the continental US, I’d like to hear about it.

I am fortunate enough to be in the middle of a small but enthusiastic resurgence in this little boat and I hope to share that with as many people as I can.  Help me.

I’d like any info you have in terms of your boat’s year and hull number as well as any detail shots you can spare so that we can develop a definitive history of the Excalibur 26.  If you have pictures, or stories, or literature from one of the manufacturers, please send them to me and allow me to share them with other enthusiasts.  Contact me through the blog and I’d be happy to assist in any way I can to help you get them to me.

Tohatsu 6hp Follow Up

I’ve lost track of the number of hours accumulated on my Tohatsu 20” 6hp outboard since I bought it new in 2011.  I have performed several oil changes.  The lower unit oil has been changed twice and will be done again within the next week along with a new impeller.

I’ve adjusted the valves twice.  The first time was at about the twenty hour mark and I expected them to be tight after completing engine break in.  They were still within specs but on the tight side of normal.  I prefer to adjust them on the loose limits of the specs to allow for tightening between changes without going so tight that a burned valve results.  The second adjustment showed that neither the intake or exhaust valve had changed significantly from my initial adjustment.  I re-adjusted to the loose side of normal since I was installing a new valve cover gasket anyway.

It continues to be an easy to start, reliable little motor that does not use much fuel.  It did smooth out some as it transitioned through the break-in period but because it is a single cylinder it still vibrates far more than a twin.  It does not use any oil between changes.

It gets flushed on the dock immediately after use or as soon as I get home and is stored in my garage.  Because it’s stored indoors and out of the water, it looks nearly new.  I converted a hand truck to a test stand and it provides a means of transporting the motor to and from my truck and the dock so I don’t have to carry it.  The carburetor is also drained each and every time I use it and as a result I’ve never had a problem with modern gas turning to varnish inside the carburetor after sitting for a month or more.

While I still would like the smoothness of a twin, my 6hp has been a good choice for my boat and my use.

It’s funny.  One of the unintended results of throwing my words out to the world via this blog is to see what I write being referred to in other areas of the WWW.  I get many more visits to my blog per day than I ever thought would happen and most of it is as a result of people performing a search on Tohatsu outboards – particularly the 6hp like mine.

I’ve gotten compliments from some folks on my review of the outboard based on real world experience, not some quick regurgitation of a manufacturer’s press release like we sometimes see in magazines.  Some have thought my choice in engine was too small.  One thought I wasn’t a real sailor since I don’t sail out of my slip row each time I go out even though the prevailing winds place me into the wind as soon as I back out of my slip.  One thought I wasted too much of his time explaining why I wanted a method to lock the engine in the straight ahead position and then showing what my solution was.

If you didn’t like my tiller lock mechanism in the earlier review, bail out now.

It turns out that Nissan Marine does have a tiller lock solution.  Available since late 2011, apparently, part# 3GR625000M runs about $30 and securely locks the tiller in the straight ahead position.  It installs more quickly than my solution and uses the existing pivot bolt (I had to change mine out to work with the bracket I fabricated).  It also can be removed in less than 60 seconds, requiring a wrench, socket and ratchet to do so and DOES retain the ability to tilt the motor out of the water.

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The bracket is a stamped and anodized piece of aluminum.  It is red, for visibility, I suppose, and comes with all the necessary fasteners and two stickers to install on the cover so that operators know that the tiller will not move.  The main stamping that inserts into the tilt mechanism has two pieces of rubber that insulates the bracket from the motor to reduce noise and vibration.

Installation is very simple.  The bracket is slid into place in the void above the pivot bolt and then is bolted to the carrying handle.  The kit comes with four 6mm washers, two 6mm bolts and two 6mm nuts.  The holes in the bracket and in the carrying handle are all 8mm, however.  A quick mock-up with the supplied hardware resulted in the possibility of slight side to side movement (up to 1 mm or so).  Because I couldn’t live with this, I dug into my stash of stainless hardware and used my own 8mm bolts, washers and nylock bolts.  I’m not sure why 6mm were supplied instead of 8mm, but in my opinion, it was worth the extra effort to install hardware that fit properly.

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Is it better than my bracket?  It does the same thing.  It may be slightly more precise at holding the motor exactly centered.  It definitely can be removed more quickly if I want to.  I can’t think of a reason, with my motor in the well, that I’d want to steer via the tiller on a spur of the moment.

