Archive for December, 2009

1. A Boat from an Old Movie

After I got out of the Navy my wife (the former Lynne Harley) and I were living and working in San Francisco. I worked for Matson Terminals Inc. as an industrial engineer, and she worked as a claims authorizer for the Social Security Administration. By this time my buddy, Doug Balcomb, had purchased the GAMBELLA and was busy getting it operational again. Lynne and I decided we wanted a boat too, and we began to haunt various harbors and boating centers looking for something that would fill the bill. I also carefully read all the yacht sales ads in various sailing magazines. One thing I noticed was there seemed to be a lot more boats for sale in Southern California than in Northern California. So one weekend we flew to the Los Angeles area and took a look around down there. One sales person took us under her wing and showed us a number of “blue water” boats. One boat in particular seemed to be a good fit for our wants and pocketbook. Her name was ESCAPE and she was a 31 foot sloop. The ESCAPE was not a new boat but she looked solid enough. She was a wooden boat, roomy and nicely finished down below. The sales lady arranged for a marine survey and also for the owners to take us for a sail on a subsequent weekend. Here is what she looked like:

ESCAPE on a reach

ESCAPE on a reach

ESCAPE in Her Berth

ESCAPE in Her Berth

The owners did take us for a short sail and “showed us the ropes.” One interesting point they made about the history of the ESCAPE  was that she had been used in an old movie called “Saps at Sea.” I filed that away in the back of my mind and almost forgot it entirely until just recently.

When I started work on the new “Sea Stories” category for Uncle Rob’s Blog I remembered the title of the movie and plugged it into Google. Sure enough there it was, a 1940 movie featuring Laurel and Hardy. I purchased a copy. It  was typical of that team, just silly slap stick, and they made the boat look really old and decrepit even though it was about 25 years younger at that time. Here is the cover of the DVD and a couple of frames showing it as it looked in the film:

DVD Cover

DVD Cover

Prickly Heat

Prickly Heat

At Sea

At Sea

(click on image for larger view)

To make a long story short, we purchased the ESCAPE, and in my next post on this subject I will tell you how the ESCAPE escaped L.A.

Saturday, December 26th, 2009 ESCAPE No Comments

26. Montara Light

Montara Lt

Montara Light

pen and ink wash                                                     8 1/2 x 12

(click on image for larger view)

This drawing was accomplished on April 6, 1992, during a sketching trip with friend and fellow artist, Steve Curtiss.

It was also used in 2013 by a graphic design firm located in Sam Francisco. They incorporated it in the design of a wine label for one of their customers:

VNO_Cabernet_F_TTB(R1) (Standard_Final_JPG) [CA-ECM2112438 Revision-2]

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Thursday, December 24th, 2009 Pages 21 - 30 No Comments

1. U.S. Naval Officer Candidate School

Around the beginning of 1961 it became fairly obvious to me that my number would soon come up for the draft. The cold war was in full swing and the draft boards were active. I already was leaning toward the Navy because of my new found interest in things nautical. In addition, there were three reserve Naval Officers in the office where I worked at the time and they went on a campaign to convince me to go for a commission. One of them told me that I might work at it for the rest of my life and never achieve the status of “gentleman” but if I got a commission in the military I would automatically be considered a “gentleman.” I’m not sure how important “gentleman” status was to me, but I was also told that being an officer would give me supervisory experience that would look good on my resumé. Well . . . okay, I decided to go for the commission.

At that point in my life the shortest route to a commission in the Navy was Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. One of the basic requirements for acceptance into OCS is that you already have a college degree, and I had a BS degree in engineering from Oregon State University. So I made the right connections, took the test and was accepted into the program.  Another factor in my decision was that I had read The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk when I was in high school. It  contains fascinating descriptions of OCS at its inception during WWII. I found the whole idea intriguing.  So, come the middle of May I entered the school and began the four month process to make me a Naval Officer. Candidates entered OCS in an enlisted status, SAOC (Seaman Apprentice Officer Candidate) and received their commission upon graduation. If you failed to graduate you remained enlisted for the rest of your obligation. Here is what we looked like early in the program:

