South Sound Sailing (Part One: 2020)

I started this post in the fall of 2020 and unfortunately never got around to finishing it. While no longer current, it chronicles our initial foray into Puget Sound boating. I hope you enjoy it!

First, let me say that we were very fortunate that, during the worldwide COVID pandemic, we had the opportunity to move between isolating in the comforts of our modest home and the socially distanced confines of our small sailboat. We know that most of our family, friends, and few followers did not have this luxury and needed to face the risks of working while we were out exploring. So, let me say thank you to all of you that continued to support our society, including first responders, nurses, doctors, social workers, scientists, delivery drivers, grocery store clerks, bankers, home health providers, marine suppliers, government employees, and many others. Please know that we were doing our part to support our local economy, traveling locally (for the most part), maintaining social distance, wearing face masks, washing our hands frequently, and staying home whenever we felt unwell.

Ok, maybe this post should be titled South Sound Motoring, as opportunities to sail in the southern Puget Sound seem to be infrequent at best. So, we spent quite a bit of time listening to the iron genoa as we traveled to several really cool anchorages not too far from our home port of Olympia, including Hope Island State Park, Tolmie State Park, Joemma State Park, and McMicken Island State Park.

As Washington’s stay-at-home restrictions began to ease, we purchased an annual Washington State Parks mooring pass. This pass effectively allows unlimited moorage at State Park docks and mooring buoys, although the stay at any one location is limited to three days. 

Hope Island

With our newly acquired mooring pass affixed to the port side of our boat, we headed off to Hope Island State Park in early August. Hope Island is about 8 NM north of Olympia via Budd Inlet and Squaxin Passage. This tiny island is adjacent to Steamboat Island and the small community of Carolyn Beach. We had visited the area by car a few weeks earlier and had noticed that it was quite popular with lots of people enjoying the beach and surrounding waters. We could also see that there were quite a few boats anchored around Hope Island. 

To be honest, we had never picked up a mooring buoy, and our anchoring experience was limited to our Advanced Coastal Cruising class and a weekend trip to China Cove in San Francisco Bay. So, we were a bit nervous as we approached Hope Island early on this pleasant August afternoon. Our guide book noted three mooring buoys on the northwest side of the island and two on the south side. Unfortunately, as we approached the southern tip of the Island, we could only see one mooring buoy – and it was already occupied. We proceeded clockwise around the Island and found that the buoys on the northwest side were also occupied. So, we set the hook in the anchorage on the east side of the Island just outside of the narrow passage between Hope Island and Squaxin Island. We were ready for our first overnight on the Puget Sound!

Our anchorage adjacent to Hope Island in Squaxin Passage.

After a fabulous meal, we watched a few sailing videos and turned in for the night. We had downloaded a new iPhone-based anchor alarm before leaving, but we had neglected to really study the app before relying on it for the night. So, you guessed it, the alarm kept going off throughout the night! Between the alarm and my anxiety of dragging anchor as the tidal currents changed, let’s just say that I didn’t get much sleep. And although we used the app again for the second night at Hope Island, I learned that a phone-based anchor alarm is not ideal – particularly when the phone is inside the cabin. The accuracy of the GPS signal frequently resulted in our “position” being outside the designated swing area. The only real way to address this was to make the swing area extra large, which defeats the purpose of having an anchor alarm. It’s definitely time to identify another solution.

A hearty breakfast at Hope Island.

Our dingy, Skitten, came along for the ride, and we had planned to row over to Hope Island. But given the amount of boat traffic and numerous groups on the island, we opted to spend our time aboard. We continued our work installing new deck fasteners to hold the new dodger in place, and I set up the ham radio and checked into several maritime HF nets. After another enjoyable meal, a sundowner, and a few more sailing videos, we retired for another night of anxiety and poor sleep. 

We hauled anchor on the morning of our third day and motored back to Olympia. We stopped at the marina for fuel and to pump the holding tank. And then its always an hour plus of cleanup to ensure that S/V Scat! is ready for the next adventure. 

Filucy Bay / Tolmie State Park

The following week, we aimed our sights on Filucy Bay. Due to a lack of wind, we once again motored out of Budd Inlet. Only this time, we headed northeast through Dana Passage. This was our first experience with the tides and currents through a narrow pass. Fortunately, we timed our trip with slack tide and our trip through Dana Passage was uneventful. From there, we rounded Devils Head on the southern tip of Key Peninsula and headed north to Filucy Bay. We arrived mid-afternoon only to find the northern portion of the bay packed with other anchored boats. We attempted to anchor in the southwest portion of the bay, but our anchor slipped as we backed down on it. So we hauled anchor and headed back out of the bay. 

Float plane preparing for an on-water landing in Filucy Bay.

On our way out, we were buzzed by a low-flying float plane. We initially thought the plane was on a sight-seeing venture, but soon realized that we were in the way of the pilot’s preferred landing zone. The plane pulled up, circled around, and successfully completed a water landing from another direction. We waved as the plane proceeded to a float dock between us and the shore. Although we learned of many navigational hazards and right-of-way priorities during our Advanced Coastal Cruising class, the need to avoid low-flying float planes was not on the list.

