Nick Reminds Me


                   -Join us next week down the hatch to fix a problem

Expanding one’s comfort zone is, well, very uncomfortable.  You feel out of place, unsure, almost like you don’t belong.  A chef by trade, my comfort zone was always centered on my work in the restaurant business, more specifically, the kitchen.   That is what I had done from an early age and where I was comfortable.  I knew my way around.  No party was too big, no dinner too complicated.  I could handle whatever came my way.  I knew what I was doing.

Now, with the ownership of the yacht, I would be thrusting myself into learning and developing entirely new skills centered on the nuts and bolts of mechanical operations.  Something I knew almost nothing about but was determined to master.  Financially, I had to.  As they say:

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” 

That could not be truer for me in my new role as a yacht owner.

At age 55, entering a new phase of my life at a time when most men my age would be winding down toward retirement, I had decided to give a lifelong dream of yacht ownership a shot.  Was I crazy?  Would it work?

I had to try.  Ironically, something I had read from an unknown author came to mind:

“Those who are doing what they want to do and are continuously expanding their comfort zone at every opportunity, experience no more fear than people who are passively trying to keep life as comfortable as possible.”

That quote is so true!  And, I had the added advantage of having Nick right there  by my side guiding me through the process of yacht maintenance, supplying support, encouragement, direction, and teaching every step of the way.  He was in all ways a real life mentor.

As my training progressed from one project to another, I found myself uncomfortable most of the time learning these new skills:  uncomfortable yes, fearful no.  There is a difference.  Being uncomfortable is a very expected and natural feeling when attempting new things or learning new skills.  Accept it and keep going.  On the other hand fear can prevent you from moving forward.  Don’t give in to it.

If you’re experiencing uncomfortable feelings with whatever you’re trying to accomplish, recognize that they’re normal and try to embrace them while you concentrate on working your way through to a successful outcome.  In the end, you will feel so much better.  You will savor a sweet victory and perhaps even enjoy a well-deserved celebratory cocktail.

Initially, I had embraced my feelings of doubt when changing the engine oil.  Now that it was done successfully, we took the Papagallo out for a little shakedown cruise in the bay.  Returning to the dock, I opened the lazarette hatch and, to my horror, discovered that the deck below was covered with two inches of sea water.  NOT GOOD!

You might remember I mentioned in a previous blog that one of the cardinal rules in boating is to always keep the water on the outside of the boat.  Well, seeing all that water sloshing about between the port and starboard side of the vessel – where water is definitely not supposed to be – made me very uncomfortable.  And, honestly, I did not view this situation as a “new opportunity to expand my comfort zone.”

The only thought that raced through my head almost as fast as the water continued to pour in was:  “HOLY SHIT, THIS LOOKS SERIOUS.” 

This incident clearly illustrates that one’s comfort zone expansion rate is subject to ups and downs!

Join us for next week’s blog “NICK TO THE RESCUE REPAIRING THE RAW WATER PUMP IN THE AFT GEN.” And, don’t forget to hit the subscribe button to receive updates right to your inbox each week! 



With Nick onboard as my mechanic, the first order of business was to change the oil in the 871 Detroits.  He informed me that this is standard practice when purchasing a new boat, and I quickly learned that it’s also an expensive one.  Officially, this was the beginning of chapter one in my maintenance education and the first of many dollar investments required to keep the Papagallo properly serviced.

I was learning first hand, as the saying goes, that:

Owning a boat is like a hole in the ocean you pour money into and that anything with the word “marine” means break out another $thousand. 

My only experience with oil changes before owning the Papagallo had been limited to taking the car to be serviced at a quick lube.  This ran between $30 and $50, depending on sale specials – a proverbial drop in the oil pan compared to what I learned these engines would require.  Each 871 engine would need seven and a half gallons (that’s right, gallons, not quarts) of Dello 100 oil at a cost of roughly $21 per gallon and another $35 for the oil filter.  That works out to be $192.50 each or $385 total just for the oil and filters.  And we’re not even talking about labor yet.


Nick’s first instruction was that I remove the deck plates next to each engine.  He was checking to see if there was a drain line fastened to the bottom of the oil line that would make the removal of the oil easier.  I did this.  No such luck.  There was no drain line.

