Relief: 12-Ton Boat on a 12-Ton Crane

Clark July 16th, 2018


That moment when your evil plan is finally realized: to infiltrate a boatyard as its General Manager, lay low for 14 months, doing your job diligently, until finally you can spring your trap and yes, get a free haul-out. They never saw it coming.

There was some doubt it was even possible, as my boat is on the fringes of what our crane can lift. Our crane, which is nearly 90 years old, but still passes inspections, can lift 12 tons at our pick spot. Sailboat Data lists my boat as weighing 23,000 pounds, which gives 1000 pounds of leeway, but I assumed this was an unladen weight, that is, unladen with twenty years’ worth of crap I’ve accumulated. I’m out of circumnavigation mode and I’ve purged a lot of junk, but there’s still all the gear and supplies for life aboard. I haven’t the foggiest idea how much the boat actually weighs.

To up my chances I drained the water tanks, drained the fuel tanks, took home five carloads of crap, and dropped all the ground tackle, which is three anchors and about 400 feet of chain.

In the end it was no problem, and the old girl took skyward, but as the moment neared it dawned on me just how expensive and time-consuming it would be if it didn’t work out: I would have had to pay another yard, across town, to haul my boat. The work I need to do will take about a week, only here in my own yard I can do parts of the job after work, and the other yard would be too far away to get to after work, limiting my work to weekends, which would mean three weeks in another yard, so thousands of dollars.

The only slightly unpleasant surprise was the return of some blisters, about 50 of them, but mostly superficial. I did a major blister job and an epoxy bottom 15 years ago, and these blisters aren’t like the 1000 monsters we repaired in New Zealand. Here I’ve ground them out with a die grinder, and I’ll fill them with thickened epoxy, paint some barrier coat on them, and hope for the best:

Use It or Lose It: Keep things working well by using them.

Clark May 3rd, 2018

I’ve compiled a list of all the things on a sailboat that do not benefit from regular use:

1. The sails
2. The beer

Sails wear out from use and sun damage. The beer runs out. Other than that, everything on your boat benefits from regular use, the corollary of which is that everything is damaged by lack of use. In the boatyard this is the tragedy we see every day.

Some examples:

1. Seacocks: Open and close them every few months or they’ll freeze up. Why stop there? Every valve on the whole boat, be it fresh water, sea water, or fuel, will benefit from being worked regularly.

2. The engine: run it hard every few weeks, enough to get it up to operating temperature. Much has been written on this subject, but it’s worse to run it a short time than to not run it at all. If you can’t take the boat out, make sure the dock lines are secure and you’re not going to go motoring away with your dock, then put her in gear and let her strain against the lines…for a good 20 minutes, at least. Running the engine keeps all the innards lubricated and corrosion free, and cooks moisture out of the oil. It also keeps oil seals in good working order. See number 3.

3. Oil seals: this is near and dear to my heart, because I am currently rebuilding my windlass, for the second time in 5 years, because the oil seals are shot. Since I’m a landlubber now, I’ve hardly used the windlass, and it went to pot.

An oil seal:

Here’s how it works: On any machinery with an oil bath, such as a windlass, an engine crank case, a transmission, a mechanical steering linkage, powered cockpit winches, etc. there are oil seals, usually made out of Nitrile rubber, or some other synthetic material. A thin lip seal encircles a rotating shaft, making secure contact, sometimes with the aid of a circular spring.

In normal use this lip seal, with a little of the oil from the oil bath, rubs on the shaft as it rotates, keeping the oil in and outside contaminants out. Since the shaft is metal it corrodes over the years, but the gentle action of the lip seal rubs away the light corrosion as it forms, sending the corrosion into suspension in the oil bath. A self-polishing seal, if you will.

If you don’t use the device, this corrosion will not be polished off or carried away: It will corrode to the point that the seal won’t seat well, and the seal itself might then be damaged by the now rough surface. Then the oil or transmission fluid leaks out. The solution is very simple: Just use the device and rotate the shaft, and thus clean the seal.