A successful landing!

Since the sun was getting lower on the horizon, and because we were new to boating in the Puget Sound, we were anxious to find a place to drop anchor for the night. Our new plan was to head to Tolmie State Park and hope for a vacant mooring buoy. After another hour of motoring, we arrived at Tolmie to find none of the buoys occupied. Armed with our new State mooring permit, we successfully picked up our first mooring buoy, attached our bridle, and settled in for the evening. 

S/V Scat! attached to its first Puget Sound mooring buoy at Tolmie State Park.

Over the course of the next few hours, two other boats arrived and picked up adjacent moorings. While we did not meet our neighbors, it was helpful to learn that the mooring buoys seemed readily available through the afternoon and into the evening. I guess we’ll see if this trend continues. 

We spent the next couple of days happily doing boat projects while enjoying the clear blue skies, tree filled horizon, and pleasant temperatures of the South Sound. We did, however, row to shore at one point in a futile attempt to register our use of the mooring buoy. It was during this trip that we learned that the Puget Sound fosters populations of live sand dollars. As we glided over the clear waters, we could see beds of these furry brown Echinoderm. Fun fact, sand dollars are actually flat burrowing sea urchins!

Laurie expertly rowing us back to S/V Scat!

Washington State Parks limits the stay at their marine parks to three nights. So we planned to begin the two hour journey home once the sun crept above the horizon. Unfortunately, the Sound’s version of Karl the Fog soon obscured even our neighbors on the adjacent moorings. Although S/V Scat! does have AIS, she does not currently have radar. So we each enjoyed another cup of tea while we waited for the fog to clear. Once we could see across the channel, we dropped the mooring and started our journey back to our home port. 

Puget Sound’s version of Karl the Fog!
Joemma Beach State Park

With a little more confidence in ourselves and our little boat, we headed off in early-September, to meet with friends at Joemma Beach State Park. Joemma is located on the Key Peninsula, and it includes 19 campsites, four mooring balls, and a sizable floating dock. Although the beach and boating facilities are open to the west, the park provides a pleasant stay when the weather cooperates. Upon our arrival, we picked up a mooring and settled in for a late lunch. 

S/V Scat! resting comfortably at a mooring at Joemma Beach State Park.

Next up – find our friends a potential campsite. We rowed over to the floating dock, tied Skitten securely, and walked around the campground looking for decent motorhome-sized site. Once our friends arrived, we enjoyed a socially-distanced campfire and adult beverages. As the sun set and the moon rose, we remembered that we had broken an oar earlier in the day and now had to paddle back to S/V Scat! in the dark. As we were unable to row, we each took a paddle and slapped the water from respective sides of the boat. We eventually made it, obviously, but resolved to ovoid this scenario at all costs in the future. 

After visiting again the following day, we unhooked from the mooring and headed back home. We really enjoyed the integration of boating and camping and know that we’ll definitely seek-out similar opportunities with friends and family in the future. 

Sunset from our mooring at Joemme Beach State Park.
McMicken Island

In late-September, we again provisioned Scat! and headed north through Budd Inlet. Our objective for this trip was McMicken Island. Once through Dana Passage, we headed further north into Case Inlet. McMicken Island is a real gem! Its located just east of Harstine Island, and during low tide, McMicken is connected to Harstine via a narrow spit of sand. This tiny land bridge, known as a tombolo, disappears during high tide.

There are three moorings buoys in the cove formed by the two islands and the tombolo, and an additional two moorings on the more exposed east side of the island. While the interior buoys were occupied, we were able to snag one of the east-side buoys for our stay. Once again, we settled in for a cozy evening aboard. And fortunately, the weather cooperated. 

Later in the morning of the following day, we hopped in Skitten with a plan to row clockwise around McMicken Island. The tide was coming in as we approached the south side of the tomobolo, and we spent well over an hour simply watching the tide envelope the narrow spit of land. I found it quite interesting that the water level was higher on one side of the tombolo than the other. And we were enthralled when the water level crested the land spit and finally carried us across to the cove side. I guess I’m easily amused sometimes. From there, we easily finished rowing around the island and back to Scat! just in time for happy hour.

A disappearing tombolo as the tide came in

The following morning (my birthday), we unhooked from the mooring and motored back to Olympia. Unfortunately, this would be our last boating adventure of the season. 

Adventure Adrift and Isla Isabel or How I Met a Washingtonian, an Australian, and a bunch of Boobies

This is an unfinished blog post I wrote in 2018 after my amazing adventure, but only just got around to publishing now at the beginning of 2023……So its five years late…

I arrived at the Aeropuerto de Puerto Vallarta on Saturday January 27, 2018. I was excited about arriving in a new country, but VERY nervous about finding my way to another town and finding the marina knowing very little Spanish. I got several hundred pesos out of the ATM (which only dispensed $100 peso notes) and found the bridge across the road, waited about 15 minutes, and then jumped on the Punta Mita bus to La Cruz. I said to the bus driver, “La Paz?”