Moving on, we were ready for Step B:  pumping the oil out through a dip stick port at the rear of the engine.  After a quick visit to his truck, Nick returned laden down with five gallon buckets, tubing, electric pump and an extension cord.  Everything we needed, proving that nothing is ever as easy as it looks when it comes to maintaining a boat.

While the engines were idling (they needed about ten minutes to heat the oil prior to the pumping extraction) it dawned on me why Nick’s clothing was covered with grease and oil.  My shirt and blue jeans would soon be christened with petroleum lubricant and suffer the same fate.  There was no way around it.  Changing the engine oil on a yacht is a messy job.  What’s more, it takes a couple of hours to complete.

When it was done Nick explained that we now had a bench mark to refer to that  would indicate when the next change was due.  And in spite of the oil and grease, the nicks and bruises to my knuckles, and stiff cramps in my knees, I felt good.  Really  good.  I had successfully completed my first action step in learning the systems onboard.  It was a great feeling.  I could do this.  I knew it.

Action feeds and strengthens confidence.  Inaction, in all forms, feeds fear.

As I worked with Nick on this first project, I had paid close attention to every detail, no matter how small.  Wrapping up, I asked Nick what I owed him.  He gathered up his gear and shrugged.  “I’ll catch you next time,” he said.

It was a comment I would hear many times on our future dealings.  When he completed work, you would have to force payment on him.

Changing the oil that day was the beginning of a wonderful relationship between Nick and me over the next three years.  I will always be thankful for that time and our association.  I’m not really sure what Nick saw in me, but early on, it became apparent he was more interested in seeing me succeed than in charging for the work he performed.  Somehow, something on that first day just clicked between us.

It is rare indeed to encounter a person like Nick along life’s journey.  We would go on to spend many mornings onboard the Papagallo enjoying coffee and conversation before either of us started our work day.  Nick not only extended a helping hand with his guidance and teaching, but also a hand of friendship.  The action phase of my training would move into high gear, and I knew that success, moving ever closer to reality, was within my grasp.

“Success requires heart, soul and effort.  You can only put your heart and soul into something you really desire.”  – Author Unknown

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WELCOME ABOARD, NICK | “Man, am I glad to see you.”

My search for a good marine mechanic began at the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol office.  When I inquired there, the officer on duty enthusiastically pointed to a guy standing on the North T Pier.  “You need to talk to Nick, the best mechanic on the waterfront,” he said.

(Ace Mechanic, Nick Howell.)

Leaving the office, I quickly approached Nick and introduced myself.  His appearance left no doubt in my mind that he worked on engines.  In fact, he may very well have just crawled out from under one.  His face, lined and rugged, sported at least a five day stubble and was smeared with grease.  His hair, also greasy, was a mess.  And the coveralls he wore looked as if they could stand on their own when taken off at the end of the day.

This guy’s the best in the harbor?

I did my best to hide my doubts, but this was honestly my first impression of Nick.  I was more accustomed to dealing with mechanics at car dealerships whose uniforms and service bays were spotless.

I extended my hand as I introduced myself and explained that the Papagallo was my new yacht and that I would like to hire him to help maintain her.  He did not shake hands, commenting that his were too greasy.  And the body language between us indicated that he was hardly that impressed by me or my new yacht.  Not a good sign.

I knew that the first impression is all important.  It only takes a minute or so when you meet someone, but it usually sets the tone for the future with that person.  It can determine whether you move forward – or not at all.  SHIT! The message I was receiving from this first impression was not encouraging.   My hopes of securing Nick’s services were dwindling.

Looking back on it, Nick’s main business was keeping the fishing fleet up and running. These owners and captains knew their vessels well and shared that knowledge with Nick.  That sharing was key to the mutual respect and camaraderie that had developed between them.  It was equally obvious that I was just getting acquainted with the Papagallo and to date, had comparatively little knowledge of her.  Nick knew this.  And although he never admitted it, I believe Nick’s first impression of me was:

Here’s a fancy pants yacht owner who knows nothing about boats and is a wanna be captain.

