About The Bay - December 2019

I would like to personally welcome Daniel Witte as our new editor. Daniel joined us in a pinch and his willingness to jump in and lend a hand has been most appreciated. Especially since I must confess, I really don′t know how to write. Relying heavily on the expertise of a copy editor has helped me hold on to this job far longer than I deserve! Welcome Daniel, and please help me hide the fact that I am really a nincompoop when it comes to the written English language.

The major wind event and the resulting fire storm at the end of October was devastating for Northern California. Forced evacuations and power outages affected millions of people throughout the state. Thankfully, here in Oyster Cove we were well protected from the fierce northerly winds and suffered no loss of power.

My morning walk revealed an entirely different scene outside our cozy little marina. The Bay was frothy and the Oyster Point Sea Wall was being hammered by large waves.

The Bay was looking furious on a flood tide. The ebb proved more challenging wave wise. Wind over tide, bumpy ride certainly applies in conditions like these.

Our local anchor-out fleet took a hit in the wind. A sailboat and wooden cruiser broke free from their ground tackle and wound up grinding against the concrete wall.

So, who says you can′t go boating in the winter? Happily, we don′t live in Maryland or Wisconsin where the snow lies deep on the ground and unhappy boating enthusiasts find it necessary to shrink wrap their vessels for many months of the year. Conveniently, here in the Golden State most winter storms are short-lived and blow themselves out after a day or two. Then it′s back to sunshine as usual. California may be the most expensive place to live but, by golly, there is no question that we′ve got the best weather! It′s another example of you get what you pay for.

Captain Sweetie and I are proud to be native Californians, having both been born and raised in Napa, as I have mentioned many many times before. As a matter of fact, Sweetie′s dad, Doc Haworth, was the Health Director of Napa County who signed both our birth certificates. Old Doc Haworth was a very active boater and member of the Power Squadron. He loved the Predicted Log Races. More than that he loved to take his buddies out on his 30-foot Stephens, Sylbee, for fishing and drinking excursions. Back in the late 50′s and early 60′s, Doc Haworth kept his boat at the Vallejo Yacht Club where he was more renowned for his prowess in the bar than his boat maneuvering skills. Crash landings were his specialty. My darling Captain Sweetie was just a little cabin boy back in those days, and was the deckhand on many of these raucous excursions. He was put to work as bartender, line handler, hook baiter and any other dogsbody job that came up.

One of my favorite stories that Sweetie tells took place back in the early 60′s, in an extremely shallow part of San Pablo Bay. Sweetie′s much older brother, Lovely, was along on this particular trip. We are sure of that fact because this story involves an especially potent punch. Alcoholic punches were a specialty that Lovely showed an aptitude for his entire life. This trip was meant to be for fishing, but that darned punch got in the way again. At least the fish got the day off. Hooks were baited, lines cast, punch was consumed and the tide went out. After a few hours of inactivity, my Sweetie says there was nothing to be heard except snoring and the view consisted of nothing more than long trails of fishing lines leading across the mud to where the lures were laying, clearly visible. Eventually the tide came in and refloated the boat. Everybody sobered up and a good time was had by all, especially the fish.

Although it′s only December, I have already decided on my New Year′s resolution for 2020.

Here′s what happened. Eartha, our beloved boat cat, had a scheduled vet appointment. Cats are savvy creatures. The moment she saw me bring the cat carrier out of the garage she vanished.

The garage is what we call the guest cabin on Dancing Dragon. We don′t have any onshore storage. Everything we own is on the boat, and the bulk of it is stowed in the garage. Things such as Sweetie′s tools, extra linen, all the hanging clothes, the vacuum, all paper and cleaning products are in there. In other words, everything you want to keep out of sight until it′s needed is stored in our garage. We basically treat our guest cabin as a walk-in closet, if only there was room to walk in there.

The garage in addition to serving as our catch all closet, also acts as Eartha′s safe haven. The garage is where she makes a beeline to whenever she hears the engine alarms sound, or senses danger, which is frequently.

I confess the garage is currently in a jumbled state, especially since our recent Where′s Eartha? episode.

Eartha is a brown tabby which is probably the most common type of cat. Their striped markings, reminiscent of their larger cousin the tiger, help them blend into shadowy environments making them very successful hunters, and also extremely arduous to find when they are trying not to be seen. A brown tabby′s coloring could best be called camouflage. Their neutral colored stripes make them difficult to spot in the best of circumstances. Such was the case on the day of the scheduled vet visit.

I store the cat carrier, along with almost everything else in the garage. The moment Eartha spotted the cat carrier, she went into slinky cat mode and within moments had transformed herself into vapor and then vanished completely.

A 38-foot boat isn′t a very large space. You wouldn′t think there would be that many places to hide. However, for a small, nearly invisible creature 38 feet proved more than ample. Sweetie was frantic to find her and did his best to clear most of the lose bits and pieces out of the garage so he could locate her secret hiding spot, pry her loose, stuff her into the waiting cat carrier and get to the vet appointment on time. We knew she hadn′t gone outside because the companionway door was closed. She had to be inside the boat somewhere. We looked and called and pleaded and enticed but no Eartha was forthcoming. We eventually had to call and cancel Eartha′s appointment and wouldn′t you know, the moment I hung up the phone she reappeared. Cats.

