Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trintec: Front & Center

I've known since Kokomo became ours that I wanted to put a nautical clock in the boat, but I was unprepared for the vast number of choices I'd be faced with when I began looking at models within the size range that would fit in/on her center overhead panel. I knew that we could accommodate only about a 5.5" overall size, and that I could just fit three instruments on this panel.

I looked at every imaginable configuration of clocks ... including those which have a barometer and thermometer built in. Those with all of the instruments on a single plank of wood were interesting, and I thought I'd found one that looked nice until I got a close look at it and learned a portion of the bezel on the clock was plastic (vs. brass). Wanting something that was low-maintenance and rugged in construction (like the boat!), I waited and looked.

In a West Marine store in Oakland, I saw a line of Weems & Plath clocks that looked like they were well built. In handling the model, I found a Canadian maple leaf on the rear of the box, and thought to myself that it would be kind-of-nice to honor the lineage of the vessel (she's built in Nova Scotia) with a clock that was also Canadian.

So I came home and did some online research and found the company that built the Weems & Plath models I'd seen. And I visited their website, which featured a nice selection of nautical clocks ... built right ... with five year warranties. I found an online dealer (OK, it was on eBay!) that offered the models I wanted, and ordered one each of the Coast Line tidal clock, thermometer and barometer. These were to be my Christmas gift from my wife ... perfect!

I installed them this week and couldn't be happier with the Trintec instruments. They seem to fit the boat perfectly (you decide, there are two photos to the right...) and the price - which included all four of the instruments I want on the boat (the clock has a tidal clock built in) - was less than one of the fancy brass clocks I was looking at before.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Northwest San Francisco Bay (January, 2011)

My second trip to the San Francisco Bay was solo, as Lee Ann traveled to Lakeport to meet with her family. I learned quickly to appreciate the Rosborough’s pacific northwest rigging, as the average daytime high temperature was 44F and the nights sported temps in the 30’s. With the Wallace 30D diesel heather running, I was as comfortable as on a summer day.

I’ve decided it’ll take about 10 trips to the Bay to see it all. This trip I chose the northwest coast (Marin and Sonoma counties) to explore and, after a peaceful night in berth M298, headed out early the next morning onto a slightly lumpy and marginally foggy Bay, turned to a heading of about 300 and headed north.

My first coastal discovery was Paradise Cay (also called Paradise Park by land lubbers) and it was remarkable how nicely manicured it was in the dead of winter. Another several miles up the coast, I found the entrance to the port of Corte Madera. There are no boater’s amenities here, not even a public dock, but it was an interesting trip to the ferry terminal and on up Corte Madera creek, past dozens of boats and waterfront homes of all calibers. In many of the places on my port side, the boat on the dock was worth more than the house on land (or at least it seemed that way to me). I traveled as far up river as I could, past countless homes and apartment complexes, until my depth sounder told me the bottom was coming up and I turned around with just 2.9 feet of water beneath the boat. While navigating the channel (narrow and unforgiving as it is) coming in and going out of Corte Madera, it was remarkable how close to the men recreating in the yard at San Quentin Federal Prison one gets. Couldn’t help but think of the differences in my laid back boat-born freedom, and their lack of basic pleasures. And then I thought of the reasons for their incarceration, and was glad for the place.

Clear of the long Corte Madera entrance channel, I set a northerly course for San Rafael. This city and port was as different from Corte Madera as could be, with four separate large marinas and lots of industrial activity - mostly surrounding boating and yachting - far flung upstream. I motored for over an hour heading inland and exploring marinas, and turned around at the San Rafael Yacht Club where a low bridge blocked my way. I entered the Loch Lomond Marina (the last one on my way out) and browsed an interesting assortment of boats and people.

I then turned north again and passed under the (very grand from the water) Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and found myself a short distance from the re-done lighthouse on Brother’s Island to the east. Since my next destination was McNear Beach and China Camp, and the guide I was using specified navigation along the Brothers Islands and Sisters Islands along the way, I set out across the Bay for the lighthouse.

