THE MOST UNUSUAL WEDDING ONBOARD THE PAPAGALLO

Weddings onboard the Papagallo are just one of the many venues we offer.  Typically, the niche market we serve are weddings for up to 50 people, many of which are second or third marriages. 

The ceremony is performed underway off Target Rock with Morro Rock in the background.  The captain positions the yacht in the lee of Morro Rock which acts as a windbreak.  This makes it a more pleasant experience for the wedding party and guests.

Prior to the cruise, the bride and her attendants gather in the master stateroom below decks where they usually enjoy a bottle of champagne while getting ready for the ceremony. When all the guests have arrived and boarded, the captain gives the order to cast off lines and we get underway. 

Everyone gathers on the foredeck where the ceremony will be performed. With the boat in position, the groom and officiate take their places on either side of the windless.  Because of the limited space, it is standing room only on the port and starboard rail.  The bride’s attendants are the last to join the guests.  With everyone in place and the music ready to play, all await the bride’s glorious entrance.  Because of the narrow decks, whoever she has selected to walk her down the aisle, must enter the side deck first with the bride to follow.

Let the ceremony begin!

When the officiate introduces the bride and groom as “Mr. & Mrs.,” champagne is passed for a toast and hors d’oeuvres are served.  The captain resumes cruising and the party begins.  There is music, photo taking, buffet food, the traditional first slice of cake shared between the bride and groom, and the first dance.  All good stuff as in a traditional wedding celebration but much more intimate, and memorable. 

We have hosted scores of weddings onboard, some more lively and fun than others.

Over the years we have seen flower girls and little children acting as ring bearers, even the bride and groom’s dog standing with them.  We’ve conducted champagne saber services, featured violin solos and highlighted the pageantry of military uniforms.  You name it and we have probably experienced it onboard.

The most unusual ceremony happened on a sunny Saturday afternoon in early Spring.  The weather could not have been more perfect.  The bride’s gown was beautiful.  The air was filled with excitement and great anticipation.  All was in place for a spectacular ceremony.  The food selections for the buffet happened to be some of my favorite recipes, and I was excited that the guests would get to experience them. 

With the yacht in position and all gathered on the foredeck, it was time for the bride to make her entrance.  Everyone was waiting expectantly.  There was just one slight problem . . . she refused to come up from the master stateroom. 

I sent a female crew member down to get her.  The crew member returned and reported that the bride demanded that the officiate and groom join her below decks.  She wanted the ceremony conducted in the stateroom with no guests present.  

WOW! I felt bad for the groom.  The clock kept ticking away.  Still no bride.  Another fifteen minutes crawled by.  Everyone wanted to know what was happening, but no one wanted to ask.    

Finally, after shuffling about making small talk to kill time and avoid asking what was going on, the bride’s father joined her below.  I wasn’t there and didn’t hear what he said, but I wish I had.  What seemed like another fifteen minutes passed.  Still no bride.  What am I going to do with all this food I wondered.  And what about the guests?

Resisting the urge to join the bride and her father in the stateroom, I smiled at the guests and pretended that all was well.  A slight delay.  Normal.

Finally, the bride’s father met with a degree of success.  He convinced her to join her guests so that the ceremony could begin. She in turn made it clear to him that ALL she wanted or would to say was, “I do.” 

The “I dos” were said! 

After the champagne toast, she retreated to the port side of the aft deck and took out a pack of cigarettes.  She lit first one and then another and another, breathing heavily and puffing smoke furiously, as if her life depended on it, for the remainder of the cruise.  I don’t think she talked to another person the whole time.

Because she did not want to eat or dance, we dispensed with a good part of our traditional service.  Was it cold feet, buyer’s remorse, second thoughts, who knows?  We were just thrilled when the cruise ended and the Papagallo, witness to yet another of life’s quirky experiences, was docked peacefully in her spot.  My captain and crew didn’t say a word.  We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders,  and went home.

To this day I have no idea how that union is doing and I can’t help but wonder if they are still together!

 

 

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  ROUNDING POINT CONCEPTION ON A BAD DAY

After being on the hard in Ventura for over a month for repairs, we were homesick and more than ready to return to Morro Bay.  At a cost of $50,000, this by far was our most expensive haul out since buying the Papagallo.  With the repairs complete and Coast Guard approval, all we needed was a good weather window to cruise home. 

Weather is always a critical factor on any cruise.  It must be considered, especially when going around Point Conception.  If there is anyone who needs to know what the weather prediction is, it is certainly the mariner.  Out at sea, changes in weather cause differences not just in temperature but in sea conditions, wind strength, direction, and wave swell.  The sailor who does not pay attention to these changes is a gambler whose luck may run out.  Ultimately he could find himself in a dangerous situation.  Or worse, put others in one. 

