What I Saw – by Jackie Philpott

NAOS Yachts

Last year in this magazine I wrote about how my boat and I wriggled our way backward to anchor between two gorgeous Beneteau sailboats upriver in the Delta. It was in that curve on Georgiana Slough just short of the bridge, you know, The one where everybody parks their ski boats so their kids can get out on the muddy little beach to swim?

Steve Hill and Torben Bentsen.

Torben and Judy Bentsen were aboard one of those boats, the S/V Tivoli. Last month NAOS Yachts had their open house at the Maritime Centre in Point Richmond on Cutting Boulevard. When I learned that Torben was part of the sales team for NAOS Yachts San Francisco, I decided to sail over to say “Hi.” While there I was able to meet Sam Gordan and Iegor Latyshev who also work for NAOS Yachts. To be honest, I also figured there might be some free swag available if I smiled at the right person. And there was.

During the past 12 years Torben and Judy Bentsen cruised their previous iteration of Tivoli from SF to Mexico, Panama, all over the Caribbean including Cuba and Trinidad, across the Atlantic to the Azores, England, Ireland, Caladonia Canal, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Portugal and the Med, then back across the Atlantic, Caribbean, Panama and back to SF! That tells me that a Beneteau is not just another pretty face. That is a serious, ocean-crossing sailboat.

Up on the Delta last summer the Bentsens had a friend aboard, Gary Troxel. Turns out, Gary has his own, brand new Beneteau. He races it, too. People who buy those boats; they really seem to like ‘em.

S/V Ventana. Photo courtesy of Ornaith Keane.

When I arrived at the new location, NAOS Yachts San Francisco Bay located in the Maritime Centre Point Richmond, I introduced myself to Christine Pernin, Director of Communications and Marketing for NAOS Yachts. I asked her to tell me about their new location and this is what I learned:

NAOS Yachts was established in 2009 in Marina del Rey by Charles-Etienne Devanneaux. Today, NAOS Yachts is the official dealership for Wellcraft in California, Lagoon Catamarans, Amel Yachts and Neel Trimarans in the states of California, Hawaii, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. NAOS Yachts represents Beneteau Sail and Power (outboard only) in parts of California (North of Newport Beach) and in the states of Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Hawaii.

Christine: Welcome to our new office! It’s a great challenge to open a new dealership as you can imagine, opening a new office and expanding operations is always a challenge for any business. It’s a mix of financial, human and logistic challenges for NAOS Yachts and at the same time, the entire NAOS Yachts team is terribly excited to work on turning the challenges into successes.

Christine Pernin of NAOS Yachts.

We are excited to work in the SF Bay because we love sailing and boating here, we know the area as boaters and love the idea of enjoying the Bay by boat. We are also looking forward to meeting the different boating communities in the Bay and becoming active participants in everything boat-related that the Bay and the Delta has to offer. We want to bring that same sense of community that we have managed to create in L.A. to Northern California and the San Francisco Bay also. It is a challenge because we are Southern California/L.A. people. I’m French. The two managers/owners of the company are French. We are used to sailing in L.A. and I know that in the San Francisco Bay you don’t call us sailors. It’s very different sailing and racing, you know? [laughs]

Jackie: We can be sailing snobs.

C: Well, you know, it’s the same in France. I’m from the south of France, the owners are from Brittany so of course they say to me “Oh, sailing in the Med is so easy!” And I tell them, “Sailing in the Med is so difficult!” Everywhere in the world you have that kind of friendly competition. I not only sail but I live on a Lagoon 42 catamaran in Marina del Rey as well. I grew up sailing like most of us at this company. We were introduced to boating very young.

Visitors to NAOS Yachts.

The NAOS Yachts SF Bay team includes sailors and boaters who have expertise in their area of competence, be it sales or services. We have a team here, at the Maritime Centre in Point Richmond. We also have a team in Oxnard and we have a team in Marina del Rey. The service team in Los Angeles and here are two separate groups. We have a rigger in Los Angeles who can travel to San Francisco.

In addition to maintenance work, our service team will also commission all the new boats upon delivery. We receive the boats new, from France or wherever, and we take quite a bit of time to make sure that all the systems work. We test everything.

