Thursday, January 29, 2009

Going to the Dogs...

The Dog show that is...

On Sunday Dina, Cecca, and I went to the American Kennel Club dog show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Why we needed to go to a dog show when we have a perfect example of a dog here at home I am not sure, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

As near as I can tell dogs at the dog show are just like normal dogs, they have just been cleaned up and blown dry, and thus they smell better.

Most of the dogs sit in cages and are either asleep or look at you with a look that says, please kill me.
The dogs owners sit around on lawn chairs and talk to each other, I am guessing here, about dogs.

We watched a couple of rounds of dog showing which consisted of ladies and children in comfortable shoes running the dogs around a judge or two. This I believe is called showing the dog, and I think a requirement of this is that you must wear an outfit that you purchased at a used clothing store.

The rest of the show consisted of booths where you can buy everything imaginable to do with dogs. We took three packs of doggie tennis balls from one table, by having Cecca pose as a dog owner to get by the one bag per dog limit. We also ate some hot dogs, although they where the kind that needed to be approved by the FDA as opposed to the AKC.

I do have to admit that there was some really cool looking dogs on display though. I tend to prefer the larger breeds myself, Newfoundlands, Olde English Sheepdogs, that kind of thing.

We still haven't figured out what Ajax is yet, but in this picture you can see some of his influences quite clearly.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Diary of a Mad Man

Don’t know why I called this post that, but I just heard the song for the first time in a while and liked the title.

It has been a long couple of days, and just to show how out of whack things are I am writing this from a train car on the way back from Stockton. We actually just passed by CMA and I must say the campus looks kind of cool, all lit up at night, from the opposite side of the Carquinez Straits.

But, the question is why am taking the train back from Stockton on this rainy Friday eve? For the answer to that we need to go back to at least yesterday. In fact maybe even back to last weekend. As I wrote about earlier in the week I took the Nightingale up to Benicia last weekend. The original plan was to meet up with Joe and Josh and finish the delivery this weekend. However for various reasons I figured it would be easier if I just took the Nitey, as Dina calls her, up today.

Part of the reason for this was the fact that I had watch at school yesterday. This watch was a little more interesting than usual for two reasons. One, it is the last watch I may ever have to stand at CMA. I do have one more on-call watch scheduled, but in all the time I have been at CMA I have never been seriously called in for a watch, when I have been the on call. So, hopefully that is that as far as watches are concerned. In the four years that I have been at Cal Maritime I cannot think of a single purpose that watch standing has had for me as a business student. For the most part they are just a waste of time and the whole thing is a joke.

The other thing that happened last night was that not one of the underclass late shift watchstanders showed up for their watches. This is actually not that unusual and for the most part I don’t make a big deal out of it. Last night though I made a point of following the correct procedure and rousting my division commander and making him deal with it. Since he couldn’t get as hold of anybody either he was obligated to come back to campus and stand the front gate watch in its entirety by himself. The best part, at least for me, was the fact that he had to stay until I dismissed him. Which I did at the stroke of midnight as per regulations.

With me staying on the ship and getting relieved form watch at 7.30am, my relief never did show up by the way, I figured this was a good way to just hop over to Benicia and get an early start on taking the Nightingale up to Stockton. With the flood tide running I figured it would take me about eight hours minimum based on my time getting to Benicia. One thing I did manage to do at watch was go through a chart of the delta and enter all my waypoints into an old GPS that we have.

The trip up the delta itself started off in a very misty drizzle and some pretty limited visibility. But, the good news was that the tide was running faster than I had thought so that I ended up doing the whole trip a lot faster than I expected. I was hoping to maintain 5.5 or so kts but up until the last hour or so I was pretty much always at 6+kts, I even saw 7.4kts more than once. The little Nissan outboard never missed a beat the whole way up and we made it there on less than three gallons.

Upon arrival in Stockton I spent some time putting the boat away, took a shower and then met up with a friend, Karen who did the British Virgin Islands trip with us earlier in the year. We had a quick bite to eat and then she dropped me off at the Amtrak station for my ride home.

The first couple of pictures are of my cabin on the Golden Bear. Where I spent the night on campus during my watch. A couple of things to notice are the lack of supplied linens, and the inch of standing water on the floor of the head. The rest of the pictures are of the trip up the delta. Most of them are taken on the last couple of miles after the weather had cleared up.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Crazy ass weekend...