After checking NOAA for sea conditions, we brought the crew onboard and cast off at 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.  The captain set a heading northwest placing us four miles off shore in the Santa Barbara channel.  The weather report gave us a fifteen-hour window to get home ahead of a low front that was coming in.  Seas were four to five feet at twelve seconds with winds fifteen to twenty knots out of the northwest.  These conditions would be no problem for the vessel or crew and would allow us to cruise at ten knots and get to Morro Bay safely ahead of the front.

In all there were four souls onboard settled in on the helm.  The first few hours of our journey were fine.  We told the usual sea stories, exaggerated past adventures, and embellished on the truth as we wanted to remember it, all normal activities for us, enhanced by the aroma of fresh brewed coffee and the haze of pipe and cigar smoke. 

After the financial shock of this haul out, I was beginning to relax.  Soon we would be home, ready for business again.   

As we made our way north, the weather and sea conditions began to change.  The wind gusts and wave swells increased.  Occasional swells out of the south began hitting our port beam.  This was not in the forecast.  We still had many protected hours ahead.  What was happening?

The seas were beginning to pound us relentlessly.  Ten knots seemed like twenty to me.  But the captain insisted on holding our speed.  “We have to get ahead of the predicted cold front,” he said.  It was very obvious to me that our fifteen-hour weather window for smooth sailing was about to slam shut.  Some weather man’s miscalculation, I thought.  So much for accuracy. 

Heavy ocean spray began pelting the helm windows.  Green water blasted up through the anchor hawspipe, poured out on the foredeck, and then ran down the scuppers both port and starboard. 

The rougher it got, the more the old salt captain seemed to enjoy the ride.  I, for one, did not share his enthusiasm!  There is no joy in hearing the considerable crashing, banging, and clanging taking place aft and below decks, especially when you can’t see what is actually happening.  I wanted to reduce speed, not only to lessen the pounding we were getting, but also to prevent damage to the vessel.  However, the captain would have no part of that and pressed on.

When we arrived off the point, we experienced confused seas at the height of their confusion – swells cresting in different directions at 11 to 14 feet one after the other at close intervals, wind gusting to 45 knots, and skies darkening all around us.  The bright sunshine we were promised when leaving Ventura had vanished.  Along with it, much of my enthusiasm. 

With no warning, seemingly from out of nowhere, a series of large swells descended on us.  As the Papagallo rose to the top of the first angry wave, the captain shouted out, “Hold on!”  Completely at the wave’s mercy, we plunged down deep into the trough, burying the bow under the green water of the next oncoming wave.  The entire boat shuddered.  Our forward progress halted briefly before we smashed through the next wave. 

“SHIT!!” I barked out.  “Cut the damn speed.”  Even now, it’s hard for me to describe the horrific sound of 78 tons of boat hitting a solid wall of water at 10 knots!  You have to be onboard when it happens to experience the absolute terror of knowing that everything around you is about to break apart. 

Before we had recovered from the previous wave we were hit on the beam by another one.  The impact tossed Jim half way across the salon into the decorative fireplace.  He laid there in a heap, groaning in pain, for a few minutes before we could scoop him up and place him safely on the bench on the helm. We found out later he had suffered three broken ribs because of the fall.  At this point Jeff said that he thought “something might have broken loose on the boat deck above.”  But conditions were so rough that none of us was eager to venture up there to check it out right then.   

Once our speed was reduced, conditions onboard improved to the point where the crew and I could check for damage.  I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to know, but I decided that not knowing was worse. 

 So, I entered the galley.  I discovered that the impact had sprung the refrigerator door along with all the cabinet doors.   Broken glass, food stuffs and cooking pans littered the deck.  The worst of this was my fifteen-year-old Balsamic Vinegar and a half gallon of Virgin Olive Oil oozing onto the deck from their containers.   Add a few heads of Romaine and some parmesan and we could have a salad prepared right there! . . . What a mess! 

Aft of the galley, the furnishings in the salon were tossed in a pile resembling the aftermath of an earthquake. The enclosed aft deck also took a major hit with the aft windows swinging wildly having broken free from their restraint fasteners.  The volume of seawater was so great it overflowed the scuppers and flooded the deck.  There were at least three inches of seawater sloshing about the deck, deep enough for life rings that had dislodged from their racks to be floating. 