So, it’s red, it’s ounces lighter, might be a half degree more precise and can be removed easily.  For me, it was worth $30.

If anything drastic happens with my motor, I’ll report it.  Based on what I’ve seen so far, though, I’m pretty confident my little Tohatsu will take care of me if I continue doing my part in taking care of it.

There was only supposed to be one……

A while back Alex and I took a few hours and just sailed around Alamitos Bay. It gave us a chance to sail on several tacks as we worked our way from one corner of the Marina to the other. Because it curves around in a roughly “U” shape, it provides good winds most of the time but requires tacking into a headwind in at least two areas for every lap taken.

I found a listing of known Excalibur 26 sailboats and their locations, and Alamitos Bay was supposed to have at least one other. We’d looked for it before and hadn’t found it, but we figured it was hidden in one of the basins that’s difficult to see into.

As Alex and I cruised around, we’d switch positions and responsibilities. If he’d be releasing the sail on a tack, I’d pick up the sail on the opposite winch and hand him the tiller. He’d complete the turn and I’d trim the sail. On the next tack, I’d take back the tiller and he’d trim the sail. A few times we’d try to push upwind too sharply and have to perform a sudden gybe to keep from back-filling the sails and getting pushed backwards. It’s fun for both of us and forces us to work hard at progress in light, sometimes unfavorable winds.

We were passed by a larger sailboat coming into the harbor under motor alone and Alex commented how nice the bigger boat was and asked something about the configuration of a ketch. He didn’t call it a ketch, but it gave me a chance to tell him why it was set up that way and ask him if he knew that we were sailing a sloop.

A few times Alex would see a boat that looked similar to the Excalibur and ask if it was one and I’d tell him no. He finally asked what to look for so he could be sure. I started to tell him that he should look for three small, rectangular ports on the sides of the cabinhouse. The front window would be smaller than the other two.

“What about the sword?” he asked.

“The sword?” I asked back.

“Yeah, the sword on the side of the boat in front of the numbers.”

I was trying to make it a lot harder than it needed to be. We looked for different things to identify boats but the sword molded into the hull side was the single most unique thing to look for on the Excalibur. I praised him for thinking of it and told him that was the best way I could think of.

Just then, he pointed to our starboard side and said, “Look, Dad, is that one, there?”

Sure enough, right as we were speaking of one, we passed a navy blue Excalibur. It was a little rough, and it was slipped in a private dock at one of the multi-million dollar homes. A tarp was placed over the boom and spread to the toe rail to offer some protection from the rain for the cockpit and cabintop. It looked like the main sail was removed from the boom and the forestay had a foil installed but no head sail. There was a fair amount of growth on the underside that was beginning to be visible at, and slightly above, the waterline. It had been turned bow out so it faced us. All of the other boats nearby were facing stern out.

We passed it and made a mental note of where it was. I wanted to see if I could locate it on Google Earth and possibly figure out which home it belonged to since about three houses seemed to be near the start of the gangway. We both felt pretty good that we had finally found the other Excalibur and thought it was cool that our search was over. Now we had to figure out how we could find the owner without appearing too stalker-ish.

Fast forward to the next weekend. We had some plans cancel at the last minute and it left us the second half of the afternoon to go sailing. The weather was perfect. The wind was blowing out of the south at 10 knots, sometimes gusting to 15 knots and the air temperature was about 70 degrees. Five of us went down to the boat for another harbor cruise.

It was a little tight in the cockpit but we were able to position ourselves so we all fit and motored out of the basin. Alex took the tiller and I went forward and raised the main. When I returned, Kayln and Justin unfurled the genoa and we were underway. The wind was perfect for a slow, gentle cruise and we made our way around the Marina.

Very near the navy Excalibur, we spotted another one. This one was dark green and was in similar shape to the other. Both were neglected, but both floated proudly in the water, bow turned skyward like an Excalibur does.

Both boats were tied into private docks to houses on the water. We’ve plotted out the houses that likely own each boat, but haven’t tried to locate the owners yet.

Navy Excalibur

Green Excalibur

The Excalibur Gets New Paint

Kayln’s had three boyfriends to date. Fortunately, I’ve liked all three, and because I think she’s been given a somewhat positive example of how men should treat women, she’s attracted young men who treat her respectfully.