Lip seals are amazingly durable if you treat them right: A transmission output seal can last twenty years or more, which isn’t bad for a relatively simple piece of rubber.

On my windlass, the shaft was so badly damaged from corrosion that I (actually my friend Peter, but I learned a lot and can do the other two) had to turn the shaft down on a lathe, then make a bronze sleeve (which is very smooth) to go over it. Now the lip seal mates with the smooth bronze sleeve, instead of the corroded steel shaft underneath:

4. Macerator pumps: It should come as no surprise that a pump left to soak in sea water and raw sewage for a few months might have some issues. Indeed, a macerator pump will freeze after just a few months sitting idle. Run them for a few seconds from time to time and they’ll last for years.

5. Pressure Fresh Water pump: Same as the macerator pump, with the addition of a pressure switch, which is also prone to freezing in place if it isn’t worked.

6. Switches: Even in a sealed switch some sort of corrosion or gunk can form on the contacts, and this is how most switches end their lives. Sometimes it’s from carbon buildup from overuse, but more often they’re fouled from under-use. Turn things on and off from time to time.

Let’s cut to the chase here: Everything should be used and worked. Blocks, winches, sail tracks, power trains, electrical parts, windlasses, rudders, watermakers, generators, autopilots…everything. Their parts get dirty, corroded, or stuck. O-rings, seals, and impellers get compressed and distorted from sitting in one position for months or years, then don’t bounce back. Working things from time to time keeps them moving freely.

It’s 406 EPIRB Day!

Clark April 6th, 2018

After my post about EPIRB registration I got a very nice note from NOAA announcing that it’s #406DAY18 (that’s the Twitter moniker).

I had no idea, but it turns out false alarms are an epidemic:

“Last year we had over 5,000 false alerts from EPIRBs in the United States. The majority of those were from people conducting self tests of their beacons incorrectly. Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel begin responding immediately to every activation of a 406 MHz SARSAT beacon. That response will only stop when it has been proven that the activation was a false alert. The simplest and quickest way for SAR forces to confirm a false alert and confirm that someone is not in distress is to talk via phone to the person who accidentally set off the EPIRB. They do this using the information provided by the beacon owner in the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database system.”

Needless to say, if the primary phone number connected to your EPIRB is accurate, false alerts can be resolved quickly. If the number rings to your part time job from last summer at the pork packing plant, confusion and waste of taxpayer money ensues.

This amazing, space age technology provides us with a terrific, efficient, and FREE service that could save our lives. Let’s not screw it up, people!

Read on:

“Beacon registration is free, easy, and is required by law! Federal law requires that all emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), personal locator beacons (PLBs), and emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) be registered in the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database. This system is free to all owners of EPIRBs, PLBs and ELTs. When beacon user/vessel or aircraft owner information changes, it should be updated online at or by contacting the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database at 1-888-212-SAVE (7283). This information is protected and only available to authorized rescue personnel if a distress activation occurs.

Beacon registration is valid for two years; owners are required to validate their beacon information every two years to ensure currency of their contact information. Up-to-date beacon owner information allows for the most efficient use of SAR resources upon beacon activation and can decrease rescue response time during distress situations.

If your EPIRB or PLB is accidentally activated, contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 1-855-406-USCG (8724) and provide them with the beacon’s ID to cancel the false alert. If your ELT or PLB is accidentally activated, contact the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at 1-800-851-3051 and provide them with the beacon’s ID to cancel the false alert. Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel begin responding immediately to every activation of a 406 MHz SARSAT beacon. That response will only stop if it has been proven that the activation was not a distress alert. Every false alert has the potential to put rescuers in harm’s way and waste limited Search and Rescue resources. Cancellation of false alerts helps protect SAR personnel who would be activated during an actual emergency, and ensure valuable resources are available to respond to actual distress cases.”

