Tag Archives: Capt. Dan

Cheap Charts

Not many bargains available for sailors — but these charts are a fantastic value.

Not really called Cheap Charts

NOAA chart 18729
NOAA chart 18729. Click chart to see order page.

It’s the frugalnavigator and said navigator has a chart bargain for you: They’re the real NOAA deal, printed on better quality paper than we used to get directly from NOAA and they’re up-to-the-minute accurate when they slide them into the mailing tube.

At $15.95 for each of the charts I need, these cheap charts will replace all of the marked up and stained (and possibly old) charts that live in my nav table.

How good a deal is that?

All of the charts I formerly used were $27 a piece from my old vendor.

And delivery is fast. My first chart was here in three days.

I know, you use your GPS/Chartplotter. And so do I, but when I need to plan a trip somewhere outside of my local area, I still like to see the whole route on paper. It’s easier – at least for me – to study it on a  large paper chart than it is to roll the cursor ahead on my chart plotter. And planning the route on paper is a good way to catch waypoint entry errors on your GPS.

If you’re a touch paranoid or a worst-case-scenario kinda sailor, you’ve already figured out that GPS could go belly up and these charts would be mighty handy, especially if they’re up-to-date.

Coast Guard inspection on the high seas

The local Coast Guard inspection force is in  frenzy mode.

Here we come, ready or not.

We were boarded last week

Why us?

Because we were there. Not many choices that day, we were the only ones on the horizon.

BUT we’d just gone through our annual Coast Guard Auxiliary inspection just a few weeks before, (we semi-pleaded) when they asked if they could board.

No point in saying no, so we extended an invitation.

As always, the “coasties” were polite and very respectful of our boat.  And the boarding party from the cutter Halibut completed the inspection in 20 minutes. (The old men in the auxiliary took an hour plus.)


What were they looking for? It was primarily a safety check: They looked in the bilges to see if we were sinking, they checked our flares, wanted to see our sound signaling devices, they  jiggled our fire extinguishers and looked at the gauges, noted that we were all wearing life jackets, checked our documentation then quizzed us on holding tank procedures.

For a complete rundown on what you need to have, download http://www.uscgboating.org/images/420.PDF

Coast Guard inspection protocol

When you see the blue lights, and last weekend there were many blue lights on multiple Coast Guard craft in the harbor,  here’s what you do:

Maintain course and speed unless directed otherwise. No matter what they direct, you’re in charge of your boat and they can’t see what you see. So don’t put yourself in danger by cutting someone off or getting closer to a dock than you’d like. If you’re sailing, a close reach is probably easiest for boarding. It’s critical that you hold everything constant as they board. Before they come along side and once they’re aboard, if you need to maneuver, just tell them what you intend to do.

Guns: if you have any aboard, let them know. It’s probably best to let them know before they board. They didn’t ask us until they were on Sancerre, but we don’t have anything more sinister than a flare gun.

Why so many inspections?

They may be filling some sort of training quota and/or inspection/ticket quota. In any event they’ve been out there in force. We were boarded about three miles out, but most of the action last weekend was in the harbor.

Save your Coast Guard Inspection form

According to the guys who boarded us, it’s sort of a get-out-of-jail ticket. Good for one year, they won’t board you without a specific cause if you can produce the form.

Probable cause?

Apparently doesn’t apply in the case of stopping you for a safety inspection. On the other hand, I’d bet 95% of the boats they stop have multiple discrepancies, so think of it as a service.

Very popular in Sweden

We think this says –

The crew is incredibly talented, knowledgeable and remarkably handsome.

At least that’s our take on this article that was recently published in Sweden about sailing the Channel Islands with us.

We're famous ... at least among Swedish sailors who read BATNYTT
We’re famous … at least among Swedish sailors who read BATNYTT

Photographer Par Olson and reporter Sam Victorin spent the day with me aboard Wiley and we explored the waters between Port Hueneme and Anacapa Island. The wind was very light and Par decided he wanted to get a shot of us underway, so we launched the kayak in the separation zone and he got this picture. If you click on the graphic, you’ll see the rest of the story. (And, if you know Swedish, let me know what it says … unless it’s not complimentary. In that case, make something up.)

Since my Swedish doesn’t go beyond SkolI can only assume that he wrote about the humpback whale that came close aboard just after he returned from kayaking.

Both Par and Sam were excellent sailors and taught me a thing or two about sailing in Sweden. Mostly I learned that it’s mostly too cold for a southern Californian. I mostly stay close to home.

Painted Cave – a great kayak adventure

We’ve updated our Painted Cave page, but the main thing that’s new there is our latest video shot last November. You’ll be relieved to know that the original video ran on for about an hour, but I’ve excised all the under exposed (we’re talking totally black…. it’s a cave and it is very dark)  and now the video runs just a shade over four minutes.

If you’re thinking of heading into Painted Cave any time soon, check out the page in our cruising guide and if that doesn’t give you enough info, give me, Capt. Dan, a call at 805.750.7828. I’m happy to discuss sailing and cave exploring in the Channel Islands just about any time.