Getting to know a new boyfriend isn’t easy for me. I want to like the kid, but I also remember what I was like as a teenager, and know that several fathers probably didn’t like or trust me with their daughter. I have that voice in the back of my head telling me all of the things he’s trying to do and it’s telling me that my angelic daughter can only hold him off for so long. I know. My guilt. My problem.

I was introduced to Justin and we talked lightly a few times but he didn’t really know me and I didn’t know him very well. I knew that he was studying to be a technician. I knew he played and coached football. I knew he liked muscle cars.

About the same time, I was interviewing Shipyards looking for the right one to paint the Excalibur. I would have preferred to find one in the Long Beach area just for convenience sake. I found one and asked for an appointment to take a look at the boat. The representative did not meet at the boat at the time we agreed upon and 30 minutes later, I left and returned to work. Later that day he called me and said he had been held up and not able to make our appointment and he wanted to know if I could come back. My work schedule wouldn’t allow that, so I told him that he was welcome to look at the boat himself and put together a quote. I gave him a very specific list of things I wanted to do and had a figure in mind as to what it might cost.

At some point he did go down to my boat because I found two t-shirts he left for his shipyard inside the cabin of the Excalibur, but I never heard back from him with a quote. I tried others. One shipyard representative told me he was going out of the country for a month and that I should try to call him back when he returned. Others seemed reluctant to take on a small, simple sailboat.

Finally, I called South Coast Shipyard in Newport Beach and spoke to Eric. He seemed interested in getting additional work to his yard and promptly put together a quote for the work I wanted performed. The quote was about what I expected it to be but was somewhat open ended because they would have to access things once the boat was out of the water. I asked when I should plan on shuttling the boat from Long Beach to Newport and he was able to take it within two weeks.

I expected a six to eight week turnaround time. Eric informed me that it would be done in three to four weeks maximum. I didn’t believe him but wasn’t too worried about it. It was the middle of winter and I wouldn’t miss out on much sailing. I did need to bring it on a weekday, however, and so would have to coordinate a day off work.

So, I could easily single hand the Excalibur down to Newport Harbor. It’s usually only a three hour sail, usually with favorable winds and tides, and Long Beach and Newport are almost within sight of each other on clear days. I wanted to have a second person with me to coordinate transportation at both harbors and assist where necessary in case we had to squeeze into a tight dock or moor somewhere near South Coast Shipyard. I couldn’t take either of the kids because they were both in school so I thought about asking one of my friends or neighbors. Instead, I asked Kayln to see if Justin was interested in going along for the ride. He was.

I got his cell number and set up the day. We’d leave in the morning, grab some breakfast, drop a car off at South Coast Shipyard, check in with Eric, drive another car up to Long Beach, sail down and drop off the Excalibur at South Coast, drive back up to Long Beach and pick up the other car. It would give us plenty of time to get know each other.

The weather was forecasted as light and variable winds without much of a swell. Justin met me at my house and I gave him a rundown of the plans and told him we’d eat at Norm’s on the way down. I figured I could load him up on a full plate of greasy breakfast food and then get him onto a little boat bobbing up and down on the water and see what he was made of. He must have been thinking the same thing, because he ate relatively light and nothing that could make him too sick.

The conversation was a little awkward at first. Neither of us are big talkers and neither was making small talk just to make small talk. I figured since he didn’t have a lot of boating experience that keeping the conversation on cars would be safest. The problem is, I’m a Ford guy—have been for a long time. Justin’s a Mopar guy—that runs in his family. We talked as much as we could and things began to lighten as the food came and went. I told him a little about the cars I had—the ’65 Mustang that I shouldn’t have sold and the ’71 Pontiac I loved but had the worst luck with. I didn’t want to control the conversation and sound like a know-it-all so I asked as many question as I could. He shared his build experiences with his Fury Wagon and daily driver pickup and by the time we left I think he was at least comfortable enough to not think I was luring him out into the ocean so I could discard his body.

We drove down to South Coast Shipyard and checked in with Eric. He was helpful in getting us a parking spot that would be good for the day and avoid parking tickets and he showed us where to dock the boat when we got in. He explained that a boat currently docked in a slip would be moved out and the slip would be open for me.

Justin and I got in my truck and drove to Shoreline Marina. I kept checking the weather for an indication that some winds might be picking up, but the forecast for almost no wind was still valid. We packed the few things we needed and mounted the Tohatsu in the well for a trip that was likely to be 100% via propeller. We motored out of the Marina and into Long Beach Harbor to smooth water and no wind. I raised the sails and hoped for just enough of a puff to shape the sails but for most of the trip we heard nothing but the constant drone of the outboard.