The truth is that Nick had a point.  I didn’t know anything about boats.   Part of Nick’s impression was right.  But as far as being a “fancy pants,” my many years in the restaurant business would soon prove that assumption to be false.

Instinctively, I knew I needed this guy more than he needed my business.  Success would hinge on being able to nurture the relationship along and proving that I was a serious yacht owner.

Nick finally agreed to meet me onboard the following morning to discuss a maintenance program for the Papagallo.  This was a good sign.  My anxiety eased a bit.  Just knowing he had at least agreed to talk with me regarding his services was encouraging.

These early stages of setting up Papagallo Yacht Charters were very stressful. I had to remind myself constantly that:

You have absolute control over but one thing and that is your thoughts.

At this point in the business, it was essential to direct my thoughts to achieve positive outcomes because, as Henry Ford said,

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

At this point there would be no turning back — I am going to be successful at making this work!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog as Nick joins me in the engine room to change the oil in the 871 Detroits.

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As the Papagallo Yacht Charter business began, so did the first of many challenges to the strength and the depth of my convictions – mastering the systems of the Engine Room. It was a real stretch for me both physically and mentally. To begin with, I was inept with anything mechanical and had been all my life. This was one of the reasons I had entered the food service industry in my early teens.

The Engine Room provided me with an opportunity to learn a whole new vocabulary that described the working parts of the equipment along with what functions they served. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to learn this, but I knew that I had to.

In the very center of the compartment there are two 871 Detroit Diesel main engines. Located in the hull of the vessel are six through hulls. They service the head (toilet), fire suppression system, both main engines, holding tank and water maker. As the name indicates, these through hulls are bronze valves that open up to the sea, either to let salt water in or waste water out.

The cardinal rule on any boat is: Always keep the water on the outside. If a through hull fails, you will most certainly violate that rule, and your vessel will be perilously close to sinking. These hulls are so important that during Coast Guard inspections special attention is paid to how well they are maintained. Knowing the danger, why on earth would you ever want to let salt water enter the vessel through the hull? Actually, there are several good reasons. One is to fight a fire. Another is to help cool the main engines through heat exchangers. You might also want to use salt water to operate the head system, and you may need to convert salt water to fresh water through desal.

By now you may be thinking that this is getting complex, what’s it got to do with running a yacht charter business? And you might be right. But at some level I knew that I wouldn’t succeed if I didn’t understand the basics of my boat – if I didn’t know how things worked.
Just looking inside the Engine Room and I can tell you from personal experience that Engine Systems – and the shitload of equipment required to make everything work the way it is supposed to – are not only complicated, but damn complicated.

I would need to learn how all kinds of pumps worked: fresh water, raw water, bilge, (listening also for bilge alarms) and one of the most important, the fuel pump which requires a fuel manifold plus endless sets of fuel filters to check. Also on my list I would need to know about battery banks, the fire suppression system, stack blower, salt water head system and holding tanks.

Add shaft packing, cutlass bearings, anti-corrosion sensors, generator and a heater boiler to the list. But wait. We’re not finished yet. There is the electrical panel that supplies 110, 220, 12 and 32 volt currents, plus a transformer, reverse reduction gears, an inverter, paralleling solenoid, air compressor, constant volt chargers, stabilizing fin controls, racor filters, and especially important when you want to shower, the hot water system.
And to maintain and repair all this stuff there is a two-decker tool chest crammed full of every wrench, screwdriver, fitting and anything else known to mankind for servicing engines and keeping a boat afloat.

Overwhelmed and dazed is an understatement of the way I felt. My head was spinning painfully, as if I were drunk. I was too confused to even know where to start. Gradually, as my head began to clear, I called the boatyard in San Francisco to get the number of the captain who had overseen the maintenance of the Papa G. for the previous 15 years.
With some pleading, persuasion, and a dollar stimulus, he agreed to visit us and explain the many systems onboard. Over a weekend, my captain, Paul, and I received a crash course from Captain Dan. We affectionately nicknamed him “Captain Cool” because of his extensive knowledge and the great stories he shared during his tenure as captain of the Papagallo. By the end of our time with Captain Cool, my mind was numb, and my head felt as if it would explode from the overload of technical information we had received. And I will never forget Dan’s departing remark to me:
“Len, six months from now you will know this engine room like the back of your hand.”
RIGHT! Hard to believe, but his remark turned out to be true.

