“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end of the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open”
I have had a life on the water, fishing, boat delivery, racing, and messing about in boats, almost anything that floats, a few did not. I’ve sunk boats, near drowned, lead at least one mutiny, fled from the officials, jumped ships, and sailed half of the seven seas. Proudly used to say “I could row a boat before knowing how to ride a bicycle”. Until I moved to a small village where the natives looked quizzically at me when I said that. That was the normal learning sequence for all kids, I was just stating the obvious. I then knew I found my home.
Crewed again on the steam ship Virginia V. This time we took out 50+ kids, mostly teens. The project was to teach basic maritime skills. Kids got a turn of man overboard drill , we did not toss anyone in the water, …. at the end of the day I had a few recommendations. One station was learning the 100 year old steam engine, another was navigation and wheel watch with the captain.
I and another crew ran fire drills. My partner is captain of a local pirate ship. He has far too much fun. We had a 1 ½ inch fire hose and teams of 5 kids and got to squirt the water over board. It was a hot day and of course we got to spray a few boats that came too close. (ya we ran 10 drills).
Some kids thought this was the greatest fun, some were indifferent. One terrified kid would not go near the hose. He did not like water. He hung on to the amid-ships deck mast, convinced he was going to fall overboard. No idea how they talked him to even get on the boat. I forget that not all have my love of boats and the sea. .If not handling the fire hose, kids were on their phones, oh well.
kid wanted to toss an empty bag of chips over board, I gave her the
evil eye. Even though I am mostly a scoundrel and pirate. I do have
some standards about littering. I did not mention the Coast Guard has
serious fines for plastic overboard.
I was at the wheel at the time, getting
ready for a hard port turn. Dodging crab pots. 146 passengers.
Saw the Seattle – Bremerton ferry heading towards us. It was low tide, and narrow channel. We chose to the north side of the channel. We passed them stbd-stbd (unusual). (Two short blasts on the whistle, Colregs rule 34)..They were not required to respond, it would have been nice though. The Bremerton – Seattle ferry would be overtaking us shortly on our Starboard side. Then a couple of sail boats without much wind were ahead of us, they had right of way. The Seattle – Bremerton ferry had just overtaken them. After all the traffic was resolved we cut the right hand “Pt Glover” close. In the simulator, I have run large ships aground there. We were aiming for a 6PM landing at Eagle Harbor. In a bit of a hurry. Had to keep a watch aft as the navy ships do not show up on the AIS. Makes a long day.
We blow our steam whistle quite often, to other boats, friends on beaches, and passengers that want to pull the whistle cord. Almost any excuse. But we also have to use the whistle for navigation and communicate to other boats. There is a protocol and established system of inter-ship communication. Our difficulty is making a whistle sound that does not mean anything to nearby boats. I prefer short-long-short-short: it has no meaning, but makes lots of noise. And the passengers on the upper deck get sprayed by condensing steam.
I have written before about the dangers of Race to Alaska. There are some boats and crews just not designed for the very nasty weather, waves, and cold of the north. This 30 foot tri is made for day sailing the tropics. The crew had the chops, the boat did not hold up. They had to be rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard. They pushed the SOS button on the SPOT tracker.
tracker junkies watch the location of their favorite boats. This is
how it is done. More gory details than most would care for….
We lease the trackers from the Victoria Yacht club. We assign each SPOT tracker serial number to a team. Arrange the computer server just to look at our trackers, not the thousands of campers and hikers. We reuse and reprogram the trackers after the Swiftsure and Seventy-48 races. I suspect we are the heaviest traffic users of the tracker. The internet traffic volume does crash their servers.
This is what the tracker transmitter looks like. About the size of a pack of cigarettes. It resides in a water proof bag.
It has an internal GPS receiver. About every 10 minutes, it re-transmits a text message of it’s GPS location to the Globalstar satellite network. Generally works ok. But the face (front) of the Tracker has to be facing upwards and unobstructed view of the overhead satellite. The tracker is usually lashed to the deck or mast.
include, the batteries dying, getting dropped in the bilge,
overboard, or just forgetting to check if the thing is even
working . We instruct the teams to check every 12 hours making sure
the thing is working. Teams forget to check.