He gave me a blank, almost startled stare and I searched my brain for the right word. “La Cruz?”

Aaah. “Veintiuno.”

I threw a cien peso note at him, got another bemused and startled look, and went to sit down. Once I got settled, I went through plastic bag full of money that the woman on the plane had forced on me, pulled out two ten peso coins and a one peso coin. I made my way back up to the driver and said, “Veintiuno?”

He again looked startled, and nodded. I handed him the pesos, and he handed me back the note, looking relieved. I was worried about missing my stop, but the tracker on my phone worked really well, so I could tell which town I was going through. Additionally, in Bucerías some other Americanos got on, and I heard one say loudly, “La Cruz!”, so I decided to get off when they did. I managed to find my way to the La Cruz marina and texted Hillary.

Maybe I should back up a little.

Bob and I have been watching several YouTube sailing channels for the past few years, one of which is Adventure Adrift – a couple who sailed south from Portland in 2016. In about mid-January they posted a video asking for a volunteer to help them crew for about two weeks on trip from the Puerto Vallarta area across the up the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula to Bahía Magdalena with a side trip to Isla Isabel.

Isla Isabel is a small volcanic island about 15 miles off the coast of mainland México. It was made a Parque National de México in 1980 and is known as México’s Galapagos because it is a breeding and nesting area for thousands of sea birds including blue-footed boobies, brown boobies, red-footed boobies, and magnificent frigate birds, as well as being home to several species of iguanas, lizards, and snakes.

Bahía Magdalena, among other things, is a winter calving and breeding area for grey whales.

We watched the video and I said that it would be an awesome trip. Bob looked at me and said, “You should send them an email!”

I said, “No. I’m not doing something like this without you.”

“But you would learn so much! And you could see if you think Scat could make that trip!”

We argued for a bit, and the idea of blue-footed boobies and grey whales won out, so I sent an email to Hillary and Ty. I waited several days and got an email from them asking if I would be available for a Skype call. It was a bit surreal actually talking to them! The next day I got a very nice email saying they had chosen someone else for this trip.

My reaction was major relief. I’m a fairly extreme introvert (I know a lot of people would disagree), and the thought of going alone to another country and living for two weeks with two strangers was actually very very stressful for me.

The next Wednesday, I was driving up to Truckee for a meeting, and I got an email from Hillary – the person they had selected had backed out. They knew it was short notice, but they were planning on leaving on Sunday and would I be able to catch a flight to Puerto Vallarta on Saturday. I pulled the car over at the Donner Pass rest area and called Bob. I said, “Let me check the flight prices, but I think I have to do this.” He agreed. I sent an email back to Hillary at lunch saying I would buy tickets that evening. I would be flying in to Puerto Vallarta, and out of Loreto – having to take a bus from Puerto Vallarta to La Cruz, where Varuna was anchored, and two from Puerto San Carlos in Magdalena Bay to get to Loreto on the Baja peninsula to leave.

After a somewhat blurry couple of days, I found myself on a plane to México. I was seated next to an elderly couple who happened to belong to the Puerto Vallarta Yacht Club. They each ordered two drinks at the beginning of the flight, and were pretty much three sheets to the wind by the time we were landing, having had three each total. They were extremely nice and when they found out I was taking a bus from the airport, they insisted on giving me all the Mexican change they had. They also kept trying to get me to change my plans and stay in Puerto Vallarta so they could show me around. I politely declined and stuck with my original plan, which was how I ended up on the Punta Mita bus with a plastic bag full of change.

Hillary and Ty met me at the panga dock and we motored in their dinghy, Arjuna, back to their boat, S/V (Sailing Vessel) Varuna. It was really surreal actually meeting them in person, after watching their videos for so long. We dumped off my backpack, talked for a while, and they gave me a tour of Varuna, which would be my home for the next couple of weeks. More about Varuna later. We motored Arjuna back into the Marina to the dinghy dock and met up with another sailing couple – Cliff and Giselle on S/V Sedna. Giselle has recently started a really interesting podcast called Why We Spin Yarns. Check it out! We ate delicious flan out of the back of a van and walked up into town to eat delicious street tacos at a little taqueria called Tacos on the Street. We came back and went to sleep in a slightly rolling anchorage. I slept really well. I had to get up (as usual) in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and couldn’t find the light switch. Luckily Varuna has the exact same toilet as Scat, so I knew how to work it in the dark. When I started pumping it out, it glowed brightly – the bioluminescence in the toilet lit up the room! It was oddly magical. If I had found the light, I would never have seen it.

