WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

It’s 7:00 a.m. The sun is already up.  I am onboard the Papagallo – easing into my day, having my first cup of coffee and smoking my first cigarillo.  It’s very different than all the years I’ve spent in restaurant kitchens.  Standing quietly on the foredeck and gazing out over the sea, I think how lucky I am.

I witness the harbor awaken.  Another new day.  The same as any other, but very different.  The Sea Otters are having breakfast, banging clams and crabs against a stone brought up from the bottom and placed on their chests for the task.  Fishing boats pay them no mind as they start their engines and head out in search of the catch of the day, much like they’ve done for hundreds of years.

Scores of pigeons take flight from one roof top to another.  Who knows why?  That’s just what they do.  Curious Harbor Seals cruise by.  They are looking for leftovers, snacks, their next meal.  Across the bay I see a group of healthy Sea Lions jockeying for position on a floating dock.  I can hear them barking to each other.  I wonder what they are saying, how they communicate, who’s in charge.

I hear the cries of seagulls.  As if led by a conductor, they harmonize with the sounds all around them.  Nature’s orchestra is tuning up, getting ready for the day.  Ever watchful, the seagulls glide effortlessly through the air, expert fliers aware of all that is below them.  They are a blessing and a curse I think.

The salt air I breathe is refreshing, invigorating.  It clears my head.  Allows me to think.  Encourages me to dream.  On windy days it fills the sheets of sail boats, gloriously, spreading them wide and full enough so that they whine with pride. 

This is my wonderful office.  It’s like no other, and I never take it for granted.

With my coffee and smoke finished, I leave the deck and begin tidying up the boat.  We have a cruise scheduled for the evening.  I precheck all the systems onboard, then enter the galley to begin my cooking day.  All our parties have preset menus chosen by the party host.  Because our menus for each cruise change, my food prep is always interesting, never boring.  And unlike service in a restaurant setting, we know the number of guests and their menu selections well ahead.  There is no guessing. 

Most of our cruises begin with hors d’oeuvres that are served with cocktails or beverages chosen by the host.  These are followed with a five-course offering either buffet style or full service.

After the cruise, when the last bite of dessert has been eaten and our guests are departing, I receive yet another reward – smiles and comments on what a wonderful experience they’ve had.  “This was a magical evening,” the comment we hear most frequently, is music to my ears.  For a chef, those words are as important as receiving payment for the function.  In my fifty plus years in the food business, accolades from satisfied guests never get old.  They are a huge part of why we do what we do.  Keep ‘em coming and I will keep cookin’.  It’s my passion and pleasure to serve every guest onboard the Papagallo. 

After all, our professional team is in the business of making magical evenings happen!  

Chef Len

 *Looking for a the perfect gift for that foodie in your life? Join me on my journey through the years in my book, “Chasing the Heat.” Now on Holiday special for 9.95! Click here to check it out! Laughter, insight, inspiration and time tested Chef fav recipes! Perfect Christmas present!* 

 

 

CHECK LIST FOR SETTING SAIL BEFORE EVERY CRUISE


Before any cruise with passengers onboard can begin, we follow a strict routine to ensure safety and proper mechanical operation, no matter how long it’s been since the last cruise.  This is standard procedure.  It also means that there is a lot going on behind the scenes, things our passengers never see.  

One of the key areas we check – the one we begin with – is the Engine Room.  This is the beating heart of any boat and is probably the most important functional area.  If there is a problem here, the 78 tons of the Papagallo won’t be leaving the dock. 

So, we begin by checking the water levels of the main engines and generators.  After that, the oil level of the engines and transmissions are checked to be sure they are at proper levels.  If water or oil is needed, now is the time they’re added.  Failure to keep these critical levels up can cause overheating and subsequent damage to the equipment, resulting in costly repairs.

The air compressor is turned on in order to provide air pressure to operate the air horns on the boat deck.  Air horns are required for sound signaling and can be invaluable in extreme fog conditions or to alert other craft in various other situations.