I'm in

I'm in This Picture Somewhere

Before I left for OCS I met a fellow who had been through the school before me and he advised me to volunteer for the duty of mail clerk. He said the constant company of sixty other guys can be quite wearing and the only person who gets to be by himself for short periods is the mail clerk who gets to walk to the post office twice a day and pick up the mail for the company. What good advice, and how I relished those walks to pick up the mail. Other than that it was live together, eat together, sleep together, attend classes together and march together every where we went. Here is the barracks in which I lived with sixty other guys for four months:

Home for

Home for Four Long Months

Instruction came in six different academic divisions: Seamanship, Navigation, Operations, Weapons, Orientation and Engineering. My favorites were the first two because they were general knowledge that anybody who was going to do anything at sea should know. Engineering was fairly easy for me because I already had an engineering degree and my former instruction was still fresh in my mind. However, many candidates without engineering degrees often had trouble with that category. Then, of course, there was marching. We were thoroughly instructed in how to march.

Somewhere around the midpoint of the program we were issued OTUs (Officer Type Uniforms). It was the khaki version and was essentially the same uniform worn by Midshipmen 4th Class (Freshman) at the Naval Academy. At about that same time our liberty privileges were increased and we were often free on the weekends.

Newport, Rhode Island was a very nautical town. Besides the Navy presence there were large harbors for boats and yachts. One of my favorite pastimes when on liberty was wandering up and down the docks of the various boat harbors and gazing at the vast collection of boats. People who take part in this activity are sometimes humorously referred to by boaters as the “Shore Committee”.

On one such occasion, while I was engaged in this pursuit, I came across a famous yacht with which I was familiar from reading various sailing magazines. It was the PINTA (name changed) a schooner which every year took part in the Bermuda Race and, as I remember, on at least one occasion, won the race. She was an absolutely beautiful yacht and, although it was basically the same rig as the LA BAÑERA, it was a “swan” whereas my old boat was an “ugly duckling.” It was meticulously maintained and as I was standing there drinking in its every detail, a duffel bag was suddenly tossed from the cabin to the top of the main hatch. On the bag in big broad letters was the word “ANNAPOLIS.” It was followed shortly thereafter by a young man with a neatly trimmed crew cut. He immediately saw me standing there gazing down at the boat.

“Are you a plebe?” he asked. I was wearing my OTUs.

“No, I’m an OC.”

“What’s an OC?”

“Officer Candidate” I replied.

“Well, you look like a plebe to me.”

Plebe is the term for 4th Class Midshipmen (freshmen) at the Naval Academy and is derived from the Latin “Plebeian.” We had a short conversation during which his attitude was arrogant and condescending. It turned out that he was a was on his summer break between his third and forth year at the Naval Academy. When he returned in the fall he would be a 1st Class Midshipman (senior), an upperclassman. During the conversation I realized he wouldn’t graduate until the following June at which time he would receive both his degree and his commission. On the other hand, I already had a degree and since I was more than half way through the four month program at OCS I would receive my commission long before he did. That, in turn, would mean that  in our future naval careers, if all other things were equal, I would always be considered senior to him. I can’t remember my exact words, but I informed him in an off-hand manner of this little circumstance, then I executed a snappy RIGHT FACE and sauntered off down the dock, as casually as possible, making it a point not to look back.

I have to say that after you have marched around continually for four months with sixty other guys you do get rather good at it, and toward the end we looked more like this:

The End Product

The End Product

Finally, graduation time rolled around. We all attended the ceremony and at the end tossed our hats into the air as was traditional. We also observed another little tradition at OCS; after you were commissioned you paid a dollar to the first enlisted man who saluted you. Knowing this, the Chief Petty Officer assigned to our company  stationed himself strategically on the steps of the barracks, and as we all returned from the commissioning ceremony he collected an easy sixty bucks.

