French Whipping…

Projects & Maintenance

No. It’s NOT what you think. I do apologize if you’ve happened upon this blog post searching for something more sexually libertine in nature. Google “Marquis de Sade” and you’ll probably find what you’re looking for. Conversely, if you’ve come to bone up on fancy nautical rope work…by all means stick around, as you are in the right place.


Sailing is a wonderful, low cost method of transportation (leaving out the upkeep) albeit a bit SLOW. Because of this, the time comes in every sailor’s life when he or she will certainly find themselves out at sea, completely bored. On a long passage, you may have weeks of idle time to kill. It only takes a few minutes at the most to trim the sails, check your course and scan the horizon. Then what? Boat work? Nay. What did the old salts and mariners of antiquity do to keep from losing their minds while keeping a look out? They tied knots…a lot. Not only was it a functional, productive past time, it made the boat look damn good too.


Rope, much like it’s smaller, softer cousin yarn can be turned, tied, and weaved into many a wonderful thing. Throughout the centuries, sailors turned this practice into an art form. For those of us who can barely remember how to tie a Double Windsor knot once or twice a year – there is hope that these traditions will live on if we’re willing to learn them.

Eager to be savvy, I picked up this great used book at the Goodwill – “The Marlinspike Sailor” by Harvey Garret Smith. Mr. Smith was the go-to-guy for marine illustrations in the 50’s and 60’s and flipping through the pages it’s easy to see why. The popularity of the first edition in 1956 quickly elevated it to a cult classic. The 70’s saw an updated section on synthetic rope. It’s the book of choice if you have any itch to learn traditional decorative rope and canvaswork.

French style whipping wrapping the tiller

French style whipping wrapping the tiller

Being as I had a naked spare tiller, I wanted to add some French style whipping for some added grip and salty looks. It seemed fairly easy from what I gleaned from the illustrations – just a series of half hitches all the way down. The succession of knots takes on a handsome spiral pattern. I used some natural cotton rope from Ace Hardware and did my best to keep the line bundled neatly for fast work. I pulled each knot tightly.

Once around the tree - make one full wrap around the tiller.

Once around the tree – make one full wrap around the tiller.

Back up through the hole - bring the rope bundle back up through the loop.

Back up through the hole – bring the rope bundle back up through the loop.

Pull it tight - work it back and fourth to get the slack out if need be.

Pull it tight – work it back and fourth to get the slack out if need be.

Repeat half hitches all the way down until intended area is covered.

Repeat half hitches all the way down until intended area is covered.

Occasionally pet cat to thank him for the supervisory support.

Occasionally pet cat to thank him for the supervisory support.

When you’re all done with your whippping you may want to add a little flare on the end. A Rolling Turk’s Head knot works well to cover your final wraps – looks cool too. I may add another Turk’s Head to the top to give it some more balance.

French Style Whipping with Turk's Head Knot

French Style Whipping with Turk’s Head Knot

Another good resource for learning knots of both the decorative and all-purpose variety is over here. There’s even an app for that! Good luck.


Trifecta: Seatlleites, Sailing and Sushi!

Maritime Musings

My Mom and sister, Lindsay flew down from Seattle Saturday morning for a quick weekend visit to see us and the boat. We were thrilled that they could make the trip, given there is still plenty to do in preparation for Lindsay’s wedding – just 4 short weeks away. Without a hitch, they made it to the dock just before noon. After a quick tour and a toast with few beverages – we were casting off and under way.

Lindsay taking to the sea like an old salt.

Lindsay taking to the sea like an old salt.

Both Mom and Lindsay came with some sailing experience, but we expected them to be a bit rusty. Regardless, it’s easier for me to perform whichever required duty myself, than to thoroughly explain what must be done. They were ready to help if needed.

Outside the marina we unfurled the jib and cut the engine. This was marked by great enthusiasm! Once all that fabric filled up with air it was undeniable – we were SAILING! In preparation to raise the mainsail I was unable to free the halyard shackle pin. It just wouldn’t budge. The crew seemed to be happy with the pace the jib was keeping so I heeded their pleas to forget it, and I simply left the mainsail tied the boom. Nice and slow, no problem. We had fair winds to keep us moving along the water. I focused on keeping the headsail well trimmed.

Mom - completely happy to be sailing again.

Mom – completely happy to be sailing again.