From a passenger’s perspective, the most important system onboard can be the head (restroom).  Our heads operate with a pressurized tank of salt water that enables the toilets to flush to a holding tank.  After the cruise is over this tank is emptied when the Papagallo returns to the marina. 

The battery charger gauge (constavolt) is an important piece of equipment that few passengers ever see.  It is checked to be sure there is enough charge to turn over and start the main engines.  If the gauge indicator is not strongly in the green, the engines will not start.  This means that we’re not going to leave the dock until it’s comfortably back in the green zone again.

To check for seawater in the bilge (never a welcome sight!), we lift a deck plate and raise a float by hand to be sure the bilge pump is operating properly.  Its job is to pump water out the side of the vessel and in very extreme cases, keep us afloat.

Remember that all of this is taking place before any passengers are boarded.  Also, before any active cooking can begin. 

Once passengers have boarded, we officially begin their cruise with a brief safety talk.  This is to put them at ease and to acquaint them with the Papagallo and “being at sea.”  We cover such things as how to move about the vessel, where the life jackets are stowed, and how to operate the head.  We also go over what to do if someone goes overboard. 

After this talk is completed and people are nodding their heads to signal they’ve understood it and have no questions, the captain gives the order to cast off lines. 

Here again, we follow a strict procedure.  The lines are always cast off in sequence.  The aft line first, then the aft spring line, followed by the bow line and finally, the midship spring line, the last one.  Once this is done we give one long blast followed by three short blasts from the air horn to signify that we are under way and backing out of our slip.  These are traditional nautical signals that are universally recognized.  Because of the 72-foot length of the Papagallo, we station a deck hand aft both on port and starboard to watch for other traffic as we back out.  Any sign of trouble or impending collision is immediately relayed to the captain giving him time to act to avoid a mishap. 

Once we are cruising the bay, it’s time to party!  We open the ship’s bar and our wait staff begins serving a wide variety of hors d’oeuvres for our passengers to enjoy.  The crew remains professionally vigilant throughout the cruise, watching for safety issues that might come up with any of the guests or other craft around us, but does this unobtrusively, never dampening the fun onboard. 

As you may have realized by now, cruising on a commercial yacht is very different from attending a party or banquet in a restaurant setting.  Our passengers tell us “it’s like being rich and living in luxury,” an experience they won’t soon forget – and one they never thought was possible before boarding the Papagallo!   

Won’t you join us on a sea cruise aboard the Papagallo….Oo ee oo ee baby oo ee oo ee baby, etc. etc.”

 

Want to experience a cruise personally? Check out our public events here and book your cruise today.

Chef Len

BURIAL AT SEA CEREMONY ONBOARD THE PAPAGALLO

Burial at sea is a time-honored tradition.  You may think it’s a thing of the past necessitated by long sailing voyages, or that it only happens in the movies, but it’s an option that is still widely used today.  A centuries old practice, burial at sea is an honored choice of sailors and mariners throughout the world.  But it’s not limited to just them.

Today, we receive many requests from families whose loved ones want their ashes scattered along the California Central Coast.  Their reasons are as varied as their lives. Usually there is some very special connection to the sea, its power, beauty, and peacefulness; or the family has fond memories of the role the sea played while their loved one was alive.  The burial ceremony is seen as a fitting closure, a universal ending or coming home, sometimes even as the “next adventure” their loved one will take, while the family stays behind, says good bye, and lets them go.

We’ve been told that there is immense comfort in a burial at sea ceremony.  It not only fulfills the deceased wishes, but it allows each family member or friend to express their grief or celebrate their loved one’s life in a moment of quiet contemplation, private reflection, or shared remembrance. For these reasons, our burial at sea ceremonies are handled with dignity and respect.

After hearing many horror stories of ceremonies going terribly wrong — ashes blowing about the deck, settling on tables and cushions, or even the sides of the boat — we chose a unique and beautifully dignified approach to prevent this from happening.  And our solution works well in any sea conditions.

We begin with a small wicker basket and line it with a couple of large leaves from a Bird of Paradise plant.  Then we place approximately three pounds of stones in the bottom of the basket, enough to weigh it down, relative to its size.  The ashes are then carefully placed in the basket and topped with flowers and rose petals.