Justin took the tiller for much of the trip and even though it didn’t require much input to keep us going straight, I figured it was slightly more interesting since we were just pushing along the glassy smooth surface. Even past noon, we had no wind to speak of and absolutely no swell.

A glass smooth Pacific Ocean:

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We approached Newport a couple hours later and boat and wildlife activity picked up. While we saw no sea lions near Long Beach, at the entrance buoy in Newport we saw dozens. Scattered single or small pods of porpoises passed nearby. We entered Newport amongst a number of returning fishing boats and they brought with them flocks of seagulls.

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I directed Justin into Newport and had him steer us up the channel as I lowered the main sail and furled the jib. I had planned on arriving by 3 pm when South Coast Shipyard was still open. We were going to be cutting it close on time but were still making good progress. When we arrived at the yard, the gates were closed and the boat that was supposed to be moved was still in the slip we were heading to. I placed a phone call and within a few minutes the boat was moved and I moved into the slip.

We secured the Excalibur and removed the outboard from the well.

Eric had said they would have the boat out of the water the next day and by 10am I received a call telling me the boat was on the hard and that I could come down and take pictures.

Out of the water for the first time in years:

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With the Excalibur in the air, we could go over a number of things to clarify what work would be performed over the next month. While the general condition of the boat bottom was good, there were a number of blisters at, or just below, the waterline that required repair. In addition, we marked the thru hulls that were going to be cut out and glassed over. The cockpit drain and thru hull ball valve were replaced, the number of potential leaks from four to one.

Bagged up, prep work complete:

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Work progressed quickly and before I knew it, prep work was done and the paint was being applied to the hull. The Excalibur was by far the smallest boat in the yard at the time but Eric said it attracted a lot of attention and many compliments. I chose a brighter, slightly darker shade of blue than the original and had the stripe repainted in gold. The bottom paint was the same common dark blue that most boats with blue bottoms have.

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While I didn’t really believe it would happen, after 3 and a half weeks Eric called to let me know that the boat was ready to be put back into the water and, due to limited nearby dock space, asked that I pick it up as soon as I could. Fortunately, I was able to pick her up and sail her back home the next day.

The trip north (actually west, but it feels north) back to Long Beach started out as still and lifeless as the trip down. The day before, winds had blown from the south at 15 knots. We motored out of the harbor and made our turn for home. Fortunately, within 30 minutes of leaving Newport, we felt the wind pick up and were able to turn the motor off. We sailed the rest of the way home in enough wind to maintain 5 knots on smooth seas.

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The boat looks great and really stands out in a marina full of white boats. The plan is to repaint the cabin top and cockpit and perform some glass repairs and modifications in 2015. Till then, we should be good to go.

Except for the hundred other things I’ll need to do between now and then.

Another Story, Part 2……

As part of the slip rental agreement with Dana Point Harbor, every boat is required to have a safety inspection performed within 30 days of arrival. Like Long Beach, the personnel in the office are very pleasant and accommodating. They were easy to work with in setting up a slip and a few days before I was to arrive, they handled all of my paperwork and I knew I had a home to come to after moving the Excalibur up from San Diego.

Because I hadn’t planned on using the boat much the spring after I arrived, I removed almost everything from the boat to give me more room to accomplish some projects. A little over thirty days went by and I received a call from the slip office reminding me that I still needed to get an inspection done on the boat per our earlier agreement.

“It’s not really something to worry about. It’s a simple inspection to make sure your boat is safe and is performed by volunteers in the harbor,” she explained.

I looked over the list of names that I was given and called a few and left messages. One called back and said he no longer volunteered and another had moved out of town. The third call I got back was from a man named Frank and he was available almost immediately. We made an appointment for the following Saturday morning and agreed to meet at 0900.

I didn’t think much of the inspection throughout the week. My boat was safe. It had just transported me over two days without issue. I expected “a simple inspection to make sure my boat was safe” by a volunteer, another boat owner, and was completely unprepared for what it really was.

Frank, a Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer, met me at the gangway entrance gate. Where I expected a man in shorts and topsiders, what I greeted was completely different – another story. He wore his blue uniform with shiny black boots. He had an un-inflated air chamber PFD around his neck and waist, held a clipboard, and introduced himself by his first name. My idea of the inspection shifted from that of a simple look over of things to that of being boarded at sea by a huge orange cutter.