The next day (Jan 28) we hauled anchor, went into the marina and fueled up,

and then went across the marina to pick up some water. The potable water comes in big 5 gallon jugs, so Ty and Hillary decanted about 13 bottles and filled up. They have recently installed a water maker on board, but filling up when you can is never a bad idea. Ty took Varuna back out and anchored while Hillary went into town to find a cabbage (apparently cabbages keep way better than other vegetables), and I wandered around the marina to the Sunday market going on along the other side of the marina. It was kind of similar to most farmer’s markets in the States, actually, with more skulls and reptiles.

It was similar to farmer’s markets in the USA. With more skulls.

There was even a sushi stand.

I met up with Hillary and Ty, we had lunch at the market (I had lamb empanadas), we got in Arjuna and Ty rowed us back to Varuna. They hoisted anchor, raised the sails, and we were away on our adventure!

Sedna was accompanying us to Isla Isabel. Sedna is a beautiful 1985 Hans Christian 38T,

and as Ty noted, especially from a distance, she looks like a pirate ship with her tanbark sails.

The first night we did 2 hour watches, and I set my alarm incorrectly, so Ty had to wake me up when it was time for my first watch. I felt like a flake :-/ I was a bit nervous that they were entrusting their boat (and their lives) to me. The winds were 15 to 18 knots and gusting over 20, and we were flying along. As soon as Ty went below to sleep, a white light showed up on our port bow. I got really nervous and almost went and woke Ty up. Then I remembered Hillary mentioning that the pangas don’t seem to have regular boat lights, just big white ones high up in the air. This light didn’t seem to be moving, so I just kept an eye on it as we sailed past. I saw quite a few pangas throughout the night – at one point we sailed past four. I was really relieved when Hillary came and took over. I slept for four hours and the I was up for my next shift.

2022 Update: Below are just notes I made but never fleshed out

Bob had used his trip as an excuse to buy a Garmin InReach, which would would track my journey and could also be used to send texts. It turned out to be a lifeline for both me and Bob.

Long lines – caught one with the fishing lure so Hillary did a quick heave-to while we unhooked it.

Varuna is a good, solid 1982 cutter-rigged Pearson 367, which is only 10 feet longer than Scat, but that 10 feet makes a huge difference size-wise. She is cutter rigged, which means she has two headsails and a main sail. She also has a really pretty asymmetrical spinnaker, which didn’t get used on this voyage. During overnight sailing Ty and Hillary rigged lee cloths, so we didn’t fall out of bed. We shared accommodations – during night watches, two people slept in the bunks, while one was on watch.

2022 update: Below are photos and videos from Isla Isabel


It’s been quite a while since we’ve updated this blog, and a lot has happened in our lives and across the planet. It all started soon after Laurie and I retired at the end of 2018. We took a short, but relaxing trip to Cabo San Lucas; hauled Scat for twelve days of intense boat work; explored Joshua Tree National Park with good friends; squeezed in a trip to Indiana to visit Laurie’s parents; vacationed through Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, and Flagstaff with my family; hung out with my parents in Victoria, BC and visited Butchart Gardens; got tired of the blazing California heat and decided to escape to the cooler climate of the Pacific Northwest; updated and sold our little cottage in Placerville; moved back in with my parents (again) for two months while we purchased a condo in DuPont, WA; moved us and all of our stuff the 750 miles up Interstate 5; snagged an opportunity to transport S/V Scat! to Olympia; splashed S/V Scat! in the beautiful Puget Sound; repaired several thousand dollars worth of boat work previously completed during the 2019 haul out; and then got the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company (really) for four months (and counting) during Washington’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. And somehow in the middle of all of this, we also successfully completed our ASA Coastal Navigation, Bareboat Cruising, and Advanced Coastal Cruising classes.

Unfortunately, this didn’t leave us much time to pursue our retirement dream of sailing Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. However, given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the recent birth of our first grandchild, we are in a sweet position to start exploring some of the best cruising grounds in the US and Canada (once its again safe to do so) while remaining accessible to our families. In the meantime, we’re doing our part to curtail COVID-19 by staying hunkered down in our new condo as much as possible, and by maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks whenever we venture out. We’re really looking forward to sharing our adventures aboard S/V Scat! someday soon. So, stay tuned!

Sundowners on the beach in Cabo San Lucas, January 2019.
Happily enjoying our first visit to Cabo San Lucas, January 2019.
Exploring Joshua Tree National Park, March 2019.
Thousand Palms Oasis, Coachella Valley Preserve, March 2019.
Bob with his daughters, Megan and Emily, at the entrance to Death Valley National Park, May 2019.
Exploring the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, May 2019.
Butchart Gardens, August 2019.
Laurie on deck of S/V Hakuna Matata as we embark on our seven-day Advanced Coastal Navigation class in August 2019.
Lucky shot of a Humpback whale breaching while aboard S/V Hakuna Matata, August 2019.
Bob at the helm of S/V Hakuna Matata as we prepare to go under the Golden Gate Bridge towards the end of the Advanced Coastal Cruising Class, August 2019.
Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge, August 2019.
Our cottage in Placerville never looked better, October 2019.
Leaving California for Washington with Skitten on the roof, January 2020. Don’t worry, we made a second trip with a full-size U-Haul truck.
S/V Scat! prepared for her two-day journey to the Puget Sound, March 2020.
S/V Scat! whizzing by at 55 mph+ outside of Red Bluff, CA, March 2020
S/V Scat! nestled in her new slip at the Swantown Marina in Olympia, WA, March 2020.