Good Government in Action: EPIRB Registration

Clark March 29th, 2018


I recently received an email from NOAA, asking me to update my EPIRB registration, as it was expiring after two years. I clicked a link, where I was quickly taken to a website ( to review all my personal data and emergency contacts. It hadn’t changed, so I clicked approval, and a week later received an updated sticker in the mail. For Luddites, the process could all be done on paper, on the back of the form that came in the mail.

There are many stories about EPIRBs being linked to inaccurate or outdated information, causing massive confusion and expense in rescue operations, so it serves everybody’s interests to keep this information up to date.

People are lazy – I know I am – so it helps when a process like this is quick, easy, and FREE. Kudos to NOAA for making it this way!

How to Throw Away a Boat

Clark March 14th, 2018

boat hole
Now that I’ve been overseeing a boatyard for ten months, I’ve run into the problematic issue of throwing boats away. Boats sink, catch fire, are abandoned, get too far behind on maintenance and repairs, and boats just get old. In these situations, the economically sensible thing to do is dispose of the boat.

Unlike the old days, intentionally scuttling a boat offshore now comes with heavy fines and maybe some jail time.

The cost of throwing away a boat varies widely. Some municipalities have programs for disposing of a boat for free (to the owner, not the taxpayer), but it generally costs $5,000-$10,000 to throw away a fiberglass 40-footer.

It costs this much because all hazardous materials must be removed before disposal. This means every last drop of fuel must be cleaned from the tanks (or tanks removed), every drop of oil from the crankcase (or engine removed), every drop of sewage from the holding tank, batteries removed and disposed of elsewhere, hydraulic fluid drained from steering systems, oil drained from windlass and gear works with oil baths, refrigerant removed and contained, etc.

If you can do all this yourself, then you’re just looking at transportation and disposal fees. Paying someone else to remove all the hazardous stuff and transport it gets expensive. You’d think there would be plenty of value in salvaging parts, but usually the only thing worth salvaging is a lead keel, as lead can fetch up to 75 cents a pound.

Once the boat is free of hazardous substances there are several avenues to disposal: Large men with chainsaws and demolition saws can reduce the boat to manageable chunks that can be thrown in a dumpster, then hauled away to the landfill. Or, the boat can be trailered whole to the landfill, where they will run it over with a landfill compactor. After a few passes it’s unrecognizable as a boat:

This is sad to watch, because even if it was a piece of crap before demolition, it was somebody’s baby once.

There are several promising technologies for recycling fiberglass, but none ready for the mainstream. At $35 to $50 per ton, disposal in a landfill is almost always the cheapest option.

All that composite material will then sit in a landfill forever, or at least, shall we say, hundreds of years. Wooden boats will eventually return to the earth. It seems to take about 100 years for a wooden boat to rot away to nothing in a temperate climate; much less time in the tropics. Steel boats will rust away in about the same amount of time. I don’t know the disintegration time for an aluminum boat, but for a composite (fiberglass) boat, it’s going to be taking up space and being ugly long after we are all forgotten.

With this in mind, owning a fiberglass boat isn’t just this year’s maintenance or next year’s haul-out. It’s the eternal plan for several hundred gallons of polyester resin. And, not to mention any names, but there are certain manufacturers turning out thousands of fiberglass boats every year, and these boats will have a lifespan of 20-30 years, after which they’re not worth maintaining.

It sort of like getting a puppy: If you’re the kind of person who is going to tire of it after the puppy stage, then you shouldn’t get a dog. If you’re going to buy a boat that needs work, not do the work, and then hope to sell or dispose of said boat in worse condition than you bought it, then you, or the sucker you sell the boat to for $1, will be headed for the landfill.

The Epoxy Allergy and How to Avoid It

Clark March 6th, 2018

The Epoxy Allergy, more specifically allergic dermatitis, is the curse of the marine industry: The few who develop it are marked for life, never to come near epoxy again. The rest of us can go on working with these wonderful products with impunity. The key concept is that the allergy is developed over time. One is not born with it, as with many other allergies.