These things are power hogs, so require higher power primary lithium batteries. We put new batteries in before the race, They will last maybe as long as a week. I tell the teams to buy spare batteries. The teams clean out the AAA battery supply in PT and in Victoria. I give teams some extras while I have them. Batteries will die quickly if the tracker can not get a clear view of the satellite, (lots of transmit retries.)
generation of tracker will go to sleep if there is no movement. The
previous generation would turn themselves off after 24 hours. We
saved those for the faster Seventy-48 racers and R2AK racers
going just the first leg. There is a problem of teams not showing up
on the tracker. I am wondering if a smooth passage puts the tracker
power switch on the side turns the beast on/off. Green light says is
good to go. Then they have to press and hold the “footprint”
button to start tracking. The green GPS light at the top says
it is getting a GPS signal. Red means error or no signal. The far
right light: green if talking to satellite, red if not. Many
of the additional features are not turned on.
I’ll usually teach only one, maybe two people from the team how to use this, but the day before the start is a very busy and insane, I doubt they are really paying attention. I suspect that most tracker problems are user error. I test each tracker with a team member before allowing them to leave.
The tracker can send a short text message to the race boss. Does not really do any thing but say “Hi look at me”. The SOS button has a cover, flip the cover and press the SOS. No turning it off. That sequence sends the message to the satellite, to the SPOT company, to Race Boss, he decides on the next action and calls the Coast Guard.
complex little device and system, but this is the thing that makes
the races interesting to watch. Without it R2AK, Swiftsure, and
70-48 would be boring to non participants.
The morning of the race (start at 5 am). I was parked out in the Straits of Juan de Fuca in a little power boat. That morning had 30+ knot winds from the west and building. An out going tide to the west. The waves were short and vertical. Lumpy. I escorted about a half dozen small boats to the Dungeness Light house where they camped out till the wind dropped. They became guests of the light house keeper until the winds dropped. Good idea. A couple of SUPs ended up on the bird sanctuary “Protection Island”. I called the last legal resident on the island and told him “he had guests at Violet Point”. He went down to greet them. More than a couple of small boats I was sure were not having a good time. It was blowing force 7-8. My little boat handled the seas quite well, still had to hang on.
A couple of follow up stories: The race boss got yelled at by Dept of Natural Resources for letting racers go to the nature preserves at Dungeness and Protection Island. DNR’s priorities are a bit different.
The race rules have been tweaked again. Next year racers can go outside of Vancouver Island only if they are certified as open ocean racers. No SUPs or small boats on that course. Seymour Narrows is no longer a check point. Bella Bella is the only check point. I am sure the Canadian Coast Guard has had enough of this event. They now wisely require EPIRB (Emergency position indicating radiobeacons) on the racing boats.
I like man overboard drills. Every boat and crew should do them. A nice activity for a boring day on the water. They have proved with few exceptions surprisingly difficult. Tossing something or somebody overboard and trying to retrieving them is tricky.
Often for drills we toss a dummy, life ring, or weighted fender overboard. The ship then should fly the “O” Oscar flag. That is why our dummy MOB is named “Oscar”. Our job is recover Oscar. Easier said than accomplished.
During one drill on Lake Union, a paddle boarder recovered Oscar and was heading home with him. We not only had a MOB, but a shanghaiing. Chasing down a paddle boarder with a 125 foot ship was challenging.
It is very easy to lose track of Oscar . On one 250’ ship, Oscar was more than a mile away (and invisible) before we could get the crash boat in the water, and we were already planning on the drill. Our ship had gear in the water (Restricted Maneuverability) and could not maneuver and could not turn around in less than an hour. We had to direct the crash boat via radio, they could not see Oscar even when almost on top of it. We only had a compass fix of the direction of Oscar. New ships have a MOB button that sets a GPS coordinate on the chart plotter. One of the many reasons to learn chart plotter features.
The drowning victim does not wave their arms and yell like on TV, or on my ship simulator. Flashing light on the life jacket is a good idea.