Maintenance, Repairs, and Upgrades

As I cleated-off the last dock line, having returned SV Scat! safely to the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor, we reflected on all that happened during the past 12 days while Scat was in the KKMI boat yard.

I had been a little nervous when we motored the relatively short distance from the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor to the KKMI boatyard, as we had removed the main (and only) sail the previous afternoon. Without the sail, we had no “plan B” if the iron genoa stopped unexpectedly as we negotiated our way through the expected tankers and cargo ships maneuvering to and from the docks of Port Richmond’s inner harbor. Fortunately, the few tankers and cargo ships there were were already docked by the time we set off for KKMI.

When we had originally met with our KKMI project manager, we had requested that the boatyard: pull the mast and replace the rigging, install a dripless shaft seal, and install our manual windlass. We had also planned to replace the mast lights with LED, install a new VHF antenna and cable, and install a mast-top wind speed / direction indicator ourselves. As with most boatyard projects, this simple list grew considerably and stretched what we thought would be about a week to 12 days.

First up on this Friday – mast removal! KKMI’s expert rigger removed the hangers and topping lift from our wishbone boom and placed the boom on makeshift stands on deck. As I removed the bolts, pins, and leash that affixed the mast to hull, the rigger worked diligently to remove the wedge blocks that held the mast firmly to the deck collar. This turned out to be more of a chore than we had expected! Even with a gentle tug from the mast crane, the mast didn’t break free from the blocks. It took more than an hour of chiseling, hammering, and wiggling to free the mast. Upon completion of this intermediary task, the mast was expertly lifted from Scat and placed on stands in the boat yard. We had officially become the motor vessel Scat!

The plan was to haul the boat the following Monday, so we spent the rainy weekend tracking down and installing new anchor, running, and steaming light fixtures and LED festoon bulbs. We also consulted with a local marine electronics expert and ordered a new VHF antenna and coax cable, as well as a new B&G Triton wind instrument. We installed this equipment in our “spare” time over the ensuing week.

When we awoke on Monday, the KKMI crew were already busy with the many boats and projects in the yard. After a quick discussion with our project manager, the rigger hoisted the boom from our deck, we motored over to the travel lift. It always makes us nervous seeing our little boat swinging from the lift straps.

After a quick power wash, we were able to inspect Scat’s underside. It had been about 19 months since we had the boat hauled and painted in Vallejo. During this time, we had accumulated a surprising amount of growth – especially on the propeller. In fact, the prop was sporting an entire ecosystem.

[We think they are tubeworms.]

It was also evident that prop shaft zincs would need replacing. I had installed two zincs during the previous haul out, but only one remained loosely attached to the shaft. We also observed barnacles starting to spread out from the bottom of the keel. In addition to new cathodic protection, Scat was going to need new bottom paint and propeller sealant. The KKMI team would have time to complete this work while the the dripless shaft seal was being installed.

After the pressure wash, Scat was shuttled over to an open space in the yard and placed on three sets of stands. Our boat listed slightly to port as shewas placed on the stands. While this didn’t appear to matter, it made us nervous every time we climbed the ladder to board. And, we lived on the boat for a week while it was on the stands, so we did quite a lot of ladder climbing.

Installation of a dripless shaft seal turned out to be quite a project. But it wasn’t actually the installation;rather, the difficulty was in separating the propeller shaft from the coupler. It took the experienced mechanic more than two days to separate these two parts and extract the shaft from the boat. The mechanic patiently worked on this project while contorting his body around in our engine “room.” Fortunately, installation proceeded on a more expeditious pace. However, the final test wouldn’t occur until Scat was splashed back in the water and a proper leak check completed under power.

While the mechanic worked diligently from our bilge, we installed the mast lights and ran the coax and wind transducer cables through the mast. We also purchased and installed several new blocks for the halyard, topping lift, and choker. Not wanting to risk extracting the internal halyard from the mast, we agonized for several days (well, I agonized – Laurie was a little more blasé). about how to install the new block. We searched far and wide for a block that could separate similar to climbing pulleys that I’ve used previously for mountain rescue. In the end, we tied a tag line to the end of the halyard and pulled it through the 49 ft mast. This was surprisingly easy, and within just a few minutes, we had the old block removed, the new block installed, and the halyard rerouted through the mast. Apparently, like many things in life, I anguished about this for nothing!

Soon after the shaft seal project was completed and the bottom paint was touched-up, Scat was again hoisted by the giant straps of the 35 ton travel lift (affectionately know as Ella Liftsgerald) and carefully lowered into the water with our mechanic onboard. Fortunately, after about an hour of inspection, including running up and down the channel under power, we were deemed leak-free so we docked near the mast crane.