J: This port here in Point Richmond has the capacity to receive and deliver cars. Car after car after car comes off those freight trains. How will delivery of your boats work?

C: The boats come from France by cargo ship into Port Hueneme, which is in Ventura County. Then they go north to San Francisco, either on a trailer if it’s possible, or we bring them up the coast on their own bottom.

Sailboats at NAOS Yachts open house.

[The Port of Hueneme, shared with Oxnard Harbor District and Naval Base Ventura County, is the only deep-water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the only Navy-controlled harbor between San Diego Bay and Puget Sound, Washington.]

Last week in Los Angeles I was actually on the docks when two brand-new Lagoons arrived. We hired two separate skippers and their teams to deliver the boats to the Boatyard in Marina del Rey, under power of engine vs. sail. The 42 footer had a mast but no sails and the 46 footer wasn’t commissioned with a mast. After the preparation, the boats will be brought back to Marina del Ray under sail for their commissioning by our team at NAOS Yachts.

J: When dealing with your clients before a big race or maybe before a sailing season, I can understand and see the advantages of being so close to a boat yard.

C: Look, the location we chose to open our newest office is consistent with our other locations – in Marina del Rey we are located next to the Boatyard – because we want to be close to a boat yard to oversee and support maintenance work done on our customers’ boats.

Lots of Beneteaus.

For example, my own boat is five years old, right? I might have to haul it out. I’ve already hauled it out once. Our office down in Marina del Rey is the same as here, close to the boat yard. Which means that we can step out, look at what they are doing, paint-wise, how many layers, etc. We are very particular because we are boat owners, we are passionate. We want to make sure that we can see what’s going on.

J: So, somebody who buys a boat from NAOS isn’t going to have to worry about her boat sitting in the boatyard for a long time going unnoticed? Your own service team is always focused on the boats you sell?

C: Yes

J: That’s very appealing.

C: It’s fantastic. It has worked really well in Los Angeles. The boat owners, myself included, trust NAOS and trust that the brands NAOS represents are well made but also believe and trust in the people who are taking care of their boats. Whatever work that needs to be done. I get a phone call, “Hey, Christine, we found this out: The thru hull and this and that, what do you think?” It is reassuring that we can walk out of the office and see things for ourselves.

J: NAOS…? How did NAOS become part of the company name?

C: The origin of the company name… well; Naos, pronounced Nah Oss or Nay Oss whichever comes easier to you, was chosen as the name of our company because it is originally the name of a constellation within Argo Navis, a large southern constellation that represented the mythical ship Argo, on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed to Colchis on their quest to find the Golden Fleece. Naos marked the deck of Argo Navis. It’s a beautiful name for sailors and boaters in general, it also means that our customers have the full team on deck when they work with Naos Yachts!

In addition to our two Southern California locations, today we add our third location here in Northern California. NAOS Yachts L.A. although it is actually located in Marina del Rey. NAOS Yachts Channel Islands which is in Oxnard but named as such, because most people go to and are familiar with the Channel Islands. And now of course, NAOS Yachts San Francisco Bay, because everyone associates Northern California with San Francisco.

J: Are people able to choose the type of engine they want on the boat they buy? For instance, can they say, “I want that boat with this engine?”

C: Yes, to a certain point, the horsepower of engines would be included as part of the options you may choose when buying a new boat, just like the color of the upholstery or the type of wood… All the brands we represent have plenty of standard and upgrade type options to fit each buyer’s needs, however.

J: You are located here at KKMI. Will you use any of the existing maritime businesses that are located here? For anything?

C: Hopefully, as that’s what we do in LA. Some people want us to help them maintain their boat. So, we will have a maintenance contract with a trusted maintenance professional. We will go through everything with them when relaying the customers’ wants and needs.

J: So, you contract out and the owner understands that he or she can count on that person with whom you have a contract? Do you have lists of contractors here? Is it too early to put out the word to local contractors who might want to work with NAOS Yachts San Francisco Bay?

C: Yes. It is too early to say which contractors we will be working with at this time. We are boat owners, so we work with people we trust, people we have been able to trust over time. All that will come.

J: You have some local people already though, right?

C: Yes, we are very fortunate to have a local team of NAOS salespeople and service managers who are already familiar with the products we represent.