Spectacularly returned to its original glory, the lighthouse and keeper’s quarters are a must see. I tried to get a good photo, but one dares not get too close to the rocky shores. Then I set out north, across the busy shipping channel, watching the AIS (automated information system) readout’s on my MFD carefully. Visibility was an issue, with the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge dissappearing into the fog behind me and several AIS targets not yet visible on the radar ahead. The radar itself proved valuable, and enabled me to avoid collision courses with several other smaller vessels (yachts) who were moving through the area. I crossed the shipping lanes, among huge tankers steaming out of Richmond and the Chevron refinery facilities, and put the Sister Islands on my port beam on the other side, closing in on McNear Beach. Off China Camp (the historical site of the gathering of Chinese immigrants in the early 19th century) I cut the engines and let her drift, taking in the old rotting pier (still usable) and the ancient buildings ashore. While lying off China Camp, I saw a Nordhavn 47 at anchor. This was our 2nd choice in the Norhavn line, and would have been a very nice yacht to own. I found myself thinking about the fraction of the cost of that boat that I’d spent on the Rosborough (we'd be strapped to a stiff payment and all of the expenses of mooring and maintenance that come with an in-water vessel if we'd gotten the Nordhavn), and the fact that I could put it on a trailer and take it home (and to anywhere we were willing to drive), and - though that Nordhavn certainly looked good - I sure felt good about the choices we’d made.

After making a few log entries and feeling like I’d breathed in the offshore atmosphere enough to get a feel for it, I set a southwesterly course past the Brothers Islands and on past Richmond to Berkeley, getting in about ½ hour before sunset.

All in all, it was great day of exploration, and I logged about 7 hours on the boat. The next morning I motored to Jack London Square and put into the public dock to get some breakfast at the Farmer’s Market Lee Ann and I had found here two months ago. Fresh crepes and an apple made a great meal, and I got some spinach Afghani bread for later in the day.

In checking the tides, I estimated we were about an hour from a high tide and opted to head south in Oakland Estuary Channel and try the rarely-traveled San Leandro Channel route which would allow me a complete circumnavigation of Alameda Island. I can see why the yachts all stopped about 3 miles from the San Leandro confluence (there were no boats at all in the San Leandro channel), because the water got very shallow (4’ at times) and there were a number of stakes and markers in the water, marking previous grounding sites. Staying carefully in the channel. hitting the shallowest areas at high tide (which I suspect were dried out at low tide) and mindful of my 2’ draft, I completed the circumnavigation in about 2 hours. The water depths some 2 miles out into the Bay were only 6 or 7 feet.

I crossed the Bay and motored up the San Fransisco coast, marveling at how many people were ashore. My history as a cruise ship journalist (I've been in the cruise business for 25 years; mostly in the booking end) was stirred by the sighting of an old Dolphin Cruises vessel, now derelict and resting at a quiet moorage in San Fransisco. Her name was painted over but her blue stack and familiar lines reminded me of how quickly these grand ships become faded memories when they are removed from service. As I recall, Dolphin Cruises was among several lines that failed (Regency, Renaissance, Dolphin, Admiral, etc.) in the travel stagnation which followed 9/11/01. I was able to get right up to her starboard side, close enough to peer into the darkened depths of her lower deck. I imagined the day when this ship was adorned in lights, alive 7 days a week with activity, and her decks were busy with passengers and crew. Her deteriorated state put into mind ships that I had traveled aboard (President Roosevelt, Stella Solaris, Norway, Skyward, Seawind Crown and others), and which were even now in even more pitiful states on the beaches of Alang, in various stages of dismantlement. More than a third of the 85+ vessels I've sailed are now 'retired'. I wondered if there might be an Alang-bound tug tow in the future for this former Dolphin?

A trip out under the Golden Gate (where 8' swells were sending waves crashing against the sea wall at Fort Point) and then a return course set past Alcatraz for Berkeley brought this day and another Bay adventure to an end. I lingered out on the Bay as the sun set and the lights of the city came on. Magnificent peace. Two tenths of the Bay explored ... eight tenths to go! Kokomo had performed flawlessly, once again.

San Quentin Prison

San Quentin Prison
One of the more 'captivating' sites along the Corte Madera channel . Rowers from Corte Madera are practicing in the foreground.