Even with all the training from Captain Dan, it was very apparent that we would need a local marine mechanic to help us maintain the vessel properly. As fate would have it, I met just such a person: Nick Howell, a Morro Bay legend. Not only was Nick a great mechanic, but he turned out to be a wonderful mentor to me in our early years of operation.  The  photos are of a bronz memorial in NIcks honor located on the boardwalk just down from where the Papagallo is docked.. Very  fitting the front seat out of his pickup truck. We love you Nick and thank you for all your help.

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you than you see in yourself and helps bring it out of you.” -Bob Proctor

Join us on the next blog post when Nick brings clarity and confidence to his new and totally inexperienced trainee mechanic.



How does all this equipment work?

After the search, purchase, and relocation of the Papagallo, we were ready to begin our special event charter business.  The most important question prior to getting here, one that should always be asked and answered honestly before opening any business, is:  “WHY.” 

My WHY was asked long before buying and owning a yacht became a reality.  It began with a small boy’s dream, a boy who knew nothing about the practical aspects of owning a yacht, but didn’t let that stop him from dreaming about one.  And as he continued to dream, and later to focus on achieving that dream, his personal “why” came true.  That boy was me.

I did not have enough money to buy a yacht, nor did I have any concrete idea of what, exactly, the right vessel might be.  

Not to worry!

My WHY, my personal dream, was of paramount importance.  And so is yours.  Your WHY question needs to be answered first, well before the “what” and the “how” of starting a business or any new endeavor.  Because if the WHY is not strong or big enough (it’s good to dream big), your how and what will make little difference in achieving success.  They will just be words.

And along with the need to answer WHY, we will focus on some very important key words like desire, passion, enthusiasm, commitment, visualization, thought, and faith in future posts.  For now, I encourage you to visualize and personalize a strong, unwavering Why and then prepare yourself for success.  It will happen!

I know what I’m talking about, because it happened to me.

When we docked the Papagallo and tied her securely in her new berth, I looked around and took a deep breath.  “Now what do I do?” I asked myself, not at all sure that I knew the answer.

Then I remembered what most yacht owners agree on – the single most important compartment on the vessel is its engine room.  Most of a yacht’s operating systems rely on a well maintained and properly functioning engine room.  This being my second day of ownership, that seemed like the best place to begin.  I would start familiarizing myself with all of the systems housed there.

After opening the dogged hatch to the engine room, I stepped in on the deck plates.  My first impression was one of amazement.  How can so much equipment be squeezed into such a small space, I wondered.  The more I surveyed this compartment, the more my feelings went from utter amazement to being overwhelmingly dazed by the complexity of it all.  And to think, I was the proud owner!

Ask me to prepare a chocolate soufflé, lobster thermidor or fresh abalone dish.  Duck soup.  I’m in familiar territory.  Cater a wedding reception for 200 – not a problem.   But try to understand or even pretend to have the vaguest idea of how all this equipment crammed into the engine room worked and, more importantly, what it operated?  Totally Greek to me.  Obviously, the limited training we received at the boatyard fell short.  As a new yacht owner I needed to know more than where the stop and start switches were.

YIKES!  I knew I would have to learn the systems.  I needed to get a handle on how these systems worked before I could ever leave the dock with future passengers onboard.  Making a quick management decision, I realized I would have to hire someone in order to gain a working knowledge of how everything was supposed to work.

Living one’s dream is not always smooth sailing. You can expect doubt and fear to be constant companions in the early stages of a new business.  When in doubt, call someone. Failure is not an option. 

In next week’s blog, I will introduce two new players, “Nick the Wrench and Captain Cool,” to the cast of characters as the Papagallo Yacht Charter startup gets underway.

Stay tuned.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Credited as a Buddhist Proverb.


Miss our post from last week? Catch up here! Just joining the journey? Start here!

