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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CHANGING OUT THE GALLEY ON THE PAPAGALLO

When I purchased the Papagallo, the layout and appliances in the galley were a very important factor in making the decision to buy.   Having spent four years and a lot of travel miles in my search, I knew what I was looking for.  Most of the vessels I considered were well equipped for cruising, but their galleys were another story.  They were only set up to do limited food preparation onboard. 

My business plan included doing parties for up to 50 guests.  In order for me to prepare the menus we would be serving, the small galley space had to be as functional as possible. 

For several years of operation, we managed to get by with an electric four burner stove top and a three-rack oven underneath.  This was a twenty year-old GE model with a microwave mounted above.  Our refrigerator was a two-door, side-by-side Amana refrigerator freezer combo.  To cover our dishwashing needs, there was a Kitchen Aide Dishwasher. 

Although this equipment was not designed for commercial use, I was able to adapt my methods and make it work.  As the years passed, because of the volume of cooking I was doing, it was quite apparent these appliances were worn out.  There was no longer a work around solution.  They needed to be replaced.    

To refit any kitchen is a challenge.  But if it’s a galley on a yacht, double or triple the complications you’ll face.  We’re talking major undertaking here.  One of the many problems you’re immediately faced with is how to get the old equipment out.  After you figure this out then you’ve got to find a way to get the new equipment in.  And remember, nothing is ever as easy as it looks.

With our limited space (66 sq. ft.), the size and style of the new appliances would be critical.  In this application using commercial equipment is not an option.  After working with my local Whirlpool representative, we selected a Jenn-Air package.  Although not commercial, it was far better than what I had been working with and would be a great improvement for the galley space. 

The new equipment was delivered to our dock area and we set a day for the change out.  We moved the Papagallo to the South T Pier to take advantage of the public crane there.  Due to scheduling conflicts, we would have one full day to get the job done.  First, the old appliances would be lifted out from the starboard side aft window.  The measurements were so close and the space so tight that we had to remove the doors from the old refrigerator and then disassemble the oven unit in order to get them out.  We had probably less than a half inch clearance, much less than I was comfortable with, but after a lot of grunting and groaning, the old appliances were on their way out.

Our original plan to bring the new appliances onboard was to cut an opening in the boat deck above the galley and lower them through.  This seemed like the only way we could access the galley space since the passageway aft that led to the galley was only twenty-five inches wide – too narrow to bring the new fridge through.

I was never happy with the prospect of cutting through the deck, not just because of the expense involved in repairing it, but because of the Papagallo’s integrity.  To me it’s like I would be damaging a beautifully designed piece of aged wood that was part of the yacht’s pedigree and shouldn’t be disturbed.   So, when the carpenter said, saw in hand, “I want to take one more measurement before cutting,” I told him to go for it, hoping somehow that we wouldn’t have to make that cut in the deck.

Well, if you’ve ever heard that old saying “Measure twice, cut once,” I can tell you that it’s absolutely true.  Man, was I glad he did that!

My carpenter re-measured carefully.  When he returned he must have read my mind because there was a knowing smile on his face.  “According to the aft window measurement, it’s wide enough – if we remove the doors,” he said.  He also calculated that with the doors and trim removed from the passageways, we would end up with exactly 1/8” clearance.  It wouldn’t be a slam dunk, but we would be able to squeeze the appliances through and into the galley space.

With the aft window open and crew in place, the crane operator swung the fridge over the water and lined it up with the open window.  When the refrigerator was lowered, the plan was for the crew to grab it and guide it through onto the aft deck.  As we proceeded, there was one small problem . . . the straps securing the fridge were just thick enough to keep it from sliding through the window. 

After some heated discussion, the decision was made to have one of the crew lay across the side of the fridge that was already a third of the way through the window.  This would create a counter balance.  With him in place, the straps were removed and two other crew members simultaneously yanked the lumbering refrigerator through the window, preventing it from falling into the bay.  WOW!  Mission accomplished! 

With all the old appliances removed from the boat and the new ones safely onboard, the rest of the day was comparatively easy.  We moved the new ones to the galley, reassembled them, and then hooked them up to power and water.  When we finished the Papagallo’s galley never looked better.  With modern, Jenn-Air appliances, her prep area is now beautifully functional.  Getting this done was a huge effort, but well worth it.  My job is so much easier now that I don’t have to nurse the old equipment along!

Until next week…

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Chef Len

 

  

 

CHECK LIST FOR SETTING SAIL BEFORE EVERY CRUISE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Chef Len

BURIAL AT SEA CEREMONY ONBOARD THE PAPAGALLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len

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

 

FOOD AND WINE PAIRINGS ONBOARD THE PAPAGALLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chef Len 

 

 

 

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? 

IMG_0897

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

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

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

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

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

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FAREWELL NICK | R.I.P. MY FRIEND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss you man!

                                                                  RIP: 1946-2003

 

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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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