New Anchoring tips for the Channel Islands

Drag Queen LogoDrag Queen – the best anchoring aid since GPS

We anchor almost every time we sail and that adds up to more than 100 times a year. We’ve studied the techniques very carefully and are fairly expert, yet every night at anchor both the Bosun and I check our position, the anchor and snubber and we do it half a dozen times each. Part of that is that we’re old men and tend to wander around in the night. (I’m writing this at 0330 and there’s no good reason for that. Just old.)

Most books that address anchoring tell you to take bearings and calculate your position, then draw the circle representing the length of rode and your swing.

Sancerre rides to anchor at Santa Cruz Island
Sancerre rides to anchor at Santa Cruz Island

If you’ve anchored at the Channel Islands, you know that you can’t get a visual fix, it’s just too damned dark and there are satisfactory lights only in Smugglers and Yellowbanks (Anacapa Light and Platform Gail). So you’re left with taking a look around, estimating how far you are from other boats and listening to the surf for clues about how close you are to the shore.

That’s all standard and not all that accurate or reassuring. What does reassure us is our GPS. We set the track to 5 sec and can see what the trend is. We’ve spent a couple of nights in Yellowbanks with winds gusting over 50 knots and stood anchor watch at the nav table watching our track. BTW – at 50 knots with no riding sail, our track was a semi-circle. We also set the anchor alarm.

Anchor alarm drawbacks

Our anchor alarm works fine but it isn’t as loud as Tom’s (my son’s) snoring. If we’re awake, it’s OK. If not, the wind is much more likely to wake us than the  puny alarm.

Then there’s the “where are we”  issue. We hit the GPS alarm button as we drop the anchor. I presume that marks the spot where the GPS antenna is, but that is 45.2 feet from the anchor even before we lower it.

Drag Queen is a great addition

Drag Queen is a free phone app and is the best anchoring trick we’veDrag Queen screen shot picked up since we switched to all-chain rode.

We take it forward when we’re about to drop the hook, hit the set button when the 50 foot marker goes by and then put it away.

Once the anchor is set, we get the phone out, add the length of the rode to the distance from the bow plus 10% and enter that in the Distance Alarm field.

With bow and stern hook set, we mark the position wherever the phone is going to spend  the night, usually the nav table and set the distance at 70 feet or so, depending on how close other boats and obstructions are and how tightly we snubbed the rodes.

We have used the default for Alarm Delay – 30 seconds, and set 50 feet for GPS Alarm Accuracy.

Those are pretty tight parameters and we get the occasional false positive. We will probably start setting the alarm delay to 45 seconds to reduce the false alarm rate.

The Alarm

The alarm is startling. It’s loud and raucous. It’s perfect. If you want more volume, hook it up to your FM radio or a Jambox. Doing those things will probably wake all your neighbors.

Does it work inside?

The publisher warns that GPS accuracy can be severely degraded if the phone doesn’t have a clear view of the sky. We set ours on the nav table which is near the companionway but with no direct view of the sky and have monitored the GPS accuracy. It rarely wanders above 33 feet on either my iPhone or the Bosun’s Android.

Other cool things

Since the app notes the location of the anchor, you can transfer the information to another device  such as an iPad or a second phone.

Plug it in, plug it in

Plug your phone into an external power source. Capt. Rob has installed USB plugs for us, but a cigarette lighter plug is almost as good.

The display will not dim when the app is activated and the phone is plugged in.

If you’ve got questions

e-mail Capt. Dan

See you on the water!

Sailing the Channel Islands – Prisoners Harbor revisited

Prisoners harbor tricks and tacticsPrisoners Harbor chart 18729

Anchoring at Prisoners Harbor can be a bit tricky

I like Prisoners Harbor, but there are some things to think about on your way in

1. Most folks anchor on a single hook, but I’m going to stop that practice right now. I’ve been in there on the nicest of evenings (last Monday, in fact) and somewhere in the middle of the night the wind dies and I find myself drifting about and far too frequently end up with the swell on the beam. It’s not dangerous, but it’s not conducive to a good night’s sleep.

I may have to anchor away from the crowd and may be be exposed to a bit more wind and swell, but I’ll go to the east side of the pier if I have to and drop two hooks and get oriented into the NW swell. It’s worth the effort for a decent night’s snoozing.

Prisoner Harbor anchoring
This is our favorite spot to anchor. It’s about 100 yards NW of the buoy that has been returned to service but is not in this pic.

2. The mooring buoy is back. It’s where it was for years, about 75 yards NW of the pier. It’s still just for National Park Service boats and Island Packers.  BTW – the chart pictured is the latest available. We’ll send notice to the CG that an update is required.

3. Eel grass, still a pain in the ass. We tried anchor just south of the 5 fathom mark. Our very reliable Fortress anchor would not set. When I hauled it up, we had half an acre (OK, a small bouquet) of eel grass in the flukes. We moved to a spot 100 yards north of the mooring buoy (about the 3 3/4 fathom mark) and got a good set on the first try. No eel grass when we got underway.