One Newly-Minted Ensign

One Newly-Minted Ensign

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Saturday, December 19th, 2009 U.S. Navy No Comments

25. On The Way North

On The Way North

On The Way North

     pen and ink wash                                    7 1/2 x 11 1/2

Done from the San Mateo County coast. Exact location and date unknown. Early in my nautical career, I was a navigator in the U.S. Navy and steamed upand down the California coast viewing it from the waterside, as this ship is doing here.

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Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 Pages 21 - 30 No Comments

1. In The Beginning. . .

In the beginning there was LA BAÑERA. When I was in high school my buddy from way back, Doug Balcomb, and I were hot rodders. We built cars and raced them at the local drag strip. Following high school we abandoned that pursuit while we worked our way through college. After that was behind us we were in the mood to try something different.

“Why don’t we get a boat?”

“A boat, you say, humm . . .”

In the local paper under classified ads we  found a boat listed for $100.00. We made a call and met the owner at the Palo Alto Harbor. It wasn’t much, but what could you expect for that kind of money? It was an old steel lifeboat that someone had poured concrete into for ballast. There was a fin welded to the keel and two stubby masts with faded red canvas sails rigged in a lateen manner. We paid the price, borrowed an outboard motor, motored out to the middle of the South Bay, raised the sails and learned to sail by trial and error —lots of errors.

Little did I realize that this little adventure would set a course for much of the rest of my life. Because of it I developed an interest in things nautical, and that led me to join the Navy when my number came up. The Navy led me to . . . ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because the boat was just a big (22 feet) open hull we named it LA BAÑERA (the bathtub). But, being as we were former hot rodders, we were not content to leave well enough alone, and almost immediately set about to make some improvements. The photo below, circa 1960, is the earliest one I have and it shows that the foresail has already been converted to a gaff rig:

LA BANERA circa 1960

LA BAÑERA circa 1960

(click on image for larger view)

In the following year we made an extensive list of improvements including:

1) A complete deck with dog house.

2) Berths and a wood-burning stove below.

3) Installation of an old Kermath one cylinder inboard engine.

4) A completly revamped rig and new sails (gaff rigged schooner).

Because we were not exactly wealthy, this was very much a do-it-yourself project with used equipment scrounged here, there and everywhere — hot rodders are good at that. The old photos shown below should give a rough idea of our efforts:

High Tech

High Tech

The Dog House

The Dog House

The Bunks

The Bunks

Gradually things began to take shape:

(click on image for larger view)

Boat and girl Friends

Boat, Doug and Our Girl Friends Lynne Harley and Linda Tanson

Boat and Crew

Boat and Crew

Stern View

Stern View

Here is one my favorite photographs of all time. I realize it won’t mean much except to a few relatives and close friends, but to me it is sort of a “happy days” shot of my youth when we were all so innocent:

The Hull Maintenance Crew

The Hull Maintenance Team

From the left: Lynne Harley (destined to become my wife several years later), next is me, followed by my sister Irene (see Irene’s Creations under The Gallery), then Doug Balcomb and his brother Stan. As I remember, the photo was taken by Doug and Stan’s father, Jean Balcomb, and shows the ways of the  Palo Alto Boat Works at its original location in the Palo Alto Yacht Harbor. The following photo shows LA BAÑERA at her best:

LA BANERA at her best

LA BAÑERA at her best

One little prank that we used to pull was to take our girl friends sailing in the late afternoon and sort of accidently on purpose stay out a little too long. The tide would run out and leave us stranded on the mud flats overnight — darn! However, it was always nice and . . . well, cozy down below. As I remember, one set of parents once called the Coast Guard to try and find us, but what could they do without any water!

We eventually sold LA BAÑERA to a woman who thought it was so cute! She wanted it for her kids to play with. We tried to explain to her that this boat needed almost constant attention in the way of maintenance. She passed that off with, “Oh my kids will do that.” So we just shrugged and accepted her money (I don’t remember the amount). I do recall seeing the boat, perhaps six months later, and it looked like a derelict — long abandoned.

All in all, we had a lot of fun and learned much in the process.