For a two-hour service we usually depart the dock around 9:00 a.m. The captain will cruise to a designated spot requested by the family.  If the family has chosen an officiate, he or she conducts the ceremony and allows enough time for each person to say their good byes.  When everyone who wants to speak has finished, the basket is lowered to the sea’s surface.  With a final farewell, the line holding the basket is released.  This allows the basket to sink and the ashes to scatter on the way down.  The flowers and rose petals float to the top, marking the spot.  None of the ashes ends up on the side of the vessel or, even worse, in the guests’ faces.  A Memoriam Certificate noting the latitude, longitude and depth of the location, is mailed to the family.  We return to the bay and serve a complimentary brunch with champagne and mimosas.

On occasion when it is requested, we provide full body burial services.  These services are regulated by the federal government and require that we follow stringent rules. There are only certain areas on the coast where full body burials are permitted. In our area, we must be at least three nautical miles away from shore and have a minimum depth of 650 feet of water.  To satisfy this requirement we must cruise west eleven nautical miles off shore.

For this type of service the mortuary brings the deceased onboard wrapped in a canvas shroud.  When the destination is reached, weights are added to the shroud before the body is lowered over the side to ensure that it reaches the ocean bottom.  Eight bells are sounded when the crew commits the body to the deep.

Compared to conventional burials on land, which can cost $10,000 or more, burials at sea are extremely cost effective.  The service can be conducted with bag pipers, taps, flag folding, military rifle salutes, recorded music, spiritual readings, or any tradition the family chooses to honor and remember their loved one with.  Often, the ashes of both the husband and wife (sometimes their pets’) are scattered together.  We conclude the ceremony by saying:  “Rest in peace as you join the dolphins and the whales”.

“Mist to mist, drops to drops.  For water thou art, and unto water shalt thou return.”  Kamand Kyouri

Len

To view a video of one of the memorials we’ve done aboard the Papagallo, visit the link here.

 

FOOD AND WINE PAIRINGS ONBOARD THE PAPAGALLO

Everyone agrees – wine and food just naturally taste better onboard a yacht!  And wine pairings, along with winemaker dinners, are a big part of our business.

We work with several local Paso Robles Wineries.  The first step in creating a menu for one of their events is to carefully review the actual winemaker’s tasting notes for the varietals they’ve selected.  These notes are like a guide sheet.  They highlight specific characteristics of the wine (bouquet, body, acidity, finish, etc.) and provide a place for me to begin.  My goal is to match the best possible food selection to the wine so that the wine is complemented but not overwhelmed.  In the case of dinners, the food and wine must come together in harmony as the meal progresses and complement each other throughout.

With the limited space and refrigeration storage in the galley, our menu selections can be challenging.  Their success depends on detailed planning, exact timing, and spot-on execution during service.  These three factors are extremely important in creating gourmet food onboard.  We do not have the benefit – or luxury – of the space, equipment, and extra staff that are available in a restaurant setting.  Our operation requires super organization, focus, attention to detail, and team work.  If any one of these is missing, our customer’s experience can be affected.

The sample menu shown is for a five-course pairing we offer onboard, typically serving 30 to 36 guests cruising the bay for three hours.  As you read over it, keep in mind that the food preparation for this menu all takes place in 66 square feet.  That’s five different courses during the cruise, one course served every half hour.  How do we do it?

Most of the courses are prepped and partially cooked earlier in the day.  Just like in a restaurant, they are finished at service time.

When serving Abalone, I have two large sauté pans on the range.  I start cooking eight servings in one pan while the other is heating up.  Abalone cooks very fast.  While plating up the first batch, the next is being sautéed.  This process is duplicated (often four times) until everyone is served.  When the guests have finished the course, the dishes are collected, returned to the galley, washed, and made ready for the next course.

With a salad or cold plate selection, we arrange the plates on every bit of counter space available, creating more space by placing a chopping board over the sinks to accommodate more plates.  And then we literally work right out of the refrigerator to plate up.