J: Will there be days when you take your boats out onto the Bay to show them off?

C: As with any new boat dealership, the boats we offer would not be taken out for just the sake of taking them out no, although everyone is welcome and encouraged to come visit our office and see the boats in Point Richmond. As I’ve said, we’re boaters, we’re passionate, we love our boats and we’re proud of the boats we have and we are ready to show them off to Northern California and the San Francisco Bay area.

We want to be part of the community like we are in Marina del Rey. We’re just starting here, even though the local team has been here for a while in San Francisco. We might be based in L.A. but we have all sailed in the Bay Area and love the idea of being here, meeting boaters and discovering this magical place and all its possibilities.

I cannot thank NAOS Yachts, all their sales staff and of course Christine enough. The day was very enjoyable and it was nice to reconnect with my Delta acquaintance Torben once again. Who knows, this summer roles may be reversed, and he may just try to squeeze into the area where I’ll be anchored.

If you have any questions for the NAOS Yachts San Francisco team, you can reach them by visiting www.naosyachts.com or by calling 510-851-3082 or 415-465-9045.

Where Do Brand New Small Wooden Boats Come From?

One of them might just come from a garage near you. This month I write about the boat that is being built by a friend in the Mission District of San Francisco. In a month or so I’ll write about another small boat that is being built in the Financial District.

Really? Yes. Really.

What is a RAID class boat? Well, the word raid refers back to the Vikings who were famous for raiding villages, plundering and looting along the way. There is ample evidence that the inclination to plunder and loot has oozed into our current world, beyond the Vikings to some of those nice people who might even live next door to you. One has only to open a newspaper to a recent business section in order to see evidence of looting and plundering by a whole new crowd of people. Who knew?

But I digress: For anyone new to the concept, the idea of a RAID is to gather a fleet of small open boats, usually under 24 feet long, and send them off on a series of passage races, exploring scenic areas. The objective is to encourage the development of new boats for recreational voyaging which are able to carry on the sail-and-oar tradition.

One type of RAID boat is an ROG, the acronym for River of Grass. It is a small boat preferably with a retractable keel or centerboard which makes it capable of sailing in narrow and shallow waters.

Stephen Buckingham And His ROG

Some people just aren’t satisfied with sailing boats that you can buy off the shelf. Stephen Buckingham decided he wanted a ROG (River of Grass) and he wanted to build it himself. Since he didn’t have his own garage he rented one in the Mission District of San Francisco. It’s a very small garage. Stephen has been planning and building his kit boat for six years now, chronicling it on the forum of the Singlehanded Sailing Society. If you are interested, you can follow his progress yourself here: httpsccwwwddsfbaysss.org/forum/showthreadddphp”1903-New-Boat-4-Tchoup

Stephen with his ROG.

Back in 2009 I attended my very first skippers meeting of the Singlehanded Sailing Society. It was held at the Oakland Yacht Club shortly before the SSS’s annual singlehanded race to Vallejo. I didn’t know anybody so I sat down next to a nice man who smiled at me. He introduced himself as Steve Buckingham.

I knew just enough sailor etiquette to ask what kind of boat he had, and he told me. At the time he owned a custom-made sloop named Starbuck. I told him that my boat was a Cal 20 named Dura Mater. He was gracious, told me that, with my boat’s PHRF rating, I would be very competitive.

“Really?” I asked.

“Absolutely!” he answered. New sailor that I was, I actually believed him. At the time I didn’t understand how much more important than PHRF ratings were sails, bottom paint, sailing experience and local knowledge to successful sailboat racing.

There’s a boat sailing onto the sidewalk in the Mission!

I had only a vague idea about what a PHRF rating was and I had no idea how to get from the start of the race just south of the Richmond Bridge to Vallejo. Regardless, I appreciated his kindness and have never forgotten it.

It has been quite remarkable to follow Stephens’ boat project as it has progressed from mere musings, then to hundreds of small parts and finally, to the almost finished project.

Here is a photo of Stephen on the date of his boat’s first urban mizzen mast raising. In early February of this year I invited myself to visit Stephen and his boat.