Next up, installation of the RC Plath manual windlass that Laurie inadvertently purchased last summer. Everyone agreed that this project would be easier to complete with mast removed since this would provide mostly unfettered access to the chain locker. The same mechanic that installed the dripless shaft seal was assigned our windlass project. Given the stoutness of our forward deck, as evidenced by the lifting of the boat during the initial attempt to extract the mast, the project consisted of constructing a mounting platform with a small piece of starboard and aligning the new hawse pipe with the original hawse pipe hole. Once accomplished, it was simply a matter of gluing and bolting the whole assembly down (I’m making it sound easier than it actually was). The final placement was perfect and will allow me to lower and raise the anchor without wracking my knuckles on the mast!

The final project was to re-step the mast, affix the wind transducer, attach the boom, and figure out how all of the lines and blocks attach to the mast and deck fittings. The prudent thing would have been to snap several clear photos before the mast was pulled. Yes, that would have been a good idea! However, between the cryptic drawings in the owners manual and a bit of common sense, the three of us (me, Laurie, and the KKMI rigger), were able to reassemble the important parts of the running rigging. With the mast back in place – even though the sail still filled the back of our vehicle – we shed the M/V moniker!

In the end, we completed the following projects during our 12 days in the boatyard:

  • Install new topping lift and boom hangers
  • Install new VHF antenna and coax
  • Install new mast top wind instrument and cabling
  • Replace anchor, running, and steaming lights with LED fixtures
  • Replace pendant line block
  • Replace halyard block
  • Replace topping lift and a choker blocks
  • Remove prop shaft, replace the cutlass bearing, and install a new dripless shaft seal
  • Sand hull and apply new bottom paint
  • Clean propeller and apply an anti-growth sealant
  • Install new aluminum-based prop shaft cathodic protection (formerly zinc’s)
  • Remove old knot meter and insert a plug with new O-rings
  • Install new manual windlass

We were both amazed at how fast our little craft moved through the water as we motored back to our slip in the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor.

Benicia Bound

As the Coast Guard patrol vessel approached our tiny boat in Mare Island Strait during mid-August 2018, the captain yelled over to me “Have you ever been boarded?” My heart raced a little as the Coast Guard vessel maneuvered alongside. We were just about to turn into the wind and raise the sail at the start of our journey to Benicia.

I knew, however, that everything was in order since we easily passed our courtesy inspection with the Coast Guard Auxiliary just two weeks earlier. I yelled back, “No. What do you need us to do?” And Laurie, at the helm, added, “Should I keep it in gear?”

The Coast Guard commander yelled back, “I noticed that it looks like your CF numbers fell off the port side.” “We’re USCG documented” I replied. “I can show you the paperwork” as I pointed to our Auxiliary certification sticker affixed to the port side of mast.

Disappointed at our eagerness and apparent readiness (we were wearing our inflatable PFDs after all), the Captain opted not to board, wished us a good day, and the patrol boat headed back to their quarters at the east end of the Vallejo Marina.

We hoisted our sail and proceeded down Mare Island Strait on an outgoing tide and with a light breeze coming from the west. Soon, we entered Carquinez Strait and pointed the bow east towards the City of Benicia. With the wind coming directly from the west, no spinnaker, and no way to prevent an accidental gybe, we prudently steered a zig-zag course towards Benicia.

As we sailed under the Carquinez Bridge, we once again heard the squawk of a loud parrot. “It must be a speaker” I commented to Laurie. “But why?” I chuckled that some biologist was probably able to convince some highway engineers that the presence of parrots would keep the pigeons and swallows from making a mess of their work.

Our zig-zag course gave us plenty of opportunity to practice our controlled gybes in light wind conditions. (And, I got a good workout!) We learned, however, that even in moderate winds, we should consider a chicken-gybe (i.e. 270 degree tack) rather than the risk and effort of a controlled gybe with our massive single sail.

After dodging a few tugs and fishing vessels, we arrived at the entrance to the Benicia Marina, fired up the iron genoa, dropped our sail, and motored into the marina. Laurie carefully guided our floating home into the narrow slip, which allowed me to easily step onto the dock and tie off the mooring lines. All in all, it was a relaxing 3 1/2 hour trip!

Cruise from Vallejo to……Benicia!

So last week a couple of weeks ago several weeks crap er… sometime back in April, we decided that we’d had enough with fixing and replacing boat parts, and wanted a change of scenery so we decided to sail out of Vallejo and around the corner and stay in the Benicia Marina for a night.  Vallejo and Benicia are adjacent towns, but it is actually about an eight mile sail out of the Mare Island Strait, up the Carquinez Strait, and around into the Benicia Marina. The wind was light and variable, heavy on the variable.  At one point, our wind vane at the top of the mast was actually spinning. ​

Bob and I have a ​​thing about Quonset huts…apparently.  Mare Island has what could be termed a shit-ton of Quonset huts.