“My name’s Todd,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”

I paused before walking down the gangway.

“Frank, I want to apologize. If this goes the way I’m thinking it will, this is gonna be a waste of your time. I expected something different and am not prepared for this this morning.”

“What makes you think that?” he asked.

“If the office would have told me to prepare the boat like I was going to sea, I would have. But I haven’t, and I’m not ready. I’m sorry.”

“Well,” he said. “We can do it anyway. I like the opportunity to teach, and if you’re open to it, you might learn something.”

“All right. But please understand, I’m really organized and this is kind of embarrassing for me.”

He just looked at me and gave me a crooked half-smile as we walked past several boats on the way to the Excalibur.

“Now, which one’s your boat?”

“The blue one, down on the right.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “I came down here earlier just to get a look at things….Stop here.”

We stopped. I knew he wasn’t going to comment on her clean lines or say she stood out because she wasn’t white like most of the other boats slipped nearby.

“There’s a problem right off the bat. Do you see it?”

While I knew that my boat wasn’t perfect, from 100 feet away, I wondered what he was referring to.

“Regulations say that the vessel state registration ID numbers have to be permanently attached, three inches in height or greater and of a contrasting color. Yours appear to be three inches, I guess they’re technically contrasting….if you consider shiny blue over dull blue contrasting. They can’t fall off, so I guess they’re permanent.”

I couldn’t disagree with him. I knew that I needed new CF stickers and had planned on buying a new set before leaving the harbor again. The number could be made out, however, and that allowed me to justify moving it that way to Dana Point.

“For your boat, you should really have black or maybe white. You can buy lettering at a hardware store or have a set made.”

“I know,” I started. “I’m planning on having a set made up before I go anywhere. Anything else wrong from here?”

“No,” he said.

I led, and Frank followed me the rest of the way. I could hear and feel his boots clopping along behind me. I’d wished I’d done a lot of things differently and been ready for something like this. I knew if I had set up the boat like I was travelling, I would pass whatever he threw at me. Instead, I felt inadequate in my old clothes and tennis shoes while he walked along behind me looking crisp, official and diligent.

When we got to the bow I saw a mixture of dew and dirt that made the cabin top and decks look really dirty. I’d wished I had come down early to wash the Excalibur. I unclipped the starboard lifeline and climbed into the cockpit.

“Permission to come aboard?” Frank asked.

Nope, I thought. I still have some control over this. You’ve caught me with my pants down and it’s completely my fault, but if I don’t want you on my boat, I can say no, and you can stand there and watch me stand in my boat.

“Absolutely,” I said.

“My boots are non-marking,” Frank said.

He sat on the cockpit bench, opened his clipboard and arranged an official looking form onto the surface.

“Now,” he said. “May I see your ownership and registration documents?”

“They’re not here.”

“They’re not. You do know that you are supposed to keep them on board at all times, don’t you?”

“I do know that. And I do have them all. I keep them in a notebook with all of my documents together. I keep the notebook in a back pack that has all of my safety gear. The back pack’s at home.”

“Okay,” Frank said. “We’ll move onto lights. Please turn on your lights and show me what lights you have and explain configurations in different situations.”

“My battery isn’t on board. It’s at home on the charger. Right now I’m bringing it back and forth whenever I go out. The outboard has an alternator, so it charges when I run the engine, but I don’t keep the boat plugged into shore power and I charge the battery at home.”

“Okay, so navigation lights are a ‘No.’ Can you explain to me what lights you require?”

I explained the lights the Excalibur was equipped with and their function and got pretty much everything correct. The boat is not equipped with a mid-mast steaming light and Frank explained that I should plan on adding one to be legal if I was operate at night under motor alone, especially when entering a large port. He double-checked the requirements to make sure that a steaming light was necessary, but when he could not find a definitive answer, suggested to do it anyway. We studied the regulations further and found that if I changed my light switches, and had the bow nav lights on one switch, the stern light on another, and the 360 mast light on a third, I would be legal. When steaming at night, I could turn off the stern light and use the bow nav lights and 360 mast light and be legal.

“How about a sound producing device?”

“I have two air horns and a whistle in my back pack.”

“Your back pack that’s at home?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Okay, onto Personal Flotation Devices. Do you have any of those on board?”

“Yes,” I said. “I have several here, including a child size and my inflatable.”