Casseroles and braised dishes are prepared earlier and refrigerated.  While serving other courses, they are returned to the oven to heat for service. The timing of this is critical due to the lack of oven space and the time necessary for reheating.

While all this is going on, the wine is flowing and our guests are enjoying each course, anticipating the next one.  Everyone is making merry – even us.  We appear relaxed, able to handle each course easily.  No undue fuss.  No hint of the tightrope we are walking in the galley and the tasks we are juggling behind the scenes.  We have a mental commitment and mindset to make each person’s experience special, because we know that great food and wine served onboard a yacht by a professional team is special.  It’s not like your everyday restaurant experience.  That’s why we strive to make our wine pairings and dinners happen with no hint of stress or pressure.

But the food work in the galley is just one part of the incredible dance that’s taking place onboard.  Guest service has its own set of challenges, enough for another blog.  In the meantime:  “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez.”  (Let the good times roll)

Chef Len 

 

 

 

LET’S GET COOKING! THE CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS OF COOKING IN A 66 SQ.FT. YACHT GALLEY

Having finally jumped through all the hoops to satisfy the Coast Guard inspectors, we began dinner cruises onboard the Papagallo.
Our official crew: an experienced captain (minimum 100-ton ticket), chief steward (my wife), bartender, one wait staff person, and a chef (me). The five of us would be working together in close quarters while under way. It is essential that the crew is tight – more than in any land-based restaurant. Everyone needed to know what their duties were. In addition to performing them well, each person would need to know boat etiquette and safety procedures while serving guests onboard.

My work space is the galley, a six by eleven foot area just aft of the helm. It is called “galley up,” which means that it is located on the same deck as the salon. For a vessel of this era, our galley is considered large. REALLY??


Although the Papagallo’s galley is little bigger than a walk-in closet, I was proud to be standing there, looking out across Morro Bay. Things had finally come together. This was really happening. I took a moment to take it all in, the purchase, the voyage, the inspections. Now we were here, about to begin. I could hardly believe it. Soon I would be preparing my first gourmet meal onboard. I don’t think I’ve ever felt better about a challenge. Maybe a little in awe of it too. I wanted to get started right away, but first I had to figure out where I was going to put things and exactly how I was going to proceed!

For safety reasons Coast Guard regulations require that all the cooking equipment is electric, no propane or open fire. Surprisingly, our galley looks a lot like your kitchen at home. None of our equipment is commercial. We have a four-burner range top with a three-rack oven below. Above the range is a ceiling mounted microwave. There is a side by side refrigerator/freezer, a dishwasher, ice machine, and a two-compartment sink complete with garbage disposal. Everything is powered by a 20 KW generator located in the lazarette aft.

The space for food prep and plating consists of two, three by two-foot, granite counters, one on each end of the galley. Oddly enough, there is ample cabinet and drawer space. Boat manufacturers make use of every available square inch because they have to.

Having worked my whole career in commercial kitchens where the cooking equipment was gas fired, this galley was going to take a little time to get used to. Most chefs prefer to cook with gas rather than electric. It’s immediate. On when it’s on. Off when it’s off. Some chefs are so adamant in this preference that that they stand with arms folded across their chests and tell you flat out that they won’t cook on anything else! And up until now, I was firmly entrenched in that camp. That rigid attitude, of course, will scuttle any opportunity of chefing on a commercial yacht. And did I mention the ability to be flexible in adjusting along the way toward reaching your goal?

When it comes to flexibility, there is a lot of wisdom in the Chinese Proverb: “The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.” Onboard the Papagallo adaptability was becoming my middle name, and we did have a pitcher onboard – as well as a lot of water all around us.