In New Zealand, during a 100-day blister and bottom job, my friend Ian developed the allergy as we went. We worked away, day after day, filling ground-out blisters with epoxy and fiberglass mat, rolling out the bubbles with ridged metal rollers. The boat being above us, much epoxy dripped down on us. One day Ian felt sick and had some swelling. We wrote it off to a cold or flu. Then a week later a big gob of thickened epoxy fell on his cheek. We cleaned it off (I think with acetone…eh gads) and within a few hours he looked like the Elephant Man, with one eye completely swollen shut for a week. Ian had to stand 100 yards away for the rest of the project if we were working with epoxy, and can’t go anywhere near the stuff for the rest of his life.

It turns out that cleaning it off with acetone was the worst thing we could have done. This puts the epoxy mixture in suspension in a solvent that is easily absorbed into the skin. If you get epoxy on your bare skin, just wash it with soap and water. Vinegar is also supposed to be good. Letting it dry and peeling it off later is preferable to using solvent.

Some people can develop the allergy after just a few contacts, but for most it takes months or years of exposure.

A few tips for working with epoxy:

1. Wear vinyl gloves (not latex)…always!
2. Wear a protective suit, or at least long sleeves, and tuck your sleeves into your gloves. No matter how careful you plan to be, you’ll somehow get it on your wrists or arms, even if you’re wearing gloves.
3. Never clean epoxy from your skin with solvent.
4. The thinner the epoxy, the worse it is for causing the allergy. Just as cleaning it with acetone puts it into an easily-absorbed suspension, epoxy-based paints, thinned epoxy, and penetrating epoxy are more easily-absorbed into the skin.
5. It’s the hardener, not the epoxy. The allergens for most people are in the hardeners (part B), not the epoxy base (part A). You’ll seldom have one without the other, but something to keep in mind.
6. Epoxy is generally considered safe to use without a respirator in a well-ventilated area. If you’re going to be in an enclosed area, wear a respirator, as the concentrated vapors can cause irritation to the respiratory tract and eyelids (and hasten your road to developing the allergy).
7. Epoxy dust, from sanding, can be especially insidious. We often refer to epoxy being “green,” as in dried, but not completely cured. Full curing can take as long as a week, and during this time the epoxy dust still contains some of the same volatile compounds as wet epoxy. If you must sand green epoxy, wear a respirator and eye protection.

Epoxy products are ubiquitous in the boating world, and they should be. They’re strong, versatile, easy to work with, resistant to chemicals, and create a barrier to moisture. Take a few very basic precautions, don’t ever clean it off with solvent, and you’ll have a lifetime of ahead of you in the wonderful world of epoxy. Blow it, develop the allergy, and you are forever banished!

Trailer Out for Donald Crowhurst Biopic, The Mercy

Clark November 29th, 2017

I’m still in.

I’ve been long awaiting this film’s release, here and here, and now it looks like it is being rolled out:

“THE MERCY has a running time of c2 hours. It will be released in Portugal on November 23rd, in the Netherlands on December 14th, in Australia on February 8th, in the UK on February 9th, in Poland on March 2nd, in France on March 7th, in New Zealand on March 8th and in Germany on March 29th.”

United States? Hello? What are we, chopped liver? It says elsewhere it’s coming out in 2017, but there ain’t much of 2017 left.

One critic has reviewed it here and gives it a mostly positive review, especially Colin Firth’s performance.

Still, will it appeal to sailors, or will the sailing bits make us shake our heads in disgust, as with just about every other movie about sailing? The trailer does indulge a bit in the dreaded man clinging to top of mast in middle of storm for no good reason trope. And some way too big waves, probably a model filmed in a tank.

But I’m still in…if it’s ever released in the US.

Lightning and Sailboats

Clark November 22nd, 2017

You can read many authoritative treatises about boats and lightning, and they’re all full of crap. There is only one thing we know for sure about lightning: It is unpredictable.

An acquaintance recently introduced me to a fellow sailor, saying, “You got run over by a container ship. He got struck by lightning.”

I reflexively asked, “Did it zap all your electronics?”