I pulled out the pack of PFDs and set them out for his inspection. I had eight in all. After a brief inspection of each one, Frank finally checked a “Yes” on his document. The flare kit was in the locker next to the PFDs, so I set it aside.

“Onto fire extinguishers. Do you have one or more?”

The fire extinguisher was set into the sink, not mounted onto a bulkhead. Frank inspected it, determined that it wasn’t discharged or expired and said, “You’re supposed to have this mounted. The reason isn’t just because it should be mounted, it’s so you know where it is in an emergency and you’ll know it will always be there. You knew where it was and got to it quickly, but mounted would be better. Also, it’s not listed here, but I’m going to suggest that it’s mounted in a place that’s near the cabin entrance so you can use it in the cabin, even if a fire’s started somewhere below. Some people mount it so far into the cabin that a fire could get between them and the extinguisher. That’s not good.”

“I understand,” I said.

“Visual Distress Signals. What do you have for inland signals? Do you have a flag or a light source?”

“Yes. I have a flag and a flashlight in my back pack.”

“Okay, no visual VSDs on board. Let’s take a look at the flare kit.”

I opened the flare kit and presented its contents to Frank.

“Oh, Todd. This isn’t gonna work. These look like highway flares and they might be as old as the boat. These other flares are correct and would meet minimum standards, but they’re expired. See the date, here….and here. Not badly expired, but still expired. Do you have any other flares?”

“Yes. In my back pack. I have a flare gun kit.”

“Is this the same back pack?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” he said. “VDS is a ‘no’.”

He checked another box.

“Ventilation. You have an outboard, right?”

“Yes.”

“Where do you keep your fuel tank?”

“Next to the engine on the stern, near the rail.”

“Okay. No inboard. No built-in fuel tanks. Do you keep fuel below?” he asked.

“No.”

“Okay. That looks good. That covers ventilation, backfire and fuel checks.”

“What do you have for anchors onboard?”

I pulled out both of my anchors and showed them to Frank. I identified the anchor line and told him I had 150 feet of line and forty feet of chain rode.

“I didn’t have room in my back pack for these,” I said, trying to crack a joke.

Frank looked up at me, paused, and said, “Nope. I guess you wouldn’t.”

“Do you keep any other method of propulsion aboard. To be legal, you’re fine with the outboard and sails, but I have to ask.”

“Yes. I’ve got an oar in the port cockpit locker,” I told him.

“Okay. How about a bilge pump or other dewatering device?”

I showed him the manual bilge pump, demonstrated that it worked and then pointed out my back up hand pump and then a bucket.

“Good,” he said. “No electric pump?”

“Not currently,” I answered. “I’ve considered it and will probably add one, but I’d rather have a working pump that I work rather than one that relies on a battery that could go dead.”

“Sound thinking. For a lot people, the difference between sinking and not sinking was a bucket and a sponge. Now, the electrical system seems okay. Pretty sparse, but okay. Circuit protection on the switches, but you might consider a fuse panel near the battery bank as well as the protected switches. It passes, though.”

He checked a few boxes with a “yes.”

“You don’t have a heater in the cabin, do you?”

“No.”

“How about a head?”

“The fixed head was removed and I have a porta-potty in its place. There are no holding tanks on board.”

“Okay,” Frank said. “Almost done.”

He stood up in the cockpit and looked into the cabin one more time.

“Do you have a radio?”

“Yes,” I said. “I use a hand held. It’s in my back pack.”

“Hmmm. The back pack. You use a hand held?”

“For now,” I said. “When I re-do the interior wiring I plan to put in a permanent unit.”

“Okay.”

Frank and I spent the rest of the morning talking. He quizzed me on a few things but the bulk of our conversation was just talking. We talked about the coast and Dana Point and a little about my trip up from San Diego. He gave good advice and presented it in a way that was not preaching–just sharing experiences he’d had and related them to how they might help me.

I did learn some new things and felt like the whole experience was actually made better by me not being prepared for his inspection. If I’d had everything in perfect order before he came, we could have easily slid through the inspection and he’d have given me the results and then moved on to whatever he had planned for the rest of his day. Instead, it opened us up to other discussions that really did help me.

I didn’t pass the inspection and didn’t get the CG sticker that I wanted, but did know exactly what I needed to do to pass it and used the knowledge gained that morning to re-do my paperwork and checklists to more closely match the one Frank used that morning and I feel better prepared each time I use it before I pull out of my slip.

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