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Saturday, December 12th, 2009 LA BAÑERA No Comments

24. Shore Bird Convention

Shore Bird Convention
pen and ink         Shore Bird Convention         12 x 8 1/2

Frequently seen denizens of South San Francisco Bay.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 Pages 21 - 30 No Comments

5. . . . and Yon

Up and Down the Bay

Having thoroughly explored the South Bay we started to venture further afield. There were numerous excursions to destinations such as San Francisco, Sausalito, Angel Island, Yerba Buena Cove, and one memorable trip up the Petaluma River.

The GAMBELLA as Seen From Angel Is.

The GAMBELLA as Seen From Angel Is

On The Petaluma River

On The Petaluma River

Uncle Rob in His Pulpit

Uncle Rob in His Pulpit

(click on image for larger view)

Catching Rays

Catching Rays

Deeds as Figurehead

Deeds as Figurehead

sunburst

And Out the Gate

Eventually, we left the Bay entirely, usually proceeding north along the coast to destinations such as Bolinas Bay and Drake’s Bay. Each trip found us going further afield. We rounded Pt. Reyes and ended up in Bodega Harbor with

its substantial commercial fishing fleet. But our favorite destination was Tomales Bay which is directly south across Bodega Bay from Bodega Harbor. The distance is about ten miles.

Anchored in Bolinas Bay

Anchored in Bolinas Bay

Rounding Point Reyes

Rounding Point Reyes

Sunset at Bodega Harbor
Sunset at Bodega Harbor

Points of Interest:                                       (click on image for larger view)

(1) San Francisco

Outside the Golden Gate

Outside the Golden Gate

(2) Angel Island

(3) Sausalito

(4) Bolinas Bay  (also click here)

(5) Drake’s Bay

(6) Point Reyes

(7) The Farallon Islands

The best time to enter Tomales Bay is in the morning at high tide before the wind picks up. The entrance is fairly shallow and sometimes the combination of an ebb tide and the Northwest wind can made it extremely rough. The Bay itself is long and narrow and it has this shape because it sits right on top of, and is formed by, the San Andreas Fault. At the foot of the Bay is Inverness where you can pick up groceries, gas etc. On the east shore, at about the half way point, is the town Marshall which has a boat works should you need one. Approximately across from Marshall and a little to the north is White Gulch — my favorite anchorage.

Gone for a Hike

Gone for a Hike

The Boat Works at Marshall

The Boat Works at Marshall

Anchored at White Gulch

Anchored at White Gulch

(click on image for larger view)

North of Point Reyes

North of Point Reyes

Points of Interest:

(1) Bodega Harbor

(2) Marshall (also click here)

(3) Inverness (also click here)

(4) White Gulch (also click here)

The winds for sailing on Tomales Bay are rather flukey. They change every time you pass by a low gap in the Tomales Peninsula, but the scenery is superb. The resident human population is very low and the surroundings are primarily bucolic. On the peninsula there is a population of elk.

The Farallon Islands

On two occasions I visited the Farallon Islands. The largest island has an anchorage on the north side called Fisherman’s Cove. It is only big enough for one boat (maybe two) to swing at anchor and is only an alternative in fairly calm weather. The bottom of the cove is composed of large boulders and crevasses, and I had heard it was a very easy place to lose an anchor. I stopped there once for an overnight on a return trip from the Bodega area, and I didn’t get much sleep. Immediately upon arriving, the boat was covered with a swarm of flies. Fortunately, I had a can of bug spray to discourage them, but I had to use the whole can. The cove is surrounded by lounging sea lions and at the slightest disturbance there would arise rounds and rounds of barking. There is usually a naturalist stationed on the island, and I could see one watching my every move when I arrived, but since I made no attempt to go ashore, which is prohibited, he eventually lost interest. That occasion and the following day turned out to be a very wet trip, so the only photos I have are water damaged, but here they are for what they are worth:

The Farallon Light

The Farallon Light

(click on image for larger view)

Fisherman's Cove

Fisherman's Cove

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Sunday, December 6th, 2009 GAMBELLA No Comments
 

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