Mom quickly found nostalgia as we gently rocked atop the light swells; remembering all the great times had aboard my grandparents Coronado 30. She recounted many funny tales, one being the occasion my grandfather was hit in the side of the head by a flying fish. On the way out to Catalina Island they encountered a school of flying fish, coming right across their beam. Up sprang one of these winged devils straight for the poor helmsman. It knocked his sunglasses squarely off his face! In complete disbelief, the only way he was convinced of what happened was by pointing out the telltale scales still dusting his reddening cheek. Surely this was good luck; a sign from Neptune himself! We got a good chuckle out of that one.

A bounty of fine such memories remain, although “La Marinara” was sold some 31  years ago. As I was still pretty tiny, I have scant recollection of the times I was aboard my grandparent’s sailboat. Yet, the subconscious impact of those moments on the water most certainly led to my lifelong love of the ocean and want for a vessel of my own. It’s really all their fault, and I’m grateful.

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We had a grand cruise; all of us breathing in the salty breeze and wearing the warmth of the sun. My cheeks began to hurt from the smile fixed upon my face. Three hours had passed in what seemed like one. It was a dream. We could not have asked for a more perfect day.

The San Patricio pulled back into the slip (without incident!) just before 5PM and we celebrated the great time had by all. The entire crew had worked up an appetite and a unanimous vote for a sushi dinner determined our plans for later in the evening. We made the deck tidy, gussied up and made a bee-line for Sushi on Fire on 2nd street in Belmont Shore. We enjoyed a legendary feast!

The following day we met up with the Grandparents at the Auld Dubliner. Bottomless mimosas and bloody marys – and some brunch. We all went back to the San Patricio to enjoy some more boat time together before their return flight up north. It was a quick visit, but we made the absolute most of it. So far, we have a perfect record for sending our passengers away with smiles. Surely the margaritas help!

Left to Right: Mom, Big D and Nini

Left to Right: Mom, Big D and Nini

10 Good Things About Living Aboard

Maritime Musings
s/v San Patricio @ anchor with Downtown Long Beach and Shoreline Marina in the distance.

s/v San Patricio @ anchor with Downtown Long Beach and Shoreline Marina in the distance.

  1. It’s CHEAP! This is a huge plus as we’re trying to refit the boat and save up a kitty for cruising. For what we pay to live aboard at the dock, we paid for a small studio 5 blocks inland, whilst carrying the monthly slip fees too. Southern California rent is ridiculous, especially with proximity to the water. Although we had to buy a boat first, living ON THE WATER has proven to be a BIG money saver.
  2. SIMPLE LIVING. We jettisoned most of our belongings to finance the  boat purchase and earnestly prepare for boat life. We loved our stuff, but we also loved getting rid of it. The boat layout provides all the furnishings we need to be quite comfortable. Decorations are things we use frequently.With storage being finite, we can’t load up on bulk items. We don’t have a garage or storage space other than the dock box. We’re forced to live simply, do well with what we have and enjoy not be weighed down by all our stuff.
  3. PEOPLE. Before this whole boat thing, I was a staunch misanthrope(I still am whenever I have to drive anywhere). However, the folks I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on our dock and getting to know have redeemed my faith in humanity. It’s the first time in a long while we’ve known our neighbors by name. Whether on the dock, at the yard or out on the water, a majority of the boaters we’ve come across have been excellent human beings; friendly, knowledgeable, eager to help and fun to be around.
  4. THE WATER. It’s no wonder cultures all over the world have such reverence for the water. It’s immediately captivating – and whether we’re sipping our morning cuppa joe or watching the sunset in the evening, the water’s calming rhythm puts us at ease. They say if you’re lucky enough to live by the water, you’re lucky enough. But ON the water…now that’s a blessing.
  5. NO SPIDERS. Well…we may get one or two wee ones that ride the wind over and spin a web on the rigging. They eat our fruit flies and their nets catch the morning dew and delight our morning with a natural art installation. We seldom tremble at those little guys. However, the spiders that summon terror, you know – the big, black, hairy and ugly ones. Happily a thing of the past. Have fun with those on land brothers and sisters. (shiver)
  6. PEACE & QUIET. Before moving aboard We were awakened frequently throughout the night by screaming sirens, passing vehicles, slamming gates and the general bangs, booms, crashes and yells of urban cacophony. Now, all we hear is the chiming of loose halyards on the wind (which strangely drives some people nuts?). Occasionally we will hear the music from nearby festivals hosted on the marina green, but we tend to enjoy the distant mix of sounds. The one exception being “Pride” weekend when two stages battled for highest decibels; one playing House music ad nauseum and the other blaring the musical atrocities of Fantasia(American Idol: Season…who cares?).
  7. SLEEPING. We get rocked to sleep every night. Sure our terrestrial “box spring & pillow top” was nice, but or cozy little v-berth in the bow has a hatch that opens up to the moonlight and stars above. We never had that in any of our first floor flats. Did I mention we get rocked to sleep every night?
  8. THE CRAIC. Craic(pronounced crack) is a Irish word, with no exact English translation,  the closest perhaps being “fun.” Put simply, having craic is having a good time. With that being said, we have ourselves some Mighty Craic!  If we ever tire of boat duties we can attend any of the impromptu dock parties that crop up during the weekends and (lately) on some weekday evenings. Throughout the year the marina fair grounds host countless festivals and events – the best of which center around food and music. There’s oyster-fest, lobster-fest, Cajun-fest, BBQ-fest…As if that weren’t enough, we have the option of several good pubs and restaurants within walking distance if we ever require a change of scenery or a proper pint. With neither of us charged with driving home – we’re both free to let loose.
  9. SUNSETS. When we were “landlubbers” we would come home and habitually turn on the TV…and mostly look for something to watch before finally giving up and going to bed. We didn’t see a  sunset unless it was in a commercial. Now we see them all, and drink them in while we shed the day’s troubles and/or share the day’s triumphs together. It’s a great way to end the day and wind down.
  10. FREEDOM. We could leave tonight. Raise the sails and float anywhere. Albeit, more work is needed to make such a notion more safe and comfortable for a long journey….our boat takes the world’s largest obstacle and  makes it a passageway. That’s freedom.