But one of unexpected benefits of working in such a small galley space is that everything is at your fingertips. With a single turn, you can grab a sauté pan or any number of cooking utensils without taking a single step. Then, when you’re done with it, you can just as easily pop it into the sink or dishwasher. In this tight space, there is just enough room for one person at the range. This makes it unnecessary to share the space with other cooks as in commercial kitchens.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, it’s essential to remain flexible and creative when following your business plan. My restaurant experience has been a huge help in this area. It has allowed me to make all kinds of adjustments in order to achieve my goal of creating memorable meals for our guests. And I know that I’ve succeeded every time a guest peeks into the galley, looks around, and then shakes their head in amazement and exclaims, “I can’t believe you cooked such a great meal in this tiny space!” These triumphant moments are what keep my dream alive. They are like a good dessert that makes you want to come back for seconds!

Next week’s blog: I will take you through cranking out a five course Food and Wine Pairing Menu for 35 guests onboard in our 66-sq. ft. galley.

Just joining us? Start from the beginning here!

INSPECTIONS COMPLETE

THE PAPAGALLO YACHT CHARTER BUSINESS IS READY FOR PASSENGERS

If you have been following our blog up to this point, you may have guessed that our fledgling charter business has not yet created one dollar of income. The cash has been flowing, sometimes at an alarming rate, but in only one direction – out. Not too surprising.
As with any new business, you need to be prepared to help fund it in the beginning until it gains momentum and can begin to show a profit. Independent restaurant startups might take six months to a year to do this. And, in the restaurant business, you could always count on unforeseen circumstances arising that resulted in added expense to your operation, usually when you could least afford them. Unfortunately this was also proving to be the case with launching this charter business.

In the back of my mind I knew that the failure of most new businesses could be attributed to any number of reasons, and that the most common one is: LACK OF A WELL THOUGHT OUT PLAN. To quote Ben Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
But I also realized that along with a well thought out plan, it is essential to remain flexible in order to meet the challenges you will encounter that might otherwise derail you from your goal. Being flexible and creative, plus a healthy dose of good luck, saved me from the potential loss of my business, Leonard’s Restaurant, during a partnership breakup. I share that story in my book, CHASING THE HEAT, chapter 17. (Available at www.morrobayboat.com or Amazon Kindle). It was a very stressful and low point in my business career.
Having gone through that experience and learning from it, I pass the following insight along to you: Do not approach things from a position of LACK! Lack focuses on negative emotions. And negative emotions are seldom successful. By not focusing your energy on what you don’t have you are free to concentrate on what you do have and, most important to your success, what is possible.

This allows you to analyze your business plan with fresh eyes, remain flexible, and think creatively. Early in my career I read the following by an unknown author that says it best and has stayed with me ever since: “What we need is always supplied to us and always will be. Pursue your wants, dreams and desires from that platform of fulfillment and gratitude.”
Our yacht charter business, as I mentioned through our blogs, certainly moved me out of my comfort zone. Thankfully, my previous experience owning and operating restaurants has been extremely helpful in this new venture. If, like me, your dream is to own your own business and you’re pursuing that dream, let nothing hold you back. No matter what your experience is, if you are willing to fully commit to your dream – at least one hundred and ten percent – you will vastly increase your chance of seeing it realized. To emphasize how important your personal commitment is, I’m ending today’s blog with the best quote I’ve ever read:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Next week’s blog: Join me in the Galley as we have paying passengers onboard.

Joining us for the first time? Join our journey here!

 

CHANGE OF ZONE COAST GUARD INSPECTION

Thinking all was good to go and having already booked our first event, I was confident that Papagallo Yacht Charter would soon be off and running. Not so fast, Chef Len! From the Papagallo’s galley I looked toward shore. There, coming across the parking lot and heading for the gangplank with an official clipboard in his hand, was a Coast Guard Inspector. I knew he wasn’t making a social call. But I honestly didn’t know why else he would be coming aboard. Certainly not another inspection. We had already been cleared in San Francisco Bay. What else did we have to do?

Well, it turns out that we did have to pass yet another inspection. This one was called “Change of Zone” and is mandatory when you move an already inspected vessel from one operational zone to another. In this case, we were relocating from San Francisco Bay to Morro Bay.

In last week’s blog, I discussed the stringent maintenance requirements and safety standards of a commercial vessel with a COI. Never having owned a yacht before, my learning curve was almost as high as Mount Everest. Very steep to say the least. But I was willing to climb it. So, before purchasing the Papagallo, I had talked with other boat owners to glean what information I could to help me prepare for this new venture.