“No, it blew a 2 x 3 foot hole out the side of the boat and she sank in twenty seconds.”

He was sailing solo in the vicinity of Drakes Bay, Costa Rica, also very close to Isla del Caño, one of the most lightning-struck places on earth. His boat was a cold molded 60-footer, with a nearly 100-foot aluminum mast. Being a conscientious guy, he did what the books say and connected the base of his aluminum mast to his external lead keel with some large gauge cable.

Did the lightning do what the books say and politely conduct itself down the mast, through the cable, and out the keel? Nay, it jumped from the base of the mast to a monel water tank that was 2 x 3 feet in cross-section.

He heard a kerblong, the noise the water tank makes when it’s full, as the lightning struck. When he went down the companionway to investigate the water was already four feet deep, and his bilge was four feet deep, meaning the water was actually eight feet deep. He grabbed his ditch bag, then went for the life raft, which was in the forepeak, but the water was already so high that it triggered the hydrostatic release on the life raft, inflating it, and wedging it hopelessly in the forepeak. If there is a lesson to be learned from his story, it is to keep life rafts with hydrostatic releases on deck.

In the end he escaped with his ditch bag, some water, the clothes on his back, and his surfboard, which he paddled through the night, and into the next day, before reaching shore. Among the wreckage was a piece of 2 x 3 foot cold molded wood, confirming the whole lightning blew the monel water tank out the side of the boat hypothesis. (I might hypothesize a bit more, that the lightning violently boiled the water in the tank, and the resulting steam blew the tank apart?) A day or two of walking and paddling down the shoreline, a remote vacation house, a chicken bus to the nearest town, a few phone calls, and he was soon on a plane back to the US. The boat wasn’t insured.

His is the worst sailboat-lightning story I’ve ever heard, but I’m sure there are some that are never told.

While I was in Costa Rica I knew eleven boats that got struck, ranging from minor damage to total destruction of all things electrical and electronic.

Once I watched as lightning struck the boat anchored right next to me. It vaporized the tri-color light on the top of the mast, traveled down one of the outer stays, and jumped from the stay to the lifeline. Where it jumped from the stay it left a puddle, as they say in welding parlance, a puddle just big enough to take out two of the wires in the 1 x 19 wire rope. My dad flew down a week or two later, and brought them their new tricolor and enough wire rope to replace the stay. They were lucky, but I was even luckier, because I was just a hundred feet away and didn’t get hit.

It looked something like this:

On another boat the strike found its way to the anchor chain and didn’t do any apparent damage, but the lightning strike electropolished the anchor chain and anchor to a mirror finish. I could see my reflection in the fluke of the anchor, which was galvanized but looked like shiny stainless.

On the boat that had a total loss of all things electronic and electrical they just did a quick and dirty replacement of the engine battery, starter, and alternator, then bought a handheld GPS and VHF to get them across the Pacific. Total electrical replacement took place later in New Zealand.

At that point I’d had the bejesus scared out of me by lightning, read the books, connected my aluminum mast to my external lead keel with some large gauge cable, and got one of the bottle brush static dissipators for the top of the mast. The so-called lightning experts often scoff at these dissipators (”You can’t dissipate all the ions in the whole ocean off the top of your mast!”) but none of the eleven boats struck had dissipators, and none of the boats with dissipators were ever struck. Coincidence? Maybe-probably.

After my mad scramble to “lightning-proof” my boat, I never saw lightning like in Central America again. I was in the break of the monsoon in Southeast Asia, spent months in Southern India, a whole circumnavigation with lots of lighning, but nothing ever compared to Central America where, well, eleven boats got struck that I knew. There were probably many more I never heard about, meaning it’s a significant danger down there.

So what shall we do? Everyone agrees that connecting the mast to the keel is a good idea, or somehow otherwise providing a low resistance path for lightning to get from your mast to the sea. And this lightning ground should be connected to the bonding system, so that the charge can be conducted, rather than jump, to various thru-hulls, and hull appurtenances.