Fishing a person out of the water is not easy. First, the MOB really does not want to be swimming. They get crazy desperate. When I was MOB, (my boat sunk), treading water two miles from land, I was hypothermic, delirious, and swearing like the salt I aspired; my rescuers were reluctant to haul me aboard. I was not a good catch. I remember very little, I think I passed out.
Jumping in and heroically saving a drowning person, works only in the movies. In real life the drowning person is trying to kill you. This is our first lesson. My instructor learned quickly to first take his bright yellow knife out of his life vest. The drowning person grabs for it instantly and climbs on top of the rescuer. Think insane and desperate person with a knife. What could go possibly wrong?
A couple of days ago, while working on my charter boat. I watched a man climb from the dock into a “sit on top” rental kayak, he kept going and into the water. He could not swim but he did have his life jacket on and correctly fastened. He splashed over to the dock and I dragged him out. (I hate those stupid unstable plastic boats). His wife was paddling about in her own identical boat. She (“I can swim”) took her life jacket off before climbing out of her boat and almost fell in while trying to get on the dock. NEVER take a life jacket off while still in the boat. Even on Martha J. when passengers start taking their life jacket off before we land, I bark loudly.
There are books written how to search and recover a MOB . All slightly different but all offer good advice.
I like using small inflatable crash boats. Trying to bring a larger ship along side is probably more dangerous than being in the water. I crew on one ship that does this, I am not happy, I think it is unsafe. They do not have a crash boat.
Life slings are used to haul a person out of the water. Used them often in drills. I think next time, I will jump overboard and see if the crew can actually haul me up. I am dubious. Slings require the rescue boat to get close to the MOB plus assumes the MOB can swim and put one on. You can throw them about 10-20 feet, but they are heavy and awkward. About half time the crew stands on the heaving line.
I like throw bags. They are a small bag with least 50’ of light floating line. Throw it past the MOB, they grab on, tow them to the rescuers. Then use life sling to get the person aboard.
Most boats use just dummy Oscar, I like using a real person in the water, sometimes the instructor in a dry suit. This is how we train in our classes.
We once had a training session for a rowing team, each rower has to learn how to throw the bag, and get our MOB back aboard. For this exercise we recruited a local mermaid. She was having all the fun, everyone else was getting soaked. The water was bone chilling cold. She put up resistance, fought, and tried to pull her rescuers in the water with her. For this exercise we were trying to get her into a small skiff. The trick is to get one leg (flipper?) in first. Then roll her in.
She would jump back in and repeat the drill for the next person.
After all 20 people tried “rescuing” her. Found her sitting on the pier, drinking a coke, and eyeing a fleet of teen boys learning to sail. She was gone in a splash. Boys did not stand a chance.
I suspect this is the same mermaid that took my rowing oar last year in the 70-48 race.
Please be respectful of cultural boundaries when working with mermaids from various cultures and traditions, and be mindful not to intrude.
I took photo when WF was hauled and on the slings. July 2013. I initially had no idea what the derelict was. The yard was doing an uninspired pressure wash of the hull. I was sure it was hauled for bulldozing. That was my initial interest. I was planning to take pics of haulout to pile of rubble. I was working on the 100 year old Schooner Adventuress at the time so I could watch the process. I was more interested in the salvage company that brought her her. I sometimes drive small tow boats for them.
After I was told what the boat was, I sent this photo to an acquaintance in Friday Harbor who follows this sort of thing. 15 minutes later I got a email from Cannery Row Historian at the museum. “So that is where he took the boat!!” It is difficult to keep hidden a large and famous boat. The owner (a California developer – a species of vermin I have had dealings with before) announced he was going to re-float and haul the boat to Seattle and restore her. And make a restaurant out of her, I hear that story a lot. At least that is what was published in the Salinas newspapers and told to the Monterey Museum and some noise like he was ready to spend big money.
Western Flyer had about 20 tons of mud internally (per the travel lift operator). The starboard quarter is caved in. The shear and bulwarks are crushed and rotten.