Pizza…on the Grill!

Galley Gastronomy
Sundried Tomato Pesto & Basil Pesto

Sundried Tomato Pesto & Basil Pesto – hot of the grill!

Jackie whipped up some personal pizzas for dinner last night that she cooked up on the grill. Sundried Tomato Pesto sauce on one and Basil Pesto on the other, topped with Tomato, Artichoke, Broccoli, Feta & Mozarella. We washed it down with a little vino. Super Tasty!

Gone are our worries that we can’t cram a DiGiorno frozen pizza in our smallish oven much less, store it in our freezer(ice tray) until we’re ready to cook it. We’re also not too concerned that we can’t have a pie delivered to the dock. Grilled pizza from here on out! Ciao-ciao!

Hatch Fan: As seen on ‘MacGuyver’

Projects & Maintenance

In all honesty, I never saw this on any MacGuyver episode – and as a kid I watched them all. But had MacGuyver seen how much West Marine wants for a fancy 12 volt hatch fan ($179.99!!!) than he most certainly would have built something like this with far less material and effort. Luckily, we had one of these cheapo box fans left over from the big move from land to boat:

71eAh9hcbxL._SL1000_Before tossing it out for lack of space, I noticed that the overall dimensions might fit well in the forward hatch opening. It took all of 12 screws to take the thing apart and confirm my hypothesis. The fan propeller and motor would have ample clearance. All I needed to make was a basic frame to drop into the hatch recess. The frame would also serve as a mount for the motor.

A few measurements were taken, and with a few chops on the saw and several screws driven home we had this thing:

Simple and VERY effective for keeping the boat cabin cool @ the slip.

Simple and VERY effective for keeping the boat cabin cool @ the slip.

It works tremendously well! With a screen mesh fixed to the underside it keeps the bugs out and the cats in – and we don’t feel bad about leaving the boys in a hot boat.

Angelo seems to approve of the increased airflow the hatch fan moves through the boat. We're thankful he allows us to share the v-berth with him.

Angelo seems to approve of the increased airflow the hatch fan moves through the boat. We’re thankful he allows us to share the v-berth with him. He looks annoyed because I woke him from a sound nap.

Indeed, it would be nice if it would run off 12v DC. As is, we can only use it with shore power until we get an inverter installed. However, with all the affordable Camping/Travel fans on the market it would be easy enough to jury-rig a similar 12v version, and wire it to a bonafide panel switch.

1.5 hrs labor + fan & wood + 3 beers = $34.

Having a comfortably cool cabin without stepping foot into a West Marine – Priceless.

Most importantly of course, given my propensity for nocturnal flatus Jackie is very appreciative of the hatch fan’s effectiveness. With that, I’ve extended my own life immeasurably. Necessity is the Mother of invention!

Hatch Fan