The fun began Friday night with a mad dash around to try and get the Nightingale ready for her trip to Benicia. This meant a quick bottom cleaning and shifting the outboard from the 525 to the Nightingale. Then it was a bit of a rush to get a couple of things for the trip. One of the things I needed was a jerry jug for extra gas for the ride up. I went to West Marine to buy this and as I got to the counter the clerk was talking on his cell phone. After waiting for a while I just told the guy fuck it and walked out. I'm glad West Marine is doing well enough where they can afford to piss off regular customers like that. I even wrote an email to there customer service department to tell them so. I will post the reply here if I get one. So congratulations Mr. West Marine service guy, you are my first loser award winner of the weekend.Saturday morning was a little more running around getting gas, food, and drinks and then it was off to Benicia. I got off the dock around 10am and began a long slow motor up the Estuary, across San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, through the Carquinez Straits and on to Benicia Marina. I passed by a couple of dredges and under the new Bay Bridge. I motor-sailed along at about 5.5 kts until the central bay where I hit some adverse current which slowed me down a little. Once I got into San Pablo Bay though it was almost six kts as long as I kept my eye on the GPS and stayed in the flood.At one point though I did get a little to close to the shore after passing the Brothers light station at the entrance to San Pablo Bay. It happened so gradually that at first I didn't realise what had happened. The engine started running up and down as we went through the building chop and as I went to see if everything was ok, that we didn't have something wrapped around the prop for instance, and noticed that the boat had turned to head in a different direction. It took me a couple of moments to figure out that I was probably aground. Once I figured that out it was matter of sheeting in the main tipping the boat over and backing out off of the mud. This whole thing took about five minutes and that accounted for the entire excitement for the trip.
I arrived in Benicia around 430 and Dina and Ajax drove up there to get me. We stopped at REI on the way home where I finally got a new pair of sunglasses, replacing the pair that have had dog teeth parks on them for the last two months. Then it was off to an excellent dinner at the always good Dragon Rouge here in Alameda.Sunday started off with me taking the dog out for our morning walk. We have kind of settled into this routine of me taking Ajax out for longish walks on Sunday mornings as this allows Dina to sleep in a little. Today we walked the Bay front trail along Bay Farm Island. Which is neither a farm or an island, but whatever, it is a nice walk.

I Then moved the 525 back to its slip which I had just taken the Nightingale out of the day before. This meant removing the engine from the dingy, putting it on the 525 and then motoring it over to the new slip. Once there I scrubbed the bottom off with a long brush the best I could and then got the boat ready for the second of the Oakland Yacht Club Sunday Brunch Races.

Our crew for the day was Tom and Sylvia, as well as Dina and myself. With the outboard no longer hanging off the back and the bottom a little cleaner the boat felt a lot better than it did two weeks ago. This was a good thing as the wind was pretty light and patchy for the most part. We got an ok start which you can see in this video taken by the race committee. You can see us come into the screen from the right hand side at about 6.50 in. We got rolled pretty quickly, but we managed to stay in contact with some of our fleet for most of the race. A big difference from two weeks ago.

We did have one little incident in the race though as we came into the bottom mark after the first leg. We were in a pack of about five boats as a boat just in front of this pack rounded and tacked onto port right into this pack. A couple of boats right in front of us called starboard on the guy and he just cut right in between them and came right at us. I called starboard but he said he had no steerage! I turned to avoid him as we would have almost hit head on if I hadn't. I called protest and we put up a red life jacket as we don't have a real protest flag on board. The guy ignored me and continued to sail on.

After the race I tried to talk to the guy in the Oakland Yacht Club and he just blew me off. He said that he didn't have any way to go to avoid us, and it didn't really matter anyway as we were in a separate division anyway, which wasn't the case. I wanted to file a formal protest on the guy but since I didn't have the right number of the rule he broke, and since protest hearings are a notorious crap shoot I didn't go through with it. I did however tell him when he picked up his trophy that I too could win trophy's if I could sail through the fleet on port and to enjoy his well earned trophy (a hat). This apparently really pissed him off his son told me later. But, whatever, to the skipper of the Newport 30 Zeehond here is your loser award, the second given out this weekend.

1st week back.

Last week was the first week back for my last semester at Cal Maritime. I have a pretty good schedule this time around with three classes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and a class on Tuesday and Thursday that I am taking as independent study. This means that I do not actually have to go to the class, but still have to do all of the work.

Of course this being Cal Maritime nothing is that simple. Tuesday they decided to have the first Command Inspection of the year. Usually I can just get these signed off and don't bother attending, but seeing as this was the same day as the first class of the semester I figured I should go and check in with the professor. So this meant a full Dress Blues inspection. The only thing I was really worried about was my shoes. Ajax had taken a few bites out of them a while ago, and I can't be bothered to replace them for the short time I have left. They are not that bad, but they are close enough where I got the evil eye from the chief engineer who was doing the inspection.

Other than that it has been a pretty slow first week. Next week though we have the career fair, which means wearing my suit for the second time, on Tuesday. Then I have my first, only, and last watch, of my time at Cal maritime on Thursday. So even though my class schedule only has me there only M-W-F next week I will be there everyday. Including an overnight stay on Thursday night. Wheee. Oh well, maybe I will get another good sunrise form the Golden Bear.

The rest of the week was taken up by dog walks and working at the sail loft. Thursday was actually kind of fun as I got to spend the whole afternoon out sail testing on small boats called Mercury's. We spent three hours or so two boat testing between our new sails and a set of sails form one of our competitors. We traded crews, sails, and boats as we tried to figure out the right settings and cuts for our new sails. It was a fun exercise and it was good to spend time out on the water instead of inside the sail loft.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Out with a whimper...

This has been my last week off before school starts again. Hard to believe, but this will be my last semester at The California Maritime Academy. Still no real idea what happens when I get out, but it has been an interesting journey that's for sure.