Because we couldn′t find the damn cat, the garage is now my target for a revamp. It′s been far too long since I′ve removed everything from the garage, and given it a good shake. It′ll be almost like a treasure hunt, and I′ll bet I find things that I didn′t even know I had. It′s not a project I′m looking forward to doing, but one that′ll be rewarding in a cathartic way. I just love to get rid of stuff! Eartha never did make it to the vet. She has foiled us for now.

And speaking of foiled, still shivering here in South City without a heater. That fix will probably come in a few months with the warmer weather.

Neighbors Leslie and Marlyse were out enjoying the sunshine and chatting on the dock the other day when they happened to notice an electric shore power cord that was slack and dangling in the water. I don′t know much about the principles of electricity, but I had always believed it can create problems when it comes in contact with salt water, even when encased in a cord. I don′t know the science behind this theory. Pat Carson could probably explain, but as I understand it; the electricity that runs through the cord creates an electrical field when it is surrounded by water, causing all kinds of misery to nearby propeller shafts, propellers, struts and any other metal thing under the water. I also thought that more than one cord in the water exacerbates the problem, causing what is called a hot marina. Bless their hearts, Leslie and Marlyse did a dock walk and pulled several offending cords out of the drink. Thank you, ladies!

I was trying to wrap my bb brain around this very problem when who should appear at my companionway, our very own Pat Carson! He had been giving a lesson to the fellows up the dock, and stopped by the Dancing Dragon to say hello on his way out the gate.

When I posed my cord in the water question to Pat, he responded that if the covering of a shore power cord had become compromised by sun or normal wear and tear then, yes, it would be dangerous to have it dangling in the water because salt water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Pat went on to say that it′s possible that a person might be electrocuted if a worn power cord was dangling in the water when someone decided to go for a swim.

Pat, his usual handsome self was looking a touch weary because he had just completed the delivery of a boat the previous evening from Victoria, BC to neighboring Brisbane Marina. Having spent the night on the delivery boat, the following morning he was up with the chickens to teach the scheduled lesson here in South City at 7:30 a.m. The lesson proved to be valuable in that it was extremely windy, and learning how to maneuver in and out of the slip in those conditions will come in very handy once spring rolls around again. It was little wonder that he was feeling road weary and eager to get home, but it was a treat to see Pat even though I didn′t have a cigar to offer him.

Christmas Gift Idea: If you, or someone you know, are uncomfortable behind the helm how about giving a series of lessons from a professional skipper such as Captain Pat Carson? This is the sort of gift that has long-lasting rewards.

Winter is absolutely not the time to neglect your boat. Something as simple as a cockpit drain blocked by fallen leaves could cause her to sink right in the slip. Please plan to visit your vessel at least once per month during the winter. Start the engine(s) to keep moving parts lubricated, check the dock lines for wear, make sure the power cord is secure and out of the water and check that all ports and hatches are dogged down tight. Exterior canvas should be inspected as well. Snaps can come undone and everyone knows that canvas flapping loose in the wind can tear itself to pieces in no time, not to mention irritate the neighbors with the incessant, irritating noise.

Besides, a dockside visit to your boat in December is the perfect excuse to avoid the hustle and bustle of the insane holiday shopping frenzy. “Sorry, Dear, I would love to go shopping with you but, darn I need to check on the boat.” Take a book or magazine and your tipple of choice to settle in for a quiet afternoon spent simply messing about in boats.

The winter waterfowl have arrived with the shorter days, but not in the same numbers as in years past. Where before we had an abundance of buffleheads, scoters, scaups and coots, now just a single lonely pair of buffleheads ply the fairway behind the boat in search of shiners. The absence of the once abundant baitfish certainly explains the missing winter bird populations. I miss my coot friend, Scooter, especially. He/she was always the first of my avian friends to greet me every morning. There hasn′t been a coot around the marina since the massive construction project began over a year ago. I wonder where they all went.

In addition to feeding the Canada geese, Sweetie also provides unroasted, unsalted peanuts for our resident crow friends. The word got out that the pickings were easy on Dancing Dragon. What was once a murder of crows has now become a genocide. Jason, our wonderful harbormaster and our neighbor Leslie have both commented about my avian companions. They say that the resident crows surround me in a Hitchcockian manner every time I walk up the dock. The problem is that when I try to ignore the insistent crows, they swoop down and brush my head with their bony feet. It′s a creepy feeling. Consequently, you′ll frequently see me walking with my hand held above my head in turkey feather fashion surrounded by a half dozen crows shrieking for attention.

It′s not only when I′m on foot that my crow friends pursue me. The flapping black menagerie follows me even when I′m in my car, furiously flying next to the driver′s side door at window level and giving me the equivalent of the bird stink eye as I try to make my escape. It′s all go here in Oyster Cove.

I love the colorful holiday lights reflecting in the water and illuminating the long winter nights. For some reason, a few boaters here in Oyster Cove leave their holiday lights up year-round. Now that the season has officially arrived, more lights will go up creating the effect of an impressionist painting on the water.

Winter presents challenges for those of us who choose to live on board. That walk to the shoreside facilities seems to grow longer as the mornings get colder. Of course, there is always the problem of keeping the boat warm inside. I won′t say anything about that for now except that electric space heaters just don′t cut it. Keeping water on the outside where it belongs can sometimes present a challenge. I suppose that′s why we see so many blue plastic tarps this time of year. Noisy brutes they are too. But longer days and spring are right around the corner, and in the meantime we have the holidays to distract us.

I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas filled with love and joy. Please feel free to contact me at kim@yachtsman magazine.com with your questions, comments and especially contributions. H

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