​​Sailing Selfie.  We also really should be paid for our West Marine advertisements.

​​into the Carquinez Strait watching carefully for large, fast moving shipsIMG_0754

This video doesn’t exist

​and under the Carquinez Bridge.

Lucca Bar and Grill – awesome drinks
When we finally got to Benicia and docked in a tiny slip, I felt I needed a drink.  Or two. Then we had a really nice dinner at Mai Thai.

The next day, we had to wait for the tide to come in, so we wandered over to a car show that was going on along 1st Street.

Huh. When I was in the Benicia High School Panther Band, we sold beef jerky strips and band candles to raise money. They’ve come a long way.

The wind was not only light and variable on the way back, it and the current were against us, so we motored back to Vallejo.  When we arrived back at our slip, I decided to back Scat in.  As we were coming into the slip, I was looking backwards and felt the boat rock as Bob hopped off.  I said, “Could you…(my ears registered a splash, but my brain didn’t catch up) (quickly looked around – no Bob)..Did you fall in???”

The next probably 30 seconds were a blur of trying to stop the boat and not let the bow or stern hit the dock, and more importantly not hitting Bob with the prop or squishing him against the dock with an 8,500 lb boat.  I failed at not hitting the dock, but managed to avoid Bob, and came to a stop diagonally in the slip with Bob muscling her off the dock.  Whew.  As the boat stopped moving and I cut the engine, I heard a PSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH sound.  From Bob’s perspective he heard the PSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHH overlaid with RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP as his PFD inflated around his head and the Velcro holding it closed all ripped open.  I started laughing, partly from relief, but it was also pretty funny.​

​Lessons learned:  Step off the boat – no leaping.  If the boat isn’t close enough, come around and try again.  Also?  We’re not spring chickens anymore.

They cost $35 to re-arm, but hey!  They work!  As long as you can keep your head above water for 30 seconds.

Name Change – Sort of…



During the survey
Years ago, when we first saw Scat, we really didn’t like her name. We figured that if we ever bought her, that would be the first thing to go (turns out the first thing to go would be the marine toilet, but that’s another story).  By the time we actually got her, the name had kind of grown on us, but we still asked friends and family if they could think of a better one for a cat-rigged boat. There were some good suggestions, but we had to make a decision quickly since we were documenting her with the United States Coast Guard instead of the California Department of Motor Vehicles and ended up sticking with Scat.

The Coast Guard has some fairly strict requirements for the name on a boat: The name and hailing port for a recreational vessel must be displayed together on a clearly visible exterior part to the boat (for a commercial vessel, they must be on the stern, with the name again on each side of the bow unless the vessel is square hulled – it gets quite complicated).  All letters in the name must be at least 4 inches tall and the letters of the hailing port must be at least three inches. Once the Coast Guard processes the application, they assign the vessel a unique number which remains with the boat for the rest of it’s “life” no matter how it is registered by future owners.

§ 67.121 Official number marking requirement.  The official number of the vessel, preceded by the abbreviation “NO.” must be marked in block-type Arabic numerals not less than three inches in height on some clearly visible interior structural part of the hull. The number must be permanently affixed to the vessel so that alteration, removal, or replacement would be obvious. If the official number is on a separate plate, the plate must be fastened in such a manner that its removal would normally cause some scarring of or damage to the surrounding hull area.

Although we applied as soon as we bought Scat (before we even moved her from Alameda in September), we didn’t get the official documentation until January.  Bob tracked the progress for months.  Finding a “clearly visible interior structural part of the hull” that allowed for a fairly long number “not less than three inches in height” was not as easy as you might think on a 26 foot boat.  We settled on an area just behind our companionway steps in front of the engine.

Bob wanted to get stencils, but I insisted my printing would be good enough. He seemed dubious. I lay on my stomach and printed with an erasable pen, measuring to ensure each character was three inches. Then it was Bob’s turn to lie on his stomach and trace my lettering with a dremel drill. Then I got back down and filled it in with a sharpie. Not bad, if I do say so myself! We make a pretty good team.

Next came new lettering on the transom. We had designed and ordered the decals from BoatU.S. back in September, but it had either been raining or we had had other boat projects (there are ALWAYS boat projects) while we were there, so we didn’t actually get to it until a couple of weeks ago.

Removing old lettering
We found that a plastic razor blade and a carefully used heat gun work well for old decal removal without harming the gelcoat finish.  The heat gun has actually been one of the most used tools on the boat.  We’ve also used it when we replaced the toilet and to heat-shrink quite a few electrical connections.  Removing the bolted-on transom ladder steps involved me becoming a bilge rat while Bob tried not to drop them as they came off.  Once we got the old letters off, we washed, buffed, polished, and rewashed the entire transom.

Getting closer
When we filled out the documentation paperwork, we didn’t know where we would be keeping Scat!, so we put our hailing port as Placerville.  We decided her name needed some pizazz so we added an exclamation point.