Stephen’s boat lives in a small garage in the middle of the City. On the audiotape of my interview with him the sounds of car horns and sirens are really loud, reflecting the very urban surroundings of this tiny little boatyard.

Stephen: I was looking forever for a place to build so I talked to Joe at the corner store across the street here. Joe knows the owner of the building and he got me this fully self-contained garage. Then I said, “Joe, I just might try to build in there. What do you think?”

He said, “Yeah, go for it. It’ll be fine!”

Jackie: Are people intrigued by the fact that you’re building a boat here?

S: Yes. Lots of people check it out and come by. I’ve kinda gotten used to it. One day a guy comes by and he says, ‘Hey! How’re you doing?’ I thought it was just another guy, chatting me up. He asked, “remember me?”

I said, “no.”

Urban mizzen mast raising. Photo courtesy of Chris Jordan.

He said, “I rented you this garage.” I was worried at first that I would get busted half way through the build: “Nope! You’re out!” Instead, he was super cool, asked, “So, you’re building a boat?” Then I met his dad and he was super friendly and nice, too.

I’m very lucky to have this garage. I’ve had it for less than a year. I can just walk up a block from my apartment, work here at night, crank up the stereo. I just wasn’t finding anything except in far places. So, I decided to go for it. I work on my boat when I can between my work schedule.

[A man has stopped on the sidewalk just outside the garage, asks when Stephen will be sailing away.]

S: [laughs] Probably not today.

The man smiles, says “I’ll be keeping an eye out for you” and walks on.

Supportive neighbor in the Mission District.

S: Thank you. [Stephen turns to me] You, see? I get a lot of that. I get all sorts of stories. Usually from my dad, my granddad or my uncle, so it’s obviously a geezer thing: “I built a boat in my garage.”

Obviously, I couldn’t use regular boat paint in here. It would kill me and somebody above me. So, I’m using all this system 3 stuff, their epoxy, super low vsc so I don’t have to wear a mask when sanding it. I’m using their water-based paint. It’s an epoxy two-part primer, also, which is water based. I think it’s pretty good and I love the red.

J: I love the red, too. What made you decide to build this particular small boat?

S: I started to look at available boats, of course, West Wight Potter? Not performancy enough, too cutesy. Lots of small boat designs seem to do that. They just try to shrink down these big boats. You don’t have side decks on a 16-foot boat! You don’t walk up to a foredeck! You know? This one isn’t scaled that way. It’s different. It doesn’t have any of those big boat features. So, those types of boats? I don’t like any of those boats.

Carbon fiber fillet will make it stronger.

J: You think this will be faster?

S: Heck, yeah! I wanted a little hot rod performance boat that I can sleep in. I also wanted to find a small boat that I could trailer, but I was hoping that I could still race. I wanted a boat with a drop keel that I could trailer and also wanted a little beachable RAID sailboat. I definitely couldn’t find anything on the market that was sexy enough for me and then I saw this design and said to myself, “That’s great.”

I called the designer and asked, “Are you gonna sell that boat when you’re done?” And he said, “Nah, I’m probably not gonna sell it.” Then I talked with him a bunch and basically, he said that he could cut me out on his C&C machine the shape of the centerboard and rudder out of Western red cedar and mail it to me for $500. That and the kit made it easy.

I said, “Okay” because that would have been the hardest part: Lofting up the foil shape, that would’ve been pretty difficult. I have the composite skills. I definitely don’t have any woodworking skills.

J: So, you kept the features you could do, cut out the stuff you couldn’t or didn’t want to do and you approached it from that perspective.

S: Yeah. It seems like all small boat kits for home builders are more traditional looking. Some shivvy little thing with tan bark sails? [he smiles, shakes his head]

ROG in garage.

J: I love the beautiful wood on this boat. It doesn’t kill you to paint it?

S: I’ve spent a lot of time varnishing. I’m perfectly okay with painting it. I’ve used this lumber yard in Windsor, north of Santa Rosa. It’s called Storm Forest, that’s where I got this stuff. It’s aircraft-grade Western red cedar. It’s beautiful.

Richard von Ehrenkrook (a mutual sailing friend who is a custom cabinetmaker) gets ahold of it and he said, “This is from a 150-year-old tree! They don’t drop trees like this anymore! This was probably chopped down in the 60’s or 70’s and has been stored ever since.”