The first line the owner told to the marina, is usually “You should give us free moorage because the boat is famous and should be honored that the boat is here.” (I think the harbor master has permanent eye rolling injuries from this type of request). We home port several 100 year old plus yachts in first rate conditions, each with a glorious history. They pay full fare.
Derelict former yachts of famous actors, explorers, and writers routinely haul out. Often purchased by an impoverished person without boat-repair experience, but in awe of the boat’s provenance. This is a case in point, others routinely mention the ferry Kalakala in the same breath. I remember 30 years ago, sailing past the rusty and rotten USS Potomac tied up in Oakland with a similar sorted history. Took $2.5 mil of Govm’t money plus unknown amount of Roosevelt money to make her seaworthy.
The port routinely demands a large upfront bond to cover demolition fees for suspect vessels like WF. The Harbor Master demanded and received the $25,000 bond upfront to bulldoze the wreck. There is no question the skill and resources are here in our village to restore the boat. Looks like, there is nothing left to restore. Maybe hold up the port hawse pipe and rebuild everything around it. (This is done more often than most people think.) Then reconstruct the ‘restored’ vessel to modern safety standards as an inspected vessel, if anyone has any desire to haul passengers. But the Coast Guard generally does not like inspected wooden boats. We are lucky there are some rare CG inspectors in the NW that do understand woodboats.
Most of the boat people in town are more amused than anything, watching people come and pay homage to a stinking and rotten wreck. There are hoards of visitors coming just to touch or be photographed with the boat. We are a tourist town, this attraction was not in the visitor guide.
I spoke to my marine insurance surveyor not long after WF was hauled, he made an off the cuff estimate of about $3 million to reconstruct the vessel and a $250,000 boat would be the result. Five years later on, that estimate got repeated and is now the restoration mantra.
Many of these ‘dream’ boats would not be let back in the water by either the Coast Guard or responsible harbor master. We were all of the impression the WF was just another one of these ill-conceived projects; and almost proven correct. After a boat near WF burnt, we in the yards were convinced as soon as WF dried out it would also have an “accident”.
The boat sat untouched in the yard for almost 2 years. WF is in an open and unsecured work yard. I have heard reports of “crew” retrieving possessions off the boat Typically a big boat crew in that yard works 24/7 until splashed again. The yard rates are high just to discourage long term storage. The hull is absorbing rain water, you can smell the rot. The deck has turned to compost, growing quite a healthy garden this winter. At least the stench from dying sea life is reduced. I know of several wood boats that do not want to be near her, mostly for rot spores, and fire. I never been inside the boat, so I can not report the internal condition. I have been on enough sunken wrecks, I can guess. My oceanography student refers to this as “Stinky Boat”, I have to agree.
The WF is charged about $2k/month to park in a work yard. We suspected there was no money or direction for that project. After stiffing the port for a year’s back rent, no boat shop would take on any work without full payment up front. Just days before the bulldozing, the owner finally ponied up the $12 grand he owed the port for haulout and yard space. Then following years he paid fees regularly.
The boat was purchased by John Gregg; a non profit was created to restore it. The task was taken on by Shipwrights Co-op. They had indoor space, resources, and skills. A number people said “yes the boat can be restored, but why?”. Chris Chase is leading the restoration of the boat. Hired by the WF foundation. He was one of the senior shipwrights at the Co-op. He has the chops to lead the restoration.
A 2017 reception at the Co-op. Old shipwrights and surveyors were walking about surreptitiously stabbing pocket knives in the ribs and few planks, shaking heads, and drinking free beer in the other hand, (unofficial survey). Other than stinking from rot topside, damaged keel, and a crushed stbd quarter, and underwater for way too long; the boat is in better shape than expected. Nothing a few million dollars couldn’t fix. Had a nice conversation with Gregg about underwater robots. The goal is restore to the time of the Sea of Cortez trip, removing all post 1940 modifications . This was a work boat that over the years was outfitted for different fisheries: crab, longline, and ??
A number of planks have been removed: garboard and assorted others. The interior has been gutted including engines, tanks, drive shaft. Mud and concrete ballast has been removed. The foundation has great plans and needs great money. They plan a hybrid diesel-battery-electric propulsion.