Chef Len


The Fourth and Last Segment of the Papagallo Yacht Purchase

After nineteen hours of a chilling cruise down the coast of California, we arrived at the mouth of Morro Bay.  It was 9:00 A.M. on a Saturday morning, a day I will never forget.

We woke Mitch to join us on the deck as we prepared to dock.  He looked a little worse for wear but managed to stand using the railing for support.  It was a dazzling sight, this beautiful, gleaming, classic motor yacht with flag pendants fluttering in the wind.  As we headed toward the dock the water was calm.  The sky was clear and there was nothing in our way.  The captain sounded several blasts on the air horns announcing our arrival.  Wives, friends and family had gathered on the gangway to celebrate our arrival and to welcome us home from our stout-hearted passage.

And what an arrival it was!  All 78,000 pounds of the Papagallo slammed right into the dock.  The noise was so loud that I was sure people could hear us for miles around.  Our “smooth landing” was more like a controlled crash.  When you think of it, this was a fitting end to our perilous junket.  Luckily, we suffered no major damage and the dock was okay too.

The crew was exhausted and quickly abandoned ship to head home for some much needed rest.  My wife, Midge, eager to learn how the trip had gone, joined me onboard.

“You don’t want to know,” I said.  “Why don’t you head home and I’ll join you later and we can talk.”  I was tired but glad to be home.

All was quiet onboard.  I retreated to the aft deck to ponder the future of my dream of starting Papagallo Yacht Charters.  My dobber was down just a tad.  Looking about, I noticed a half-full bottle of Crown Royal on the counter.  What the heck.  I had earned it, hadn’t I?

A little hair of the dog might do me some good.  I poured myself a double. 

After finishing the drink, I tidied up a bit, locked the boat and headed home.  At the top of the gangway I was greeted by a friendly visitor, the owner of the restaurant and party boat business next to our dock.   He admired the Papagallo and asked if I was stopping overnight on a cruise south, as many cruisers do in the harbor.

No, I told him.  I was going to open a dinner cruise business here in Morro Bay. 

Hearing this, his attitude quickly turned negative.  Obviously, I would not be receiving a Chamber of Commerce welcome from this neighbor.  Then he broadsided me with a pessimistic barrage of all the reasons why my new business venture would fail, ending with a smug “You won’t make it six months!”

His words stung.  I had just spent over a half million dollars, endured a hair-raising, learn-as-you-go cruise south where one of the crew members almost died, and now this SOB was telling me I would fail.  His comments could not go unchallenged.

With the Crown Royal kicking in and my self-control shot, I let him have it.

“Let me tell you one damn thing,” I spoke as slowly as I could, staring him down and struggling to keep my anger in check.  “My middle name is Perseverance, my friend.  And you can bet your ass that I’ll be here a helluva lot longer than you ever will.

I told him that “tenacity” was a trait I had developed early on in the restaurant business and that I had a boatload of it.  Also, that even my lowest-end party onboard the Papagallo would far exceed the high-end of what he was offering to guests on his boat.  Rubbing it in further I told him to just wait and see – I would be sending business his way. 

Still fired up, I boasted:

 “Six months from today, I will invite you onboard to celebrate my success over a nice bottle of wine . . . my treat.”

He grunted a few more discouraging words, shook his head, and then stomped off, sure that I was going to fail.  Six months later, we enjoyed that wine.

By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.  Charles Spurgeon 1834/1892


Next week’s blog:  The Engine Room . . . How Does All This Stuff Work?






Eight hours into our cruise south, there was no relief from the pounding sea.  At one point, the wheel slipped from the hand of one of the crew mates and the boat was hit on the beam by a large wave spinning us around and creating a new heading of North/Northwest.  This new heading would take us back to San Francisco.  Scrambling to the helm, I noticed the absence of the captain and asked where he was.

“He went below to sleep,” a crew member answered.

This little piece of news was not exactly what I wanted to hear.  I felt new pressure weighing on my already sagging confidence level regarding our progress.  However, the lurching of the vessel must have awakened the captain at that precise moment because he resurfaced to the helm, albeit, somewhat groggy, and took command again.