I haven’t found one knot in this wood. I went up and bought another board. I’m going to take it to his shop. He’s gonna help me plane it and dress it.

I purchased a lot of tools for this project. I bought a table saw, a chop saw, a drill press. That’s all in my other shop in the basement of my apartment. I built a lot of this stuff over there. After I’m done here this turns back into a garage for my car and my motorcycle.

The garage door is open and a neighbor walks by on the sidewalk:

Neighbor: I see it’s on wheels now. And there are green and red lights?

S: That’s how we do it in the boat world. That’s so you can tell which way the boat’s going in the middle of the night.

N: So, one color is on one side and the other color is on the other side?

S: That’s it. [I ask the neighbor whether he is a sailor.]

N: No. I just walk by. I go to the grocery store over there, and I walk back in this direction.

S: He comes by all the time.

The neighbor walks on and Stephen begins to walk me through the modifications he has made to the original design of his boat. He shows me the solid carbon fiber ring frames with folding pad eyes on each side, located at the strongest points of the boat and reinforced with carbon fiber filling. Stephen had to determine how best to locate them on his boat in order to use a hoist, which hadn’t been anticipated in the original design.

S: The design called for a kayak cockpit with a canvas cover. But I’m in Northern California! That little spray top? [he shakes his head] Plus, I want to be able to lock it up. So, I built a hard top. [Lifts up one part of a companionway top that slides vertically under a second piece with molding around the edges. Stephen shows me how several parts fit together, similar to the dovetailed drawers of fine wooden furniture].

Steve McCarthy designed sails for me. He runs Hogan Sails in Alameda, in the new Svendsen’s complex there. We bought the cloth, four ounce something dacron. We cut ‘em out and I’ve sewn the seams all together. There are four batten pockets on each sail.

J: What do you think you’re going to name your boat?

S: Still undecided, but maybe… don’t tell anybody… [I promised but my fingers were crossed behind my back] I kinda like iota. It means something tiny. See all the tabbing that I’ve done at the seams? This is all tabbed with carbon fiber. I still need to do more, as you can see on a few seams in here. Then it will have all white interior like the hull of the boat.

J: That makes it stronger? [he nods]

S: The designer of this boat calls for six-ounce fiberglass everywhere. Instead, I’ve replaced it with four ounces of carbon fiber for greater stiffness. [Stephen hands me several short lengths of wood coated with the two different materials for comparison]. The carbon fiber is stiffer than the fiberglass, right? It’s expensive. I didn’t do the outside but I have used it for all the inside tabbing, just to be fancy.

See these little double-sided micro cleats? It’s fun to play with this, problem solve, if only to avoid spending time sanding pieces of wood. The little mizzen sail is only 48 square feet. And then this! [he holds up a tiny little Harken brand traveler track] This is meant for a little dinghy. It’s going to be perfect for the main sheet!

Water ballast tanks are here, solid flotations there in the back. The pump goes in under here. [shows me a whale gusher worthy of a big keel boat which will be used to transfer water ballast from one side of the boat to the other]. It’s gonna mount upside down right there. So, you’ll just reach under to pump the water through those hoses.

J: Of course! You couldn’t just build a small boat. You had to have water ballast, two masts… Whenever a racer gets on my boat he or she is always tweaking something here, tweaking something else there. I ask, “Can’t you just sit still? Can’t you just enjoy the experience? What is it with you racers? You’re always jumping around!”

S: I didn’t design it!

J: But you chose it!

S: I just chose the most complicated design. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make enough adjustments. I wouldn’t have enough strings to pull. [We both laugh].

S: I just made this little cradle for the boom. It’s made from scraps of carbon foam. The epoxy is still wet here, so be careful. And here is the 24-volt cooler that fits right in there. It’s actually a freezer cooler, attached to the batteries. Here’s another cradle on the other side that holds the carbon fiber toilet, that I also built out of this scrap. As you slide it in, a little hole in the box docks with the mechanism there that attaches to the small puffer fan that is the desiccator part of the system.