Future plans included taking people out on the ocean and running youth education program. I see problems, I hope smarter people than I have figured out a solution.
I heard a mention the boat is 130 tons gross. That means the boat can operate as an uninspected “12 Pack” vessel. If the Coast Guard approves, (I doubt it though). Solves some but not all problems.
A larger boat like this is very expensive to operate and 12 passengers are not going to pay for it. (estimate about $300k / year to operate, I get this number from Virginia-V, a wood boat about the same size). I once ran similar calculations when I was “given” a beautiful 60’ 1936 schooner that was already in good shape. There was no way the boat could pay for herself.
Most inspected wooden passenger vessels are rated just for “inland” not “near-coastal” Monterey Bay is “near coastal.” The organization has to decide to restore to original, or modify to look “original” and include modern safety standards. Insurance and Coast Guard will make that decision.
The WF was never designed as a passenger vessel. I expect them NOT taking passengers but operate mostly as a “Dock side attraction”. I think I might be proven wrong.
Less than quarter of Virginia – V’s income is dockside. Most money comes from donations and grants. Cruises are expensive and generate less than half income.
* Virginia V and Zodiac are rated 150 and 50 passengers depending on cruise and restricted to inland operation. Neither can take paying passengers off shore or outside of protected waters.
A trip to the Boat Yard yesterday updated my observations of the Fish Boat “Western Flyer” . I stuck my nose in the Co-op boat shop. A new sapele keel is being carved. The new sapele transom is built but not yet installed, the house has been removed and worked on separately . Chris mentioned all planks will be replaced along with the new spruce ceiling. Many more planks have been removed. If I understood him, the new fastenings will be bronze instead of iron. That means every plank has to be removed/replaced and refastened. Can’t mix underwater metals. Unknown how many of the original 36 ribs may remain. Keep thinking back to the “Ship of Theseus”. Most wood will be replaced. The original idea of holding up the hawse pipe and replacing everything with a replica is becoming the plan. The engines, safety gear, radios, and navigation are all new. The vessel will become a replica of itself. The house will be repaired or replaced plank for plank.
Working boats typically have a short life. WF was a fish boat designed to be quickly and inexpensively built. But work is progressing. The quality of the work and skills in the restoration is much greater than the original construction. If the restoration is complete, the boat could easily last much longer than the original vessel.
A series of excellent youtube videos are produced by the foundation. Chris is explaining the work and status of the restoration.
My skipper of the race boat called me. “Wanna crew for a guy taking a Catalina 30 from San Francisco to Seattle”.
Sure, no problem. I’m between jobs and free for the next few weeks; some quiet sea time would be great. A sorta easy sail, despite up-hill the whole way, fighting wind and current, at least sailing far enough offshore to avoid traffic plus the water is warmer. Pretty sure we would be out of Loran C coverage. I just considered this another sail boat ride. Usual adventures forthcoming.
Just spent the prior summer running up and down the coast chasing albacore. The sail boat had the newish Loran C, but I planned to be far enough offshore to be out of Loran C range. I could deal with that and take noon shots with my plastic sextant. Just gotta go north to 48º -30′ ish latitude, turn East, (current set to South) and catch the path into Straits of Juan de Fuca. Avoid rocks and traffic. Reconnect to Loran, then into my home town waters.
Met the boat owner / captain at Saint Francis Yacht Club. (nice joint). Proposed my plan. Got the gig, leaving in a few days.
Couple of ways out of SF bay, go straight or hug the north shore staying inside the “Potato Patch”. Both popular traffic zones. First sail 4 days west, afterwards, tack in during the day, tack out at night. After a boring trip reach xx latitude. If you see land, you are too close. There are really big rocks off shore all the way to the Straits. Plus avoid the 2-3 kt southern current that hugs the shore.
Owner / skipper chose northern channel out of SF Gate, no problems. Discovered he would not head west? Did not want to cross shipping lanes. Huh? Excuse was he had no radar. He had new fancy Loran C, but no RDF). After all I was crew and had no say, technically he was the captain. In practice, I knew better. We spent the next week short tacking between shore and the lanes. I had up to this point I painfully discovered, I had more experience than the “skipper”. I started getting worried. I was not worried by navigation, I knew exactly where we were — far too close to land.
