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

My First Yacht Purchase “Big Step”

Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps”  – David Llyoyd George

Photo courtesy: Kindle Lynn Reeder

After a life long dream of owning a yacht,at age 55,that opportunity presented itself. I was working as the Executive Chef at Linns restaurant in Cambria, Ca. A wonderful job, great people, good salary, really the perfect spot to finish up my career. A few years into that job I became restless leading to a discussion with my wife on why we should buy a yacht and open a yacht charter business in the neighboring town of Morro Bay. ARE YOU CRAZY?! My boyhood enthusiasm for yacht ownership was met with a great deal of skepticism, resistance, and what ifs from my partner of 23 years, my wife Midge. In fact, there was little to no encouragement from friends and associates, most thinking this would be a phase I would get over.


In 2005 my search led me to KKMI boat works in Port Richmond San Francisco. There was a 72 ft. Burger Flushdeck motor yacht for sale, hauled out for inspection. It was owned by the founder of Gallo Salami Co., appropriately named the Papagallo II. After spending an hour or so touring the vessel, I decided this was the best yacht I had located out of all the yachts looked at so far. It had all the features we needed to begin the charter business, most importantly a current COI enabling us to carry passengers for hire.

Upon leaving the vessel I told Graham, the broker, I would be making an offer by the end of the week. A huge smile appeared across his face as he commented how glad he was that I liked the yacht. He went on to ask what I was moving up from, a sailboat or cabin cruiser? Replying, I said neither one, and that my boating experience was limited to paddling a 12 ft. kayak  around San Simeon cove below Hearst Castle. His smile quickly turned upside down .He asked  if I had any idea what it took to operate a 72ft. yacht  and said that morally he needed to express his concerns that I would not be up to the task.

His concerns and honesty were duly noted in my quick response I informed him that after 40 years (now over 50 years) in the restaurant business I was no stranger to hard work and was also a quick learner. Besides, if I put my money down I will figure out a way to make it work. After  shaking  his hand his smile returned  I jumped in the car and headed  home to share the great news with Midge that our yacht had been found.

The entire trip home was spent rehearsing the sales pitch I would need to get Midge over the hump or better yet ONBOARD! Arriving home I could hardly contain my excitement sharing how wonderful my day was and we were going to be off on a new adventure. ARE YOU CRAZY! Not exactly the response I had planned and hoped for. If her body language was any indication of acceptance it was painfully obvious I would need to move to a full court press mode. Pleading my case I convinced her to agree to visit the Papagallo for a sea trial. Enlisting the help of some very close friends, Tom and Arlene, for moral support, we drove to San Francisco. Graham met us at the dock helping all onboard. The captain set a course to the Golden Gate Bridge on a spectacular day on the bay. Graham with all his wisdom provided snacks and chilled Champagne as we motored along, a setting remincent of the show “The Rich  and Famous ” . As it turns out the ladies were very enthralled with the experience, commenting “we could get used to this.” I could  Touch, See, Feel, Taste, Hear,and Smell that the deal was done. Now all that remained to be done was to come up with the money – a minor detail for dreamers. WHERE”S the MONEY? Next blog.