In listening and asking questions I soon discovered that many of the same principles I had learned in the restaurant business would apply to this new venture as well. These experiences can be labeled as “OJT” (on the job training) or learning by doing. It means that the guy who does the work gains the knowledge. Sometimes this is called “Baptism by Fire,” or the “College of Hard Knocks,” but whatever you call it, the desired result is that you get better and better at what you are doing. Throw in a good dose of passion, enthusiasm, and faith and you will naturally accelerate the process. Passing inspections was proving to be an important part of my OJT, another aspect of commercial yacht ownership I needed to understand and master – FAST!

A very valuable business exercise I learned early on when dealing with people in positions of authority is to try and build a relationship with them. A good place to start is to find out more about them. You can do this by engaging them in conversation. It’s quite simple, but a lot of folks miss it.

You should talk more about them and less about yourself.
Show a sincere interest in such topics as their family, the hobbies they enjoy, their favorite sports team, various aspects of their job. The list can go on and on. What you are looking for is their “Hot Button,” what they react to and are interested in. Everyone has one. When you identify it, you will now have a topic that you can begin the process of building a relationship with.

Since this technique had worked for me many times, I decided to employ it with the Coast Guard Inspector. My goal was not to avoid any of the COI requirements or skirt safety issues, but rather to have the inspection go smoothly. What I hoped to accomplish was to avoid the calling out of minor infractions that had little or no bearing on operations.
Let the conversation begin! After several minutes, the inspector mentioned that he had just begun trading stocks and was excited about it. “BINGO!” Hot Button identified! Luckily, in my past life, there was a period where I had been a Day Trader in the stock market. I could relate to him on this level. Before long we were engrossed in a friendly conversation that included trading stories of wins and losses. And from that point on, the inspection moved along smoothly. The inspector issued a couple of minor 835’s to be corrected before we could begin cruising.


Great lesson here . . . it’s better to develop a rapport with people in authority than it is to challenge them with a confrontational or adversarial approach. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
In your business relationships and in your personal relationships as well, it’s good to remember:

“Big people monopolize the listening, small people monopolize the talking.”

Next week’s blog: We Finally Set Sail

ANOTHER INSPECTION BEFORE WE CAN SET SAIL ON OUR FIRST CRUISE WITH FOOD AND GUESTS ONBOARD

When a private yacht, such as the Papagallo, is converted to commercial service where passengers pay to cruise, it requires a COI (Certificate of Inspection) in order to operate as a business.

I purchased the Papagallo because it already had a COI.  Without it, we would be allowed to carry only six paying passengers (a six pack).  Not enough to make a profit.  But with it, we could accommodate 56 passengers and cruise up to twenty miles off shore.  Quite a difference.    

COIs are granted through the U.S. Coast Guard, and the initial inspection they conduct is extremely thorough.  For starters, they check all electrical and plumbing systems, water tight bulkheads and through hulls. Then the vessel has to pass a stability test.  Any area that is deemed unsatisfactory is called out on an 835 Form and must be repaired. 

This process takes time (something you don’t have) and, depending on what needs to be repaired, can be expensive.  So, once a COI is issued, you don’t want to let it lapse under any circumstances.  Keeping it current is a no-brainer if you want to continue operating successfully. 

To keep your COI current your vessel must be inspected top side (in the water) every year and on the hard (out of the water) every two years.  These inspections, especially hauling the vessel, are at the owner’s expense.  They are conducted by Coast Guard personnel who not only check out the vessel, but go through a comprehensive list of other official requirements that include such items as a man overboard drill (MOB), drug program, fire drill, crew training, thickness of hull, and insurance coverage.

Bottom-line, it’s a big, expensive deal!  And I can tell you from experience that these guys don’t miss a thing.  They are quick to issue 835’s for repair and, if serious, this can result in a “NO SAIL”.  That means the vessel isn’t going anywhere because it cannot leave the dock until the 835 is corrected and the repair is re-inspected. 