At night the local custom of fish boats is drift with a slow flashing white strobe. It was not a distress beacon. It took all my effort to convince the “captain” not to “rescue” them. I do remember seeing a fish boat with the cabin door blown out (from inside) with a shotgun blast.
I should have guessed something was amiss when we anchored in Bodega bay channel and got in the way of other boats. Bodega bay is basically a mud flat with a heavy trafficked narrow dredged channel up the middle. (I crewed on a day salmon boat out of there).
We arrive in Fort Bragg marina at about 1AM. (N.B. Fort Bragg and almost all harbors north of San Francisco were commercial fishing ports. Not set up for pleasure boats. Previously I was crew on a fish boat and behaved accordingly.) We did not head to the guest dock but tied up at the first easy (someone else’s) slip. Not only do we tie up like yachties, we start hooking up shore power, water, and acting like this is our slip. I was getting nervous. An hour later there was a VERY upset commercial fisherman with a legitimate bone to pick. Something about his slip, his power, his water. It must have taken me 15 minutes to disconnect all captain’s special connections (a fish boat can untie in less than 30 seconds). I was horribly embarrassed, I think I knew the fish boat previously, crew did not recognize me. My capt’n did not appreciate his magnificent cultural faux pas. We demonstrated there is a legitimate reason fisherman dislike yachters. We moved the boat to the guest dock, (did not pay).
At first light, we were tied up to the Fort Bragg fuel dock waiting for them to open. I watched a parade of small (12 foot) skiffs filled with fat men, fishing gear, dogs, fat wives, and friends w/o life jackets head into the open seas into heavy fog. I was in awe. This is truly local knowledge, where are they going, and how? Seems “Captain” did not care. He was waiting for the dock to open and fiddling with his Loran, by this time I was starting realize it was broken and useless. (It was still new technology). Also I realized fuel docks keep bankers hours. Most fisherman plan ahead and never thought about this.
We finally fueled up and headed into the fog. Easy swells, flat calm, head west and get the hell away from shore.
Skipper decided to head for a harbor entrance bell buoy, kill the engine so he can get his Loran reset. All the local fishermen and their skiffs were in the fog, circling the bell buoy. I was impressed by the local trick, fishermen were pissed about a 30’ sailboat drifting w/o power next to the buoy and fouling fishing lines. We finally got the hell out of there. I hid my head, I have family in that village.
Later, were mile off shore at Cape Mendocino. Possibly one of the most dangerous places on the West coast. Shut down the engine again, again to confirm Loran coordinates. Looking shoreward, yep we were pulled south by about 2 knots by the current. (agreed with current charts). I was now convinced a diesel engine was not the cause of the problems of the Loran. Secondarily why were we so close to shore that we even cared?.
[2019, Loran C went away. RDF still works but not used much, GPS works better. My plastic sextant and paper charts still work.]
Several days later, showed for my turn on watch. 4 am (we were on port-starboard watch cycle, 4 on, 4 off). Tacking towards shore, AT NIGHT!!! shortly I heard surf seaward of me. (if further south may see phosphorescence of the water, not here).
I jumped ship at next landing.
Aftermath: seems he never cleaned his water tanks, got Giardia from that trip.
Last night, the Harbor Master (One-Eyed-mac) called me, said Larry (the sailor) was adrift in the Admiralty straits and will be sailing in with a dead engine. He will arrive about 10 PM, will I catch him and tie him up to the mooring buoy? Sure. Called Larry on the VHF, he was off Marrowstone Island with no wind, no engine, no visibility, and lots of current. And no chance to round Pt. Wilson. I suggested he set course the best he can and anchor in the lee of the island or where he can and wait till daylight and the fog lifts. However he got just enough wind gusts and huge currents all the wrong way, he took that wrongly as a good sign. Later found himself in the mid-channel freighter lanes. He spent a long night talking to freighters and telling them where he was. His ketch had carbon fiber masts, mostly invisible to radar. (he needs to address that). He ended up just off Whidbey Island, after a long night of drifting.