A common misconception is that lightning, and electricity in general, will take the path of least resistance. Wrong. Electricity will TAKE ALL AVAILABLE PATHS. This is a good thing to keep in mind with grounding systems and all manner of wiring aboard. So even if we provide lightning with a low resistance path to ground, will it take it? Maybe. Will it take it, and also take other routes? Probably, and we’re talking about lightning here, a phenomenon not generally described in harmless or insignificant quantities.

I was going to close with a flippant remark about the “cone of protection,” the 45-degree zone below your mast, which you always read about in discussions about boats and lightning. I was going to suggest that during an electrical storm you stand in the cone with a golf club over your head while I cower in the quarter berth, but the National Lightning Safety Institute beats me to the punch with their dispelling of the Cone of Protection Myth.

Bad Things Come In Threes

Clark August 9th, 2017

We were sailing back to the Spaulding Marine Center from a successful first charter on our 1885 gaff-rigged sloop Freda. We left the charter guests at the Ferry Building, set sail, and managed to lay Sausalito in one tack on the ebb. Volunteer crew Rob and I quaffed artisanal cheeses and fresh figs, leftover from the charter, as we enjoyed spectacular Bay sailing aboard the oldest sailing yacht on the West Coast. I was feeling so cocky about it that I suggested, “People always drop her sails and motor the last mile to Spaulding. There’s plenty of room by Spaulding to drop sail. Let’s sail on down the waterfront.”

Thank God we didn’t actually do that! When we neared Sausalito we started getting hammered by williwaws coming down the slopes, and I called the fight. I went to start the engine, and she wouldn’t start. I tried on battery 1, on battery 2, on both, and she barely turned over. It was bizarre, because the boat had been used both days over the weekend, we’d motored for a good half hour at the start of the charter, and Freda doesn’t have much in the way of an electrical system, just a bilge pump and a few lights, not enough to drain the batteries.

“Uh oh.”

I ran up to the foredeck to drop the jib and ready the anchor, but the strop that holds the sheet tackle to the club-footed jib parted. Now with each williwaw the foredeck was swept menacingly by a loose, 15-foot long jib boom. The jib has a downhaul, as in a line that runs from the foredeck to a pulley on the tip of the bowsprit, then up the luff of the jib to the its head. Without it there’s no way to get the jib down without going to the end of the bowsprit.

With all the flogging the end of the downhaul was carried away, and I had to go to the end of the bowsprit, with the jib boom flailing, to retrieve the end of the downhaul. Once I did I got the jib down, and the jib boom only smacked me in the head once, lightly. It turned out this was the only remaining manila strop on Freda. All the rest had been replaced with modern rope:

I assembled the ancient fisherman anchor, which is more for looks than function, and got it ready to deploy.
Freda behaved herself very well. With just the main up she sat in irons, without really moving forward or drifting back.

I was about to call back to Spaulding for a tow, but decided to give the engine a Hail Mary, now that the batteries had sat for a few minutes. It worked!

Now we just had to douse and gasket the main and we were home free. We loosed the peak and throat halyards to drop the gaff, I started taming the main and tying on some gaskets, then fell through the open main companionway hatch:

There are two ways to avoid falling through a hatch:

1. Close the hatch.
2. Be aware the hatch is open and don’t fall into it.

I did not do either of these, but it’s common practice, of course, to close the cursed hatch before furling the main. Luckily I was able to break my fall with my rib cage. It must have looked terrible, because Rob left the helm to jump to my aid, but I seemed to be okay. A day later I’ve got some nasty bruises on my ribs, but none broken. On the other side I’ve got pulled muscles in my arm pit.

So there you go: Engine that won’t start, parted jib boom strop, and falling through a hatch. Three bad things in rapid succession. I attribute it to being out of real sailing practice, still learning the ins and outs of Freda (the saucy old Manx), and being a bit flustered after all that jib boom dodging.

My dad fell through a foredeck hatch in the middle of a race once. He was nearly 80 at the time, broke a few ribs, and that was the end of that race. I guess if you sail long enough, sooner or later you’ll fall through a hatch.

