The Creamy Pint gets worked

When a main-sail rips it doesn’t sound like a pair of slacks tearing.  It sounds like something profound in the world is shredding.  Imagine the sound of love being shredded.  Imagine the fabric of faith ripping.  It strikes a primordial tone, like the explosive buzz of a rattlesnake.

a decades-old main ripping is not surprising, but still sad

a decades-old main ripping is not surprising, but still sad

My buddy Lou and I headed out in the early afternoon toward Smuggler’s with a forecast of 10-20 knot winds.  Lou is a novice sailor, but an otherwise experienced boater, having been deep sea fishing far off shore.  He’s also a diver and surfer that has crafted his own spear-gun.  In short, he is ideal crew for The Creamy Pint because he hasn’t been corrupted by fancy shit like pressurized water, an electric windlass, and other niceties.  It’s just like Tolstoy wrote, “Pierre had learned. . .that happiness is within him, in satisfying of natural human needs, and that unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity.”  By the way, if any of you have a line on a tiller auto-pilot, let me know.

Out of my extensive arsenal of head-sails I chose a No. 3 jib and we pointed as close to the east end of Santa Cruz Island as we could and settled into a nice 17 knot breeze.  I scampered on deck and deployed the main sail’s only reef.  The swells and wind were bigger than predicted and it wasn’t long before we were into the shipping lanes.  We were heeling around 20 degrees, sometimes 30 with a puff.

The seas built and I heard the enchanting sound of a hum in the rigging.  The little boat was muscling into the weather like a scrappy prize fighter.  Waves became harder to casually take and green water started breaking over the bow.  There was a slap-stick moment when a saucy wall of water sprung toward us and I ducked, but Lou caught it right in the face.  The little outboard,  though elevated as much as possible, was  getting dunked.  It didn’t look happy at all and I non-chalantly tried to fire it up while Lou took the tiller.  It started, gurgled and died.  Near Frenchy’s Cove I decided to tack so we could skirt around Rat Rock.   We were close-hauled in something very close to beufort scale-6.

more than force 5, less than force 7

more than force 5, less than force 7

And  having a blast.

Until that sound.  A tearing, what the fuck is that, oh shit it’s the fucking main ripping, sound.  I sprung to the halyard and had the sail down so fast it was still tearing in my hands as I doused and bound it to the boom.  Smuggler’s was about five miles dead into the darkening weather and night.  Lou and I chatted a bit and decided to head back to the marina.  Getting to Smug’s (straight in wind) with just a head sail wasn’t something I wanted to do, and  I was suspicious of the abused, little motor and didn’t like the idea of sailing off anchor with only a head sail.  So under a 35 year old No-3 jib we bore off to a broad reach and headed to the barn.

The handheld G.P.S. registered 6.9 as we surfed waves.  The seas were rough enough that the gimbaled cabin lamp came out of its rocker-arms and spilled paraffin on the cushions.  The seas were rough enough that the oak table leg broke.  The rough seas broke the pig-tail and the boom thudded on my shoulder.  The seas broke the lid of the cooler.

I said, “Lou, you’re a surfer, surf this shit. Let’s see your chops! And, don’t worry, that little motor will fire up soon as get in the marina, it just needs to dry out a bit.”


Near midnight we passed the break-water with dying wind but big swells.  The motor fired up, but we realized when I dropped the jib that it wasn’t doing anything.  The prop spun languidly, failing to provide thrust.   I set the Hysenberg Compensator to level 12 and I disabled the phase-inhibiter, but the little motor still didn’t have any teeth.

“Bah, we’ll sail into the slip with just the jib, Lou.”

As we worked our way toward the slip some guys in a 22 were zipping around the marina. They were having a blast and it made me think of beginner’s aversion to sailing at night and how misguided that is.

The light wind died off and what little bit there was blew straight from my dock.  We spent forty minutes trying to work our way into the dock before I took a nearby end-tie, which I learned the next morning a 100’ power boat had reserved.  Walk a mile in my moccasins before you call Harbor Patrol, fuckers.

dying wind, but decent swells and the moral of the crew is undaunted

dying wind, but decent swells and the moral of the crew is undaunted

Post script:

The next day Lou came down and helped clean up the boat.  Mike came down and side-tied his dingy to the Pint to get her back to the slip.

Published in: on July 19, 2009 at 10:17 pm  Comments (4)  

Committee boat for Bob Cooke Memorial


My friend Bill Brayton called me up and asked if I wouldn’t mind using my little boat, yacht, rather, as the race committee boat for the Bob Cooke Memorial double-handed race.   “How can I say ‘no,'” I replied.   Cooke was a grizzled veteran of countless races.  He was racing literally weeks before the cancer called in the marker.  As somebody once wrote, “we all owe god a death, he who pays this year is quit for the next.”   The day before the race I gave the Pint a good waxing and got it looking Bristol-clean.