So, when you cruise on a vessel that’s been inspected by the USCG, you can be confident that it is safe, mechanically sound and sea worthy.  With that said, all you have to concern yourself with at this point is the weather, prevailing winds, and other passengers.  Maybe rubber soled shoes as well. 

You may be wondering why I took the time to share all of this with you since the Papagallo already had a valid COI when I bought it.  Good question!  I thought I was ready to go. I had everything I needed – my chef’s jacket, food and beverage stores, linen table cloths, even music and flowers.  My first cruise was booked and scheduled.  What could go wrong? 

IMG_0897

(click on link above to view a video of out of water inspection)

So I wasn’t worried when the Coasties showed up shortly before the cruise, clip board in hand.  The Papagallo had been inspected prior to leaving San Francisco Bay so I assumed we would be okay to operate in Morro Bay.  After all, it’s the same ocean, right?  Au contraire, my friend!

We had to pass yet another inspection – one called the “Change of Zone.”    More on this story and how to work with Coast Guard inspectors in next week’s blog.  Until then, remember:

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”       Thomas Carlyle 

Note:  The inspection process is certainly important and justified.  Whenever I complain about it, my good friend, Jimmy T., reminds me to relax and approach this requirement along with the many other obstacles that pop up while conducting business as: “Just another bug on the windshield of life.”           

Just joining us? Begin the journey here!

FAREWELL NICK | R.I.P. MY FRIEND

Fast forward three years from my purchase of the Papagallo. I’m no longer a novice yacht owner.  However, Nick, the man who stepped up and befriended me when I was, is no longer here.  He has passed away, leaving a hole in our friendship.  And sadly, with his death, the time we spent keeping the Papagallo shipshape and the sage advice he gave me on maintenance had come to an end. 

During all the time we had worked together I never realized how much pain Nick had been in.  How each task must have taxed his dwindling strength.  He worked tirelessly, never letting me down, right up until the end of his battle with cancer.  And through it all, he never complained.  Not once. 

Looking back, I understand now the urgency he displayed when he was teaching me how to solve problems onboard.  He was always thorough – showing me what steps to take and how to take them when we did repairs – but somehow it seemed we needed to do them faster.  He knew his time was short.  He also knew that I had a lot to learn.  The skills necessary to maintain a yacht don’t come to you over night.  He was a wonderful mentor in every sense of the word.  And a cherished friend.

Today, I spend most of my early mornings alone, drinking my coffee before my work day begins.  I so miss his company – the quiet, calm mornings we spent onboard the Papagallo solving the world’s problems, discussing world events, women, our time in the military, and a hundred other topics.  In the end, Nick was convinced the cancer he suffered from was a result of being exposed to weapons testing in Nevada during his hitch in the Air Force.  He was one of the last of many in his unit to succumb to this dreadful disease.

If he were still here I believe Nick would be proud of my understanding of the various systems onboard.  I think he might even admit that I’ve come a long way.  Everyone on the water front misses him and the great service he provided us. 

Since his passing, I have had to tackle many repairs on my own, including the raw water pump on the Aft Gen two more times.  It was not pretty!  I will never be the mechanical genius that Nick was, but that doesn’t keep me from trying and putting into practice the skills he taught me.

Now, whenever I’m faced with a new repair, I pause for a moment and wait for the small voice in the back of my mind to speak.  It used to be sad.  Now it is respectful.  It asks “WHAT WOULD NICK DO?”

The comfort of having a friend may be taken away, but not that of having had one.                            -Seneca

Miss you man!

                                                                  RIP: 1946-2003

 

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DOWN THE HATCH TO REPAIR THE RAW WATER PUMP ON THE AFT GEN

Nick joined me at the open hatch above the lazarette where the 20 KW aft generator is housed.  Seeing the water covering the deck below, he quickly sprang into action and bolted down the ladder to the compartment. I was right behind him with my trusty wet/dry vac in hand, not sure of exactly where I would be using it. 