Instead of hardware latches I’ve experimented with built-in magnets, embedded directly into small dowel-shaped holes in the cabinet door on one side and the receiving end of the cabinets on the alternate side. I don’t want hard metal latches. The magnets seem to work just fine.

[Stephen obtained the magnetic parts on the McMaster-Carr site. We talk about how invaluable this company is as a source for boaters: https://www.mcmaster.com/]

J: That’s brilliant.

S: Pretty handy, huh? When I drop the mizzen, this is where the solar panels will go. It will be like having an electric motor. Plug it up there and be able to sail while charging the batteries. Solar sailing!

J: Where will you first take this boat?

S: First road trip? I’d say overnight on Tomales Bay! So easy. Just put money in an envelope and launch up there at the public boat ramp. I also want to go to the Missouri Breaks and maybe to the Trent Severn waterway. It’s a series of locks in Canada. One of the locks actually uses a railroad car … I’ve seen pictures of it filled with sea kayakers all sitting in their kayaks taking a ride over the top.

J: Is this pretty much a singlehander’s boat or is there room for another person?

S: The designer calls it an expedition micro cruiser. In his jargon, solo for five days, a couple for a weekend.

J: You’d have to really like the other person.

S: I am shopping for a standard bunk trailer this summer. The boat measures 15 feet, 5 inches; 5.75 feet, centerboard up: Six inches. Board down, 46 inches. I want to go places with it and I’m gonna get it wet, so I need a galvanized trailer. I want a reliable decent trailer, so I might have to buy it new.

Stephen and I talk a bit longer and then I leave for the 24th and Mission BART station. As I turn to go, I feel a very slight tinge of guilt. I’ve enjoyed myself while Stephen hasn’t made any progress on his project. The last thing I say is:

J: I really kept you from working but I’m not sorry at all.

As I walk away, I hear him talking to himself, and this is what he’s saying:

S: I don’t know if this is going to fly, but I kinda want to build a little tiny jib.

Big Daddy Regatta

This year Richmond Yacht Club hosted its 38th annual Big Daddy Regatta. Rain and wind were forecast for Saturday. Rain and wind happened. First the rain, then the wind. Forty-four boats showed up full of people who sailed all day in the rain. Then rain and wind were forecast for Sunday and the same thing happened. On Sunday 64 boats showed up to race in the rain. These sailors, they never learn. It didn’t even seem to faze them! Plus, of course, everybody loves a big daddy.

S/V Surprise! during Big Daddy Race. Photo courtesy of Ornaith Keane.

A tradition started by Bob Klein (AKA Big Daddy) was to take junior sailors along for the race. Brendan Choi and Rachel Peterson both got lots of tiller time on Bob Johnston’s classic Alerion S/V Surprise! They sat on the rail in the rain. They stood in the cockpit in the rain. Youth sailors seem undeterred by rain.

Brendan Choi and Rachel Peterson.

This writer stood in the companionway all day long while everyone else took turns steering in the pouring rain. She was asked “Would you like to take a turn at the tiller?”

Her response? “No thank you. I’m staying dry right here under this nice big dodger.”

There are many stories from that day, but the story of this photo is my favorite. How many of you have seen the latest Tom Cruise movie Top Gun: Maverick? In one scene Cruise’s character goes sailing with his long-lost love, Penny. His famous line is “I don’t sail on boats, Penny! I land on ‘em!”

Afterburner’s last sail.

The boat used in the movie belongs to Rufus Sjoberg and Jason Crowson, and its name is Rufless. In the movie the boat’s blue spinnaker is flown to lovely effect, referred to by Penny as The Afterburner. Sadly, during the Big Daddy pursuit race on Sunday, March 12, The Afterburner finally met its demise. And there we were, passing it by just as it blew up. R.I.P., Afterburner!

Pacific Sail & Power Boat Show May 4-7

Remember to come to Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City for this year’s boat show. There will be boats in the water and boats on trailers. It’s a beautiful venue. Come to admire the boats and bling. Save up your pennies and arrange for that line of credit against your house so you can buy something really special. And please? Walk over to the Bay & Delta Magazine’s tent to introduce yourself.

Enjoy your time on the water and write to tell me about your own boating experiences. I can be reached at jackie@yachtsmanmagazine.com. Thank you for reading, and let’s all be careful out there.