Back in the salon, I bundled up with blankets on one of the couches and tried to get some shut eye of my own.  With the exception of my mates in the helm, everyone was bedded down for the night in various locations onboard.  I felt a little more relaxed.  Things were under control.

But the feeling was short lived.

Shortly after 2:00 a.m., Tim, who was sleeping in the guest quarters below, arrived in the salon.  The look on his face was not good.  “We have some trouble below,” he said.

My first thought was, what now?

Returning below with Tim I was startled to see Mitch passed out in the head and looking white as a ghost.  There was blood everywhere!  Shaking him, we got no response or movement.  I sent Tim topside to get the captain.  When he arrived there was a shocked look on his face.  He knelt on the deck and hovered over Mitch to check his vital signs.  After a couple of minutes, he looked up at me and said, “I can’t find a pulse.”

What? Are you telling me Mitch is dead?

This was a distinct possibility, one I didn’t want to believe, looking at the scene before us.  And I wish I could say how sad I felt for Mitch’s condition or how sorry I was that anything like this could have happened on the cruise, but to be totally honest, all I could think about were the incredibly serious ramifications that would befall me when we docked.

My mind raced back and forth conjuring up various scenarios – none very good, I might add.  In my life, I have been a risk taker and a positive person, one who thrives on the rush of achieving goals.  I’ve learned that it’s not always easy.  As Peter McWilliams noted:  

“Being uncomfortable is part of the process of achievement and people use discomfort as a reason not to do. We must learn to tolerate discomfort in order to grow.” 

Talk about discomfort!  At this juncture that’s an understatement.  Not being a stranger to experiencing tough spots in my life, this one ranked off the charts of my personal pucker factor scale.

The captain returned to the helm and radioed the Coast Guard.  Their response was that there would be no rescue attempt due to the inclement weather. They recommended we head to the nearest port, which was Monterey.  They also suggested we crack open a capsule of smelling salts under Mitch’s nose to see if he might respond.

By this time, the vessel was alive with activity.  Everyone was searching for the first aid kit.  The kit was finally located under a hinged stair on the gangway leading to the engine room.  How convenient!  This whole exercise had taken on the flavor of a scavenger hunt with Mitch’s life hanging in the balance.

Returning to Mitch, I cracked open the salts.  I was holding my breath hoping Mitch would take a breath of his own.  Hallelujah! As he began to come around, cheers rang out from the rest of the crew.  He’s alive!!

We contacted the Coast Guard again and they instructed us to ask Mitch some current event questions.  Happily, he aced that little test.  We cleaned him up and put him to bed in the master suite for the remainder of the cruise.

Knowing that Mitch was out of danger and safely tucked away in bed raised by comfort level a notch or two, and with some hesitation, I started to relax again.



 …Second in a series from Fire up the Mains

Magellan called the Pacific Ocean Pacifico meaning “peaceful” – because, after sailing through the stormy seas of Cape Horn, his expedition found calmer water here. The Pacific is the largest and deepest ocean in the world. (Wikipedia)


After enjoying most of the afternoon cruising the San Francisco Bay, we arrived under the Golden Gate Bridge. The view from the water was awesome.  All the crew looked skyward to appreciate this incredible engineering marvel.  It was late in the afternoon on an October day and you could see fog just starting to set in.  The effect was almost surreal, quiet and eerily beautiful.

But after leaving the bridge and entering an area called the “Potato Patch,” our peaceful cruise would come to an abrupt halt.  The Potato Patch is a shallow reef at the mouth of the bay, part of a four fathom bank.  It is 23 to 36 feet deep depending on the swell, and it runs a few miles at the entrance.

Ocean conditions can change dramatically with heavy fog.  The wind freshens and the seas begin to churn.  The ocean is no longer at peace.  Entering the open sea, the Pacific was about to dish out a spanking that we would not soon forget.

The captain motored off shore five miles as he looked for calmer waters.  He wanted to be clear of any rock outcroppings on this part of the coast.  We managed to avoid the rocks . . . and that’s a very good thing.  However, as we continued, the ocean got rougher and the wind grew stronger.

I was learning sea jargon and this particular condition was referred to as wind chop.  This occurs when the height of the waves (swell) increases by as much as two to five feet because of how hard the wind is blowing.