Nick placed his hand in the water and tasted it.  “Salty,” he said.  “Your problem might be a bad seal in the Jasco water pump.”  Then he checked the through hull (sea strainer) to be sure it had not failed.  All was good there.  As Nick removed the sound shield panel from the generator for a better look, I vacuumed up the water and oil off the deck.  After that we fired up the engine to check its operation. 

Sure enough, Nick’s hunch was correct.  There was a steady stream of sea water spraying out from the pump.  The water was still doing its job cooling the engine as it was designed to do, but the leak had filled the catch pan under the engine and the pan had overflowed.  As a result there was now enough water on the deck to come within an inch of the float that controlled the emergency bilge pump.  Not good at all.  When that float rises it trips an emergency alarm – not a sound any sailor likes to hear – and the bilge pump kicks in big time to pump the water out of the compartment.    

With the remaining sound shields removed, Nick twisted, grunted and contorted his body almost into a pretzel so that he could wedge himself between the front of the engine, the hull of the vessel and a forward bulk head in order to gain access to the pump.  After carefully climbing over the rudder cables, he was somehow able to squeeze himself into a space measuring fifteen inches wide and thirty six inches deep.  It was so tight that you couldn’t even hang a drop light in it.   

Thankful that it wasn’t me wedged into the space, I slid a milk crate in for Nick to sit on, wondering at the time if we might have to call the fire department to get him out. 

With Nick securely wedged within reach of the pump my job was to hold a flash light in between the various pulleys and to focus it on the bolts that secured the pump to the engine.  This would make it easier for Nick to remove them.  I was also the “tool runner,” an apprentice who fetches needed tools for the job, which meant climbing up the ladder, going forward to the engine room to get the necessary tools and deliver them to Nick. 

As the pump removal progressed I made several trips to retrieve open end wrenches, sockets, drivers, socket extensions, a pry bar and even a propane torch.  One bolt, because of its awkward location, required a special off-set wrench to even get to it.  Normally this would require at least one trip to Lowes or Home Depot, or maybe even an Amazon special order, but we were in luck.  Nick had one on his truck. 

It was my job to retrieve it.  So, off I went to the parking lot, confident of finding the wrench but not having a clue as to what, exactly, it looked like.  After two trips and more than a few frustrating moments for Nick who could hardly move, I finally came back with what I thought was the correct tool.

“Is this it?” I asked, holding it out for Nick to see.  He nodded as best he could and I slipped it in to him.  All was well.  We could keep going. 

Even though I had vacuumed up most of the water, this was still a wet, oily job, the most mechanically challenging that I had ever witnessed.  Nick’s hands were raw and nicked with open cuts that bled.  There were red spots on top of the oil, and I noticed that a pink sheen had formed on the patches of water still on the deck.  We didn’t talk much.  And honestly, I didn’t know what to say. 

As Nick continued to work and endure increasingly painful body cramps, from time to time tools would slip from his hand and clank to the deck.  By lying flat on the deck, I found that I could retrieve them (and get them back to him) by crawling under the generator stand.  Not an earth shaking discovery, but at least I wasn’t just sitting there.        

When you’ve got a lot of space to work in, removing a pump isn’t that great of a task.  But because of the confined space we had to work in, getting this particular pump out was a bitch.  And this was just the start!  We had to get Nick out from behind the engine, repair the pump, and then reinstall it.  MORE GREAT FUN WAS IN STORE FOR US.  

Watching the hands of a skilled mechanic through the beam of a flashlight, I realized just how fortunate I was to be learning from him and how grateful I was for the opportunity.  You can learn a lot from books, but absolutely nothing can compete with the hands-on experience of actually getting in and doing it.   

I usually mention an inspirational quote in all of my posts, so I’ll pass along what Thomas Edison said:

“Most people miss Opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

That day Nick and I worked.  Really worked.  Hard.  And, we were victorious.  We had successfully removed the Jasco pump.  As a result, our clothing was rank enough to foil the Oxi clean challenge as seen on TV.  I changed clothes and tossed my salty, oily jeans and T shirt into the dumpster on my way home.  LIFE IS GOOD!     

 

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