Bill was Principal Race Officer.   Doug Dodge joined the race committee, as well.  He also acted official race photographer.   As skipper of the race committee boat, I was worried that we lacked that Corinthian yacht-club appearance that exudes haughtiness and cultural capital.   So I rounded up some guys in blue-blazers to give the boat an official appearence.  We set off:

Race commitee

It was a fine day for a race, mid 60s and around 10 knots of wind that seemed to be building and filling in nicely from the west.  Once we got to Mandalay bouy Bill took the helm.  We dropped anchor when he had squared the start line with the first windard mark.   It was the deepest water the Pint has ever anchored in, but the 40′ of 3/8″ chain at the end of 200′ of rode and the trusty high-penetration anchor did the trick with no hassle. 

Fifteen boats had entered the race.  They were organzied into a six boat spinaker class and a nine boat non-spin. class.   With less than 4 mintues until the start of the race we found out that we were missing several key signal flags.  But Bill is a veteran P.R.O. and his experience paid off– since we didn’t even have the “delay” flag to hoist while we improvised a flag we needed, he said, “No delay flag, we’re starting.”    The spinaker start was routine.  A couple of boats lagged and there were no tactical coups or fouls.

spin start

Now, the 9 boats racing in the non-spinaker class were of a different start.  One of them was crewed by two novice women racers and a few others seemed to be novices at sailing.   Their start was close.  Pangea dazzled the race commitee by crossing the line simultaneously with the signal to start.  It was incredible to see a boat time it so perfectly.   However, Quiet Times crossed everybody’s stern on a port tack heading directly to the mark.  This is a tactical coup seldom seen in races.  When you are on a port-tack (wind coming over the left side of the boat) you do not have right of way.  So you can easily get bullied and muscled over the line too early.  These guys crossed just behind the stern of the boats and schooled the fleet.  Well done, lads.   Look at the left side of the photo and you’ll see a sail leaning the other way; that’s them. 

non spin start

Once everybody was off we sipped a beer, pulled anchor and the committee boat headed back.  Bill had called two perfect courses and we three on the committee got the fleets off on a seemless start. Later at the Channel Islands Yacht Club I was able to help finish some of the boats.  When I tried to pay for some beer a yacht-club matron said, “He’s skipper of the committee boat, he doesn’t pay.”

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 3:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Memorial Day weekend at Little Scorpion’s

  With a fine crew and a glorious weekend, I stood on the deck looking  West.

skipper bruce        

  Memorial day weekend found The Creamy Pint steaming toward Little Scorpion anchorage on Santa Cruz island over a bath-tub calm sea.   I was joined by Linda and two “able seamen” and dynamic duo, Dan and Rob.    The trip out was uneventful.  We hoisted the battle-flag, a.k.a.  the private signal, about a mile out of the anchorage.  Immediately,  people in the anchorage perked up and espied my yacht with binoculars or telescopes.

"Look !  I think I spot The Creamy Pint!"

"Look ! I think I spot The Creamy Pint!"

We cruised toward the anchorage doing double digits, flying our bold red battle-flag.

Steaming toward the anchorage flying the private signal

Steaming toward the anchorage flying the private signal


Mike, a.k.a. “rescue Mike” jumped in his dingy and stood by to assist dropping a stern anchor. Since it was a holiday weekend the cozy place was packed.  We pulled up next to Maine Squeeze and dropped our bow anchor.  I handed the stern kedge to Mike and he plonked it about 100′ behind us. 

We were soon sipping cold cans of Corona and settling into gorgeous Little Scorpion Anchorage
that's not icing on the big rock

that's not icing on the big rock

Saturday night was formal night on my yacht.  Dan was thrilled to be invited to the captain’s table.  He had taken many cruises in the past and the skippers had always given him the high hat.  However, on this voyage the captain noticed  and appreciated the way Dan handled the boat and that he was a fountain-spring of positive morale for the crew.     Everyone returned to their berths to change into formal-wear

Formal night in the spacious saloon of The Creamy Pint

Formal night in the spacious salon of The Creamy Pint

    After cocktails we enjoyed a variety of parlor games.  Rob was able to beat the house.   The next morning we did some sea-kayaking and explored the caves of the anchorage.  I was particularly pleased and proud of the crew, all of which had never spent the night anchored on a “modest” yacht.  Even though we deployed flopper stoppers some very large wakes or swells rocked us a bit and they didn’t scream or fuss much at all.     We hoisted anchor and set off in a perfect 15 knots of breeze which lasted the whole way back.  A great weekend with some fantastic friends.

Rescue Mike provides a ride to or from the cocktail lounge

Rescue Mike provides a ride to or from the cocktail lounge

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 7:41 pm  Comments (1)  

What is a 4-knt shitbox?

Sailors are inherently an elitest bunch.  Even the sailor with the most humble boat, such as mine, feels superior to any power boater.  Sailors that race feel superior to those that only cruise and those that race have a heirarchy based on whether they race PHRF (a handicapped system) or “one design” (competing against identical boats).   

My boat, or yacht, I should say, is looked apon with envy and a sinister, Old-testament like covetousness by my friends and other sailors.  No doubt this is because their boats are not as lavish as mine.  Their galleys are stocked only with staples and they have modern, instead of old-school bronze gear.  Their sails are too new and don’t have the sophisticated weathered look that occurs after thirty years of sun.  Hell, I even put the roll of toilet paper on the little spindle thing near the porta-potty.  People call my boat a four knot shit-box. 