Along with the crew, I didn’t have a clue but would soon learn what real wind chop meant. 

It did not take long to figure out that we were on the receiving end of what the mighty, once-placid Pacific was serving up for our voyage south.   Attempting to move about the salon or the enclosed aft deck was like trying to walk wearing a pair of roller skates.  Tables, chairs, lamps and anything that wasn’t being sat on or tied down went flying.

The galley was not immune to the heavy seas.  I heard it at first and then saw that the refrigerator door had been flung wide open, emptying its contents of beer and snacks into a messy pile on deck.  Cans and bottles rolled first one direction and then another until they either banged against each other or were stopped by a bulkhead.

I crawled to the helm where the captain and five of the crew had found refuge.   No one was sick yet, but many of us were on the edge.   I was sure it wouldn’t be long.  The earlier drinking was about to inflict some severe consequences.

The captain was handling these conditions much better than the rest of us.  Offhandedly, he calmly admitted that the seas today were a little lumpy. LUMPY! WTF! I would hate to be out here if conditions went from a little lumpy, to lumpy or, God forbid, very lumpy.

Jokingly, I remarked, “Are we there yet?”

The captain responded that with our current speed of 7 to 8 knots, his calculations would put us at the mouth of Morro Bay in about 16 hours.  HOLY SHIT!  I can drive it in three to four hours depending upon the traffic, I thought.

Adding to the slow progress, when the captain took a break, one of us would take the wheel.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  As it turns out, there is more than a little skill and experience involved in maintaining a correct heading.  The best any of us were able to do at the wheel was a zig zag course similar to what a merchant vessel did in WWII to avoid a submarine attack.  We weren’t being attacked by anyone, but the sea itself was making up for it.

It was kicking the shit out of us before we had even reached our home port. 

This was turning out to be a very scary start to the Papagallo Yacht Charter business.  My confidence level, as a result of the shit kicking, was in the toilet.  With some quick self-talk, I remembered that all confidence is acquired and developed. No one is born with confidence.

Certainly, mine would be under development on this trip.  I was sure of it.

Next post:     I CAN’T FIND A PULSE! WHAT?

  FIRE UP THE MAINS | Inaugural Cruise to Morro Bay

  “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip”
– “Gilligan’s Island” Theme Song

After finding my dream yacht and buying it, we had to move it.  If you have followed this blog from my first post, prepare yourself for the story of a harrowing cruise down the coast of California.  Due to the length of this story, I will break it up into several posts.  So, don your life jackets and locate your sea legs as we set sail from San Francisco to Morro Bay!

The first crew of the Papagallo on our cruise home

A dozen of my best buddies joined me on this fateful cruise. Most were landlubbers, but we did have an experienced captain onboard to navigate the journey. Arriving at the dock on a beautiful, sunny Friday morning, there was wild anticipation and excitement in the air.  We were about to get under way!

The essential supplies had been brought onboard – snacks, sandwiches, whiskey, vodka, beer and more beer. We were ready for departure.  The broker’s agent joined me on the helm and pointed out where the start and stop switch was located along with letting me know we could load fuel at the fuel dock a quarter mile down the bay.  That was it!  He didn’t explain the various systems or what their functions were.

Not being an experienced mariner, I wondered if there shouldn’t have been just a little more training involved before heading out to sea.  But, what the hell, I had an experienced captain onboard, didn’t I?  We should be fine.

NOT SO!  Turns out this was the first of many red flags that would surface, not only on this cruise, but also on starting up Papagallo Yacht Charters.  In the back of my mind, faintly at first but growing louder, buyer’s remorse was beginning to make itself heard, coupled with doubt and fear.  What had I done?