Unfortunately, you can still see the shadow of the previous lettering even with all the buffing.  If you look really really really closely, you can still see the shadow of her original name – Catbernet.  We reinstalled the ladder rungs and took a look.  At this point she was finally completely legal.  She just needed one more thing.  Actually 9 more things.

And closer

Basic Keelboat (ASA 101)

Sailing the San Joaquin!

Although we’ve both sailed before, we decided that we needed a bit more experience to sail confidently along the coast, so we looked into taking the American Sailing Association (ASA) Beginning Coastal Cruising class.  To do this we had to take the prerequisite – Basic Keelboat.  We did some research and settled on the Delta Sailing School located in…the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (the second link is to a post in my other mostly defunct blog, Chimaera Contemplations – which includes a photo of the now infamous Oroville Dam, which will never look like that again).

The class was two adjacent weekends, and a half hour closer from Scat than Placerville, so we left after work on Friday and drove down to the Vallejo Marina.  We had to get up bright and early the next morning and head into the Delta.  The farther into the Delta we got, the worse the roads got and we eventually turned onto one that was mostly patches and potholes.  At the end of it, we drove up onto the levee holding back the waters from Seven Mile Slough and the San Joaquin River.  The school turned out to be a tiny floating one-room schoolhouse in a slip in a marina.  It was the perfect size for an instructor and four students.  There we met George and Tomás, the other students, and Alan the owner/instructor.

After an hour or so of instruction,  we went out and started getting acquainted with Hog Wild, the Capri 22 that we would be sailing for the next two weekends.  Bob and I kept being distracted by the huge flocks of snow and Ross geese and smaller flocks of brant and Canada geese that were noisily landing and taking off from Twitchell Island across the slough.  We practiced motoring and docking the boat until lunch.  After lunch, we motored out of Seven Mile Slough and hoisted the sails.  It was a fairly windy day, and we had quite a bit of fun zipping around in the San Joaquin River.

Keeping track of our ASA classes

The next day we arrived to gusty winds and torrential rain.  We held off sailing and spent the morning in the classroom.  The wind and rain died down by the afternoon, so we went out to practice more spirited sailing. George tried to kill us all weekend – he kept narrowly avoiding accidental jibes because he would turn the tiller the wrong way, and at one point he had Hog Wild’s rail so far under the water that Alan’s seat got soaked. 

The next weekend was the complete opposite.  Light winds, sunny and warm.  For much of the weekend we floated around carried more by the current than by the wind.  We did occasionally have enough wind to practice man overboard drills.  If you ever come sailing with us and fall overboard, stay calm and don’t worry as the boat sails away into the distance.  We will come around and get you eventually.  Probably…

We did it!

One of the other things we learned is that Bob is a knot savant.  Actually, I think Bob already knew this. Being an ex-Girl Scout, I was also fairly familiar with knots, so we were both able to help the less knot-savvy Tomás and George.  Among the many other things we went over in class were navigational rules, navigational aids, and points of sail.  All in all it was a very informative and fun class!  We’re really looking forward to the Basic Coastal Cruising class in May!

Test Sail

With a boat, things are never that easy

Making an offer on a boat without test sail and a marine survey is not wise.  After the sellers had accepted our offer, we scheduled the test sail and survey on adjacent dates, made a mini-vacation out of it, and stayed overnight at the  Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square in Oakland.  We drove down and met our boat broker, Elvis, who had brought Mike with him to help out.  Mike had actually had a little experience sailing a Nonsuch.  He also ended up being the “muscle” as the huge sail can be a bit of a bear to raise – especially since, as we found out pretty quickly, the main winch needs some servicing…  it goes backwards as well as forwards.  Elvis motored the boat out of the maze that is Grand Marina and into the Oakland Inner Harbor Channel between Alameda Island and Oakland.  Once Mike had the sail up, Elvis said, “So who’s going to be captain?” 

 “ME!! I squeaked.”  

“Well get on over here and take the helm!”  

I scrambled over (it is a small cockpit) and grabbed wheel in a death grip.


There was a nice breeze, and Scat! heeled over and took off!  She was amazingly sensitive to any touch – far more than I had expected.  With gentle coaching from Elvis, we tacked back and forth in the narrow channel, tried a controlled jibe, which ended up not-so-controlled, and decided to turn around when an enormous container ship looked as though it was headed our way.  It was awesome.  We then fired up the engine and put her through some more paces.  She turns on a dime.  As far as we were concerned, she passed with flying colours.  Elvis then took the helm, and motored us around into the slightly dilapidated dock where the survey would be performed the next day.  

Bob leaped off and Elvis and I gasped as the dock rocked precariously.

Then, giddy with excitement, we made our way to Jack London Square for a night out on the town.  Well, ok, dinner and an early night.  We had to get up early to meet Elvis and Richard, the surveyor. 

View of the Oakland Ferry Terminal from our hotel room balcony