At first light, I called Erik (the Viking) to borrow his tow boat “Red Duck” and go fetch Larry, no answer. About 10 AM Larry called and said he was being towed home by Vessel Assist. At noon Vessel Assist hoves in view and I go out to meet them in an 8 foot rubber dingy. Erik is driving the VA boat “Gabriel” .
Erik’s comments include something like:
Why was he sure I would somehow be involved in this project?
He was up to his ass in alligators to answer my call. So he turned off his radio.
He said it was too nasty out there for “The Duck” . Gabriel had and needed AIS and radar. (grumpy that I was not going out to help him and play deck hand).
Erik had a very long day ahead of him rescuing boats. He seemed happy I was taking charge of the end of the tow. I tied up Larry’s boat to the buoy and let him get some shut-eye till slack tide.
Seems the mid strait shipping traffic was insanely dense, then the navy decided to secretly move some large ships though, ( they are over the top nasty to any boats in their way, even if we are on their side). Navy ships do not announce their presence on the vessel traffic radio and do not post positions on AIS. Sometimes they jam radar. They do not play well with others. Did I tell you it was thick fog out there?
At (tide) slack, the Harbor Master announced “lets move Larry”. I showed up at the dock. The HM, Bob (the diver), and Penny (the rower) were heading out to tow Larry’s boat with the worlds second rattiest fish boat. Larry was nowhere to be seen. I wisely volunteered for dock side line handling. Larry finally arrived dockside “What’s going on?” I explained the situation, he was amused, parked himself on a dock box and wanted to watch this show. (he knew and trusted the players).
After a while we heard drifting over the water some proper seaman like swearing. Seems the fish boat lost control. Larry and I jumped in the dink thinking we had to rescue the rescuers. We found Bob stoically driving the boat while the HM was hovering over and cursing the engine with original and colorful language (the engine throttle linkage broke , he made it work). Penny, driving the towed sail boat was howling with laughter. I transferred Larry to his own boat with Penny (who has more salt than any of us). I went back to the dock. All went well, we tied up his ketch in the proper slip, and Larry plied us all with 18 year old scotch.
Another day on the water.
Been spending more time on the simulator. I am trying to learn the machine.
My prior experience on the machine was how to drive a boat in fog, night, and understanding the radar. The students are typically small boat operators like myself or recreational boaters that want to up their game. The owner of the simulator wants me to become an operator and teach kids.
The latest venture. I signed on to help a senior captain train aspiring pilots. The students for this class are already very experienced captains and mates on tankers, container, tugs, and bulk carriers. This is a whole other level then that what I have ever done before. (I will never be qualified to teach this course, well, maybe after I get my unlimited ocean ticket, a pilots license and a gazillion years of sea time.)
I signed up just to operate the helm under command of the student pilot. At the moment I’m just steersman, Sometimes the student brings their own steerman. I am not up to speed for the tasks of second mate yet. (operation of the ECDIS navigation navigation information system). The senior captain / instructor runs the student through (more than a couple dozen) increasing more difficult drills in preparation of 35 minutes of hell for the final exam. That exam is taken on a similar simulator in Seattle, under the observation of about 10 other senior pilots.
For 35 minutes the student has to operate a large ship (650 feet plus), in heavy cross traffic, ferries, dredges, unmarked boats (military), about 20 converging ships. In fog, at night, in rain. Keeping communication with and redirecting other boats, distractions, and clear understanding of COLREGS. Followed by some disaster in the worst possible location. It is very difficult.
The students are graded over a range of +2 to -2 points on each response. +2 is good, -2 is bad. There are at least 40 different scoring opportunities. Keeping poise and cool is a grading item. More than a few panic and “lose it.” Out of about 20 applicants, maybe less than half will pass.
I was greatly humbled by the skill and poise of these student pilots. They are already have serious chops when they walk in. I have no choice but to learn better seamanship and bridge resource management (BRM) from the students and instructor.
These students are spending huge amounts of money to become a pilot. Then again pilots get paid very very well.