This week has kind of been a little bit anti-climatic in some ways. I was planning on trying to get some hours in at the loft, but things are a little slow there. It's funny, there is plenty of stuff on order, but there was just nothing to do this week. I did however take advantage of the time off to get a sail in on the Gonzo. The wind on Friday was blowing directly across the Estuary so it meant I could just reach back and forth between Jack London Square and Government Island.

The sailing was good therapy for me as I had kind of a rough go of it Friday afternoon. The forward head of the Lobster T has been giving us troubles for a week or so, so I decided to have a go at fixing it. Head maintenance is never any fun and this was no exception. I took the whole thing apart and ground out all the solid pieces of crap that had got into the works over the years. Sadly this did not get the thing working. In the course of all this I managed to get my foot caught in the gate here at the marina and proceeded to bleed all over the place. After these two events, the sail was needed.

Yesterday though I did finally get the head fixed which was relief. It meant several trips to the store and running a replacement waste hose (fun), but at least now it is done.

Today I raced in the Island Yacht Club mid-winter series on Steve's old Colombia 5.5 with Kevin, the new owner, and Chris. Kevin had asked me to go out and help him get dialed in a little bit. This I thought was kind of funny as Chris was one of the people that I learned to sail 5.5s from. Maybe they just needed my help to explain all the lines that Steve has added to the boat over the years.

There was only three 5.5s so we had to race in one of the handicap fleets. This meant starting with maybe 10 other boats all sailing at different speeds. Kevin got us a good start and we had a real fun first beat. We knew the pressure was better on the Oakland side, but got stuck on the outside of Adam, we kept coming into him, but he kept bouncing us back to the Alameda side. After about half a dozen tacks, ducks, and lee-bows we ended up rounding about two boat lengths behind Adam. Sadly we then had a bad set with a wrapped kite, and that was pretty much the race.

We sailed the downwind leg and rounded the bottom mark and set off on our second lap. Adam was well ahead of us up the beat but then he started to deliberately sail his boat slower to allow us to catch up. This really pissed me off. I don't mind getting beat by someone who is sailing their boat better, hell it happens to me all the time. I do however mind being taken pity on. Especially by someone like Adam, who has probably the nicest bottom and the newest sails in the fleet. Not to mention the fact that he probably has the most experience sailing 5.5s in the Estuary out of all of us. Anyway we kind of lost interest in the race at this point, and the fact that Drew was sitting up on the bow of Adam's boat with his legs dangling in the water really did not help. Kevin, who was not feeling well anyway, at that point said he would be ok with dropping out as we sailed by our slip. So that is what we did.

It has been a while since I have done one of these, but I think it is time to give out a loser award. So Adam, this is for you...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A weekend of sailing

After a mellow holiday up in the mountains it was back to the new slip here in Alameda. While the view is much better and overall we are happy with the new slip, it definitely is a little more bumpy. Not to bad, but you definitely notice it more.

We got back a couple of days ago and had a nice relaxing couple of days just hanging out. Saturday though I finally got back out on the water to do some racing. I went out on a friends Cal 40, Shaman. I had raced with Steve last year in the Golden Gate Yacht Club's Seaweed Soup series, in which we where the overall winner. But I had not been able to make the first two races of the series this year due to school or other commitments, hopefully though I should be able to make the rest of them.

The forecast was for 10 to 20kts but sadly we never got that. Paul, the driver, got us a nice port tack start and we rounded the first mark in second behind a Tarten Ten. At this point the wind got really light and we all kind of stopped for a while going back and forth between the spinnaker and the LT#1. Eventually a tug and barge came through the Gate and right through the middle of the race course. The race committee got on the radio and told us to motor clear of the tug and then re-start from the same point keeping a record of the time we spent under motor. I don't ever remember doing that before, but that's what we did. The course itself was not that interesting, mostly just reaching across the central bay a couple of times. But I got to trim main which is something that I don't get to do that often so that was fun. We ended up second, and the redress we got for motoring made no difference at all. The Tarten sailed a good race and beat us fair and square. The good news is Shaman is still in the overall lead for the Seaweed Soup trophy and our major competition Yucca had a bit of a shocker and finished fourth.

Today we raced Gonzo, our Santana 525 in the Oakland Yacht Club Sunday Brunch series here on the Estuary. Sailing with Dina and I was Steve and Campbell. Gonzo is still not really race ready as the rudder is still bent, and the deck layout is still not really set up right. Not to mention the bottom has not been cleaned since September. But it was a nice day so why not? Campbell drove and got us a good start and we led off the line in good form squeezing off a couple of bigger boats. Once we hit the shore and had to tack though the bent rudder and the dirty bottom really hurt us on port tack and the fleet began to pull away from us.

Still all was not lost as Campbell gave us a running commentary on all things Campbell. This running monologue kept us all amused, as he is one of the funniest if not politically incorrect people I know, even as the rest of the fleet sailed away from us. In the lighter winds earlier in the race we struggled, but the second lap wasn't so bad. In the end we finished 7th out of 8, but we had a good time despite the result.

Sadly no pictures of the weekend, but here is one of our new spinnaker taken form the boat earlier this year.