We secured the aft windows, about all we could do before heading back to the helm.  Cleaning the galley and salon would have to wait until we got to port. 

A personal note here concerning captains:  The captain is the authority onboard any vessel. He has the rank and experience to give orders.  But first and foremost, his responsibility is to keep the crew, passengers, and vessel safe.  On this day, I believe he acted in a wreckless manner by not reducing speed soon enough in heavy seas.  I was not sure of his motive or what, if anything, he was trying to prove.  I do know that owners think and act differently than hired captains.  Having just spent $50K on repairs, I did not want to expose the boat to unnecessary damage.  When it’s all said and done, he gets to go home and I’m the poor bastard who has to clean up and repair damages. 

Upon inspection at the dock, the crashing sound Jeff had heard topside was that of the dink being ripped from its’ cradle.  Secured to the boat only by its davit cables, it could not withstand the blunt wave force.  It had given way, almost like myself and my crew.  This cruise ended after fifteen crushing hours at sea . . . a trip that normally takes twelve. 

This is a longer than normal post for me, but it’s difficult to round Point Conception in 500 words or less.  As a result of this cruise I was soon back on the job replenishing precious points to King Neptune’s insurance account for the Papagallo!

 

 

POINT CONCEPTION — THE CAPE HORN OF THE PACIFIC

Just north of Santa Barbara, along the California coast, lies Point Conception.  A point of land that juts out where the north end of the Santa Barbara channel meets the open Pacific.  It’s a natural division between southern and central California – as if someone had placed it there for our convenience.  It’s also a place where strong-willed currents strive to dominate one another in a furiously confusing convergence that makes sailing conditions difficult at best for large vessels and almost impossible for small ones, especially if they misjudge it. 

The west coast of California is rich in history, and its lore is full of maritime disasters.  A great many of them can be attributed to conditions encountered near or at Point Conception.  One of the worst documented cases occurred on a Saturday night, September 8, 1923.  It was foggy and difficult to see.  Fourteen ships of Destroyer Squadron 11 were running south from San Francisco to San Diego at 20 knots with just a few minutes sea time between them.  By most accounts, they were too close to each other for weather conditions.      

The lead ship, the destroyer U.S.S. Delphy, mistook the light at Point Arguello to be the light at Point Conception which was twelve miles further to the south.  As a consequence of this navigational error, the Delphy’s captain, thinking he was entering the channel, turned inland much too soon.   The other destroyers followed him.  Rocky outcrops awaited them.  When they realized the error, it was much too late.  Men had been thrown from the decks and tossed into the sea as the ships’ hulls tore open.  Twenty-two lost their lives.

Seven destroyers ran aground on the jagged rock outcroppings close to shore and were lost.  Two ships were damaged.  Only five were able to avoid the rocks. It was the largest peacetime loss of U.S. Navy ships in our history.

Over the last twelve years, I have sailed by the point on ten different occasions while delivering the Papagallo for haul out in Ventura.  On my first crossing, we entered a protective cove just south of the point called Co-Ho.  I was preparing dinner for the crew.  The ocean was like glass.  There was no hint of any previous disasters.  Eerily, it was almost too calm. After a satisfying meal we capped the evening by sipping whiskey, swapping stories and smoking cigars.  A fine night.  Mellow.  Given to introspection and speculation. 

So I waited for a lull in the conversation before I asked the captain about all the yarns I had heard over the years regarding horrible sea conditions, shipwrecks and near sinking’s that had taken place in these waters. Taking a deep draw on his pipe, his reply was more of a warning than an explanation.  As he removed the pipe and looked me squarely in the eye, his gaze never wavering, he said, “Count your blessings, Mate, as your insurance account with King Neptune is paid up and you best keep it that way.”

I later learned that a healthy respect for sea superstitions is valuable.  It helps keep your vessel ship shape because you tend never to shortcut a repair or ignore necessary maintenance to keep it that way.  And by taking these actions, you add precious currency to your King Neptune account.  This allows you to experience smooth sailing and it protects you and your vessel from confused seas and angry squalls no matter where you sail, but especially rounding Point Conception.  It is considered to be a sacred site (the Western Gate) by Chumash Indians, a place where the souls of their departed begin their celestial journey onward to paradise.  You don’t want to join them before you’re ready. 

But please be sure to join me on next week’s blog where, on our seventh trip (not a lucky seven for us) heading north to Morro Bay, we emptied out King Neptune’s insurance account sailing through eleven-foot seas in gale force winds.  You don’t want to miss this one – SCARRY STUFF!

Chef Len

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.

 

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.

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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? 

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(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.”           

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