What is a four-knot shitbox?  Many sailors might think of a sad boat like this when they hear that term:


But that’s not the case.

Boat speed is measured in knots– nautical miles per hour.  A nautical mile is one minute of latitude.   It is just a little longer than a mile.    Every displacement boat (which is most boats) has a theortical hull speed that it cannot exceed unless it somehow manages to surf.  This speed is directly related to the length of the waterline.  How this shit makes any sense is beyond me, but here is the formula

hull speed forumula
hull speed forumula

So, if you take the length of the Creamy Pint’s water line, which is 21.4 feet of is overall twenty-six feeth length, you get a maximum speed of 6.2 knots.   My boat, or yacht, I should say, could exceed that speed if it is able to get on top of it’s bow wave, and basicly surf. 


At any rate, my boat is clearly not a four-knot shitbox.  It’s a 6.4 knot shitbox.  That’s double-digits, so I don’t ever want to hear shit about my boat being  slow. 
Published in: on April 25, 2009 at 3:58 pm  Comments (2)  

Welcome to the Bronze Age !

Fancy sailboats have fancy shit.  Tough sailboats have tough shit.  For example, here is your typical self-tailing winch:

plasticThese puppies have two or three speeds and will take up the line as your grind it in.   They are PRICEY. 

On the other hand, this is the type of bronze winches The Creamy Pint is equipped with:





The winches and cleats are all bronze.  Besides being tough, bronze looks cool.  The winches on my boat are so damn old I’ve had sailers on that don’t know how the hell to work them. 

According to trusty, wickipedia,  Bronze can be superior to iron in many applications. It is considerably less brittle than iron. Bronze only oxidizes superficially; once the surface oxidizes, the thin oxide layer protects the underlying metal from further corrosion.. Bronze resists corrison (especially seawater corrosion) and metal fatigue better than steel.  It’s stronger than iron,  too. 

In ancient days, barbarians sought to unravel the riddle of steel.  The answer to this opaque mystery was that steel is only as strong as the hand that wields it. The bronze on The Creamy Pint is more than just hardware, it’s a manifestation of the boat’s ethos.

Published in: on April 5, 2009 at 6:03 pm  Comments (1)  

“mad, bad and dangerous to know”

Lady Caroline Lamb, who was enthralled with Byron said he was “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”  George Gordon, Lord Byron is one of the canonical “six-pack” of British Romantic poets composed of himself, Blake, Keats, Coleridge, Shelley, and Wordsworth.  Byron was radically left in his politics and he lived large—spending money, dueling and getting more ass than a toilet seat.  Lord Byron

His book-length poem, “Child Harold’s Pilgrimage”  contains a section worthy of consideration for the best poem about the ocean.  You could say the best “pelagic” poem. This section is known as the “Apostrophe to the Ocean.” An apostrophe, besides being a punctuation mark, is a poem that addresses an object or other non-human thing.  This differentiates it from an ode because an ode is written in praise of something and uses elevated language.  The first five lines are rather famous and often quoted or paraphrased in movies:

                        There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

                        There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

                        There is society, where none intrudes,

                        By the deep sea, and music in its roar;

                        I love man the less, but nature more.

This is a perfect example of a misanthropic duality putting nature on one side and society on the other. It is wilderness with a capital “W,” signifying a liminal realm more than an ecosystem.  Generations later Robinson Jeffers gives the thought some talons when he writes

                        Avoid the reeking herd,

                        shun the polluted flock,

                        live like the stoic bird,

                        the eagle on the rock. 

This schism between wilderness and society, once felt, tends to be awkward to reconcile. Since time spent sailing or mountaineering is time spent away from petty bullshit it can be difficult to transition back to the world of HMOs and cranky DMV employees.  

            At any rate, the lines that make this the best pelagic poem are


                        Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean—roll!

                        Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;

                       Man marks the earth with ruin—his control

                        stops with the shore. . . .


And when a ship sinks,

          He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,

          without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.


I love the repetition and word choice (diction) of that last line.  The repetition of vowel sounds is called assonance, and the “o” sounds—low frequency assonance—gives it a mournful sound and the commas create pauses that ensure the pace of the line is slow while emphasizing the words.  Here is the utter indifference of the ocean.  Like a black hole, those who die at sea are quenched with no ceremony and no trace.  If Bryon had lived to see oil-platforms would he still think “his control/stops at the shore?”  Probably.  I’ve seen a slab avalanche, slept on a groaning glacier and been ambushed by thunderstorm at 14,000 feet.  None of these caused the sheer awe in me as the time I crossed from Santa Cruz island to Santa Barbara in winds over fifty knots, breaking waves, and a sea so large we lost sight of the horizon at times.  It is this beauty of the ocean, and this power that Byron pays homage to in this poem. And this is why the ocean will always be a place for folks who are “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”

te vaya bien

te vaya bien

link to the whole poem:

Published in: on April 1, 2009 at 7:03 pm  Leave a Comment