My New Job: Keeping Sausalito Salty

Clark July 7th, 2017

I’m two months into my new job as General Manager of the Spaulding Marine Center, in Sausalito, California. According to Google Maps, work is 2.4 miles from my house. Have I ridden my bike to work? Of course not.

A non-profit boatyard? Yes, all proceeds from boatyard operations go to restoration projects, education, outreach, and other do-gooder stuff. We (meaning Spaulding) owns Freda, the “Matriarch of San Francisco Bay,” the oldest sailing yacht on the West Coast. She was originally built in 1885, and the subject of a half million dollar, decade-long, museum quality restoration:
Freda Schooner Race 2017

I’d never sailed a gaffer before, but now I’ve got her wired. She’s got one long boom.

Myron Spaulding was the lord of San Francisco sailing. He designed great boats, built great boats, and won great races. He won the TransPac in 1936, as captain of Dorade. Did I mention that all the while he played first violin for the San Francisco Symphony? Don’t you hate people like that? We don’t hate people like that: we celebrate them, and Myron’s legacy is celebrated in just about everything we do around here. Myron passed in 2000.

A year and a half later Myron’s wife Gladys passed away. The couple didn’t have children (they met later in life), so Gladys left the boatyard in a charitable trust, later formed into a 501(c)(3) corporation, and that’s how we became a non-profit boatyard.

Myron and Gladys’s ashes sit in urns on a shelf above my desk. When I start zoning out in the afternoon and checking Facebook I can feel them scowling at me, so I get back to work.

The boatyard pretty much runs itself. We’ve got six boatyard staff, three men and three women, which is unique, and they’re all very dedicated. I’ve learned how to drive the forklift, give crane signals, and I get my hands dirty a few times a week, but I’m mostly an office duck.

It’s an amazing place, Sausalito’s unofficial maritime museum, with a huge nautical library, sailing magazines dating back to the 1920s, and all kinds of sailing treasures and memorabilia. We’re open to the public whenever we’re open:

A few weeks ago I opened the place on a Saturday so a group could come ogle our old woodworking tools. Some came from as far away as Central Oregon, and drove all night. Who knew there were people who traveled long distances just to geek out on old power tools?

Our coolest project is the SV14, an affordable boat for disabled sailors. The project has been an international collaboration among the builders of the various prototypes and various disabled groups. We’re hoping for a launch and test sail later this summer:

You can check out the SV14 website and Facebook page.

But first we’ll have to pour her weighted centerboard, and the likely location will be my backyard. I’m sure the local fire marshall, and my wife, will be totally cool with this, right? Three hundred pounds of molten, toxic metal getting poured into a mold in a hole behind our back deck will be an educational experience for my two small children, right?

Our next restoration project will be Mavis, a 1924 Bird Boat, built here in Sausalito. They were originally called the San Francisco S Class, but so many were named after birds (Curlew, Petrel, etc.) that they became known as Birds or Bird Boats. Several still sail the Bay. Poor Mavis sank in her berth, and was then donated to Spaulding. Gladys Spaulding owned and sailed her at one point, so she’s a worthy project, but like Freda, by the time it’s all said and done very little of the original boat will remain:

Spaulding offers boatbuilding classes, summer camps for kids, guest speakers, seminars, community sails, and a vibrant social scene for volunteers, apprentices, and all manner of salty folks.

One old customer calls Spaulding “hallowed ground.” Across the floor are still marks where the frames were laid, and a hole drilled up through the floor for the rudder post of Chrysopyle, one of Myron’s masterpieces. Another of his masterpieces, Suomi, was lost with all hands in what might still stand as the worst yachting accident on the California coast. In 1955 she was hit by the Swedish ship Paramatta off Point Arguello. Yet, we have two of her life rings hanging on the wall, and nobody knows where they came from. Did they survive the wreck, or did we make extras?:

Come visit anytime. I’ll be here.

Next »