4. Note the anchor symbol. If you actually try to anchor near there you’re liable to find yourself in 100 feet of water.


Post season Santa Ana winds

Late Santa Ana winds — signal climate change.

Really, we don’t know … for sure. But all of us local sailors know that Santa Ana winds can be expected November through April. That would mean the ones we went through a few weeks ago should have been the last until Thanksgiving. But anyone looking at the forecast here in mid-May knows that there are more a-comin’

A few quick lessons on film

We set out for some advanced coastal cruising training the last week of April. The students wanted to do some night sailing and wanted to be trained in heavy weather tactics. As usual, we learned some lessons alongside our students.

A rude awakening in Forneys Cove

Getting into Forneys was far more challenging than usual. We had winds out of the west at 30+ which kicked the seas up to 10 feet or so. Fagan says stay out of Forneys in these conditions, but our alternative was a ride back to Smugglers, where we’d started the day. It was a four-day trip and this was day two. Forneys made some sense. So, we headed south from Fraser point, which protects Forneys from west wind and swell, trying to get around the Potato Patch. In retrospect, we should have gone a mile or so farther south. As it was, we turned downwind/downsea in some waves that were shoaling up in vicinity of 15′. Close interval, snarly as hell. Just ugly. Already reefed down, we’d decided to get the sails out of the way entirely  to avoid a probable gybe on the turn into the cove. And  under power, we were able to control our speed and avoid surfing. Nevertheless, we made a fairly spectacular entry into the cove. Expecting snotty conditions based on Fagan, we were surprised to be spit out into flat water – not glassy, but not particularly ruffled –  and winds of 10 knots. Had we caught the old sea pirate in an error? It was a new moon and we arrived at low tide. When the tide rose six feet or so around midnight, the swell came breaking over the reef. It wasn’t dangerous, but the rolling was fairly violent and sleep was hard to find.

Santa Ana pays a call

We’d spent quite a bit of time briefing the crew during the day on local weather phenomena, describing the early symptoms of Santa Ana: low humidity (dry decks), unusually high temperature, crystal-clear visibility, building chop. Maybe a hint of offshore wind. I was lying awake just after dawn when the crew made his weather report, ending with “The wind is light but shifting, and It feels like a hair dryer out there.” Everyone jumped to their stations and we were underway in about 10 minutes, which is a good trick with an anchor snubber rigged. The wind was pushing past 20 as we cleared the lee shore. It didn’t feel like an emergency, but if we’d waited another 10 or 20 minutes, it would have been. Somewhere around 40 knots of wind and Sancerre becomes reluctant to stay into the wind. Anchor retrieval becomes questionable. If it gets to around 50 knots, and we simply must get out, we’d tie a float to bitter end of  the anchor rode and jettison the whole thing for later retrieval. If we get caught in Alberts, Willows or another place that we’re likely to have both bow and stern hooks in place, the decision to leave one behind happens a lot quicker as you’re only 50 meters from the  cliff  face from the get-go.

 Scary stories

Fagan reports that he almost lost his boat in  Santa Ana winds  in Forneys when the wind whipped up to 45 knots. Another dock mate of ours reported that two urchin fishermen did lose their boats, scared their dogs and had to be rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. Dogs included.

Night sail to Smugglers … almost

The night sail was uneventful. Actually, it was beautiful. A Carl Sagan kind of night. In the interests of training, we scheduled two hour watches so that everyone could have the thrill of going to bed tired, waking up a tad more  tired, standing watch and again and then staying up all day. The lesson, of course, is to manage sleep as closely as you manage your batteries, fuel and water. We sailed the coast in variable winds. Team B had 20 knots – give or take – and two lovely romps on a broad reach, while my Team A saw nothing but light and variable. Coming around Sandstone Point at the southeastern end of Santa Cruz, the wind picked up and warmed up. The visibility was unrestricted, the decks were dry …. and Smugglers became a very unattractive place to anchor. We headed east, hoping to get to Oxnard before the looming Santa Ana showed up. We didn’t make it. We shot by Cat Rock, supposedly a Santa Ana refuge, and headed to Potato Harbor in almost 50 knots of following wind. We were making 9 knots on a piece of main smaller than my Speedos. The wind was so strong that it created a venturi-like force that lifted the water in a powerful spray, creating an occasional rainbow. Potato was better than being in the open, but the wind was coming over the north cliff and pounding down into the harbor. There’s not a lot of room to swing in there, and we elected to try China Bay.

China Bay

China Bay has been cited as an eastwind refuge for more than 100 years, and we’ve never been disappointed when we hunkered down there. We were comfortably anchored, had enough food, water and fuel to hole up for several days, and that’s just want the forecast said we were likely to do. Not wanting to hear a Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan with our name following, we called Coast Guard Sector LA to head off an overdue report from our families. They called our homes, told them we were likely to be late, maybe a couple of days late, but that we were safe. As it turned out, the wind died at dusk, shifted to the west and we had another pleasant sail under an incredibly starry sky and arrived home only a few hours after our original schedule.