My lifelong dream was just beginning and my stomach was in knots.  Not really that unusual – I had experienced similar feelings with each restaurant I opened – but still, this was a little different.  I knew nothing about yacht ownership, and those haunting words, “Are you crazy?” flashed across my subconscious, reminding me of a comment I heard years ago at a motivational seminar:

Fear or worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe. – Anonymous


With that reassuring thought the lines were cast off, and after loading $2,000 worth of fuel (filling only 20% of our tanks) and setting a course to the Golden Gate Bridge, we were on our way.  The open Pacific lay ahead.

the cruise from San Francisco Bay to Morro Bay

Motoring across San Francisco Bay could not have been more spectacular.  We cruised along with beautiful sailboats tacking back and forth, supply barges pulled by tugs, and ferry boats transporting their passengers to their destinations. The Papagallo, as old as she was, cut through the light chop of the bay with magnificent elegance.  A proud, grand old girl stretching her legs across the water. Folks waved to us and the radio crackled with questions.  Who were we?  Where were we headed?

My crew of “wannabe” sailors held their beers high, delighting in the attention and expressing salutations to all as we flew by.  It was glorious for all of us, regardless of our lack of sailing experience.  I was living large and in the moment, NOW, acting upon a boyhood dream.

Closing this segment, I leave you with a favorite quote of mine. I think of it frequently and thought of it then as we were about to leave the bay and get our feet wet in the mighty Pacific:

 “Live now – you could not step twice into the same river for other waters are ever flowing onto you. Thus it is with time.”  Heraclitus – 544 B.C.

Next segment – The Pacific, Not Very Gentle

Chef Len

$ Where’s The Money $

After several years of searching for the perfect yacht, I was ready to make an offer on the Papagallo II.  My first yacht purchase — Let the negotiations begin.

In 2005, it was a buyer’s market in the yacht universe. I am not quite sure that it isn’t always a buyer’s market when along the water front you often hear:

“The two happiest days of owning a yacht are the day you buy it and the
day you sell it.”     -Author Unknown

I certainly was happy preparing to make an offer on my dream yacht.  There was not too much back and forth when submitting my offer.  The offer presented was $150,000 less than the asking price, and even at that, we would be investing over a half million dollars.  This would be the largest purchase I had ever made,  eclipsing the amount we paid for our home.

When the offer was submitted I asked Graham, the broker, to deliver a letter to Ernie Gabiati, the seller.  In it, I told him how much we liked the yacht and explained our plans for a charter business.  We would not change the name.  Her legacy would live on, and thousands of guests would enjoy the time spent onboard.

BINGO! Ernie’s response was, “I want that young man to have the yacht.”  We agreed on the price and had a deal.  Ironically, Ernie passed away three days after escrow closed.  As fate would have it, I believe Ernie wanted his Papagallo moved to a good home.  He knew we would give her just that.

After the acceptance, the scramble was on to secure the funding.  A look at the Gentieu coffers painted a bleak picture indeed.  We only had one third of the money needed.  Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to the bank I go!   My past experience with bankers, when financing my restaurant startups, was sketchy at best.

During the application process for a loan, bankers voice all the reasons why they are reluctant to fund.  Then miraculously, when you are up and running, they are more than willing to supply capital, a Catch 22! 

The question in my mind was:  Would it be any different for this venue?

Through the course of the application process, all the negative chatter was set in motion.  My own business attorney, along with my good friend, Ron, who owns a local winery, joined the chorus chiming in with, “Are you crazy? It will never work”.  Taking a step back and assessing the situation I noticed that this seemed to be a reoccurring comment attached to my idea.  Oh Ye of Little Faith!

Providence moves in strange ways.  After a couple of weeks on the banker’s treadmill, gathering reams of paperwork and tax returns along with offering up my first born, it was time to take a break from the process.  Retreating to the tranquility of the upper deck of our home in Cambria, we shared a bottle of Silver Oak Cab with our friends, Don and Sherrie.  The conversation centered on my enthusiasm for the yacht purchase.  Don raised two questions.  How much? and Where was the funding coming from?

Instinctively, I wondered if these questions were going where I thought they might be headed.  Thankfully, my hunch was right on.  Don offered to loan the funds needed – and with no bank involved!  A week later, he wrote a personal check in the exact amount to buy the Papagallo.  Don and Sherrie were our angels that Sunday afternoon.

“If you’re not actively involved in getting what you want, you don’t really want it.”
–Peter McWilliams

Next blog – Fire Up the Mains.  Set the course for Morro Bay!

Chef Len