What I Saw – by Jackie Philpott

Sausalito Boat Show

I arrived at the boat show in Sausalito first thing in the morning. There were people at the entrance to Clipper Yacht Harbor directing traffic and there was a carnival atmosphere. Lots of friendly volunteers stood at the entrance collecting the $20 entrance fee. I was directed to a tent for my Bay & Delta Yachtsman magazine pass on a lanyard and put it ‘round my neck.

Then I backtracked to the FISH Restaurant where the staff was eating breakfast. They weren’t expecting anyone this early but yes that was an espresso machine over there. Would I like an espresso? They would be happy to serve me. They were so nice. Don’t they look nice? Fish is right there at the entrance to the marina, at 350 Harbor Drive, described as a “sustainable seafood joint on the water.”

FISH Restaurant and staff.

Back at the boat show, there were lots of booths inside a big white tent, but this was a different boat show from the pre-COVID boat shows. There weren’t small items displayed for sale like sailboat blocks, boating gloves or life jackets. No one was walking away with arms full of boating equipment. This was the first year for the Sausalito Boat Show, and it can only get bigger and better. Plus, it’s on the water and in Sausalito, a place I always love to visit.

I chatted with Dan & Giancarlo, who were manning a booth with a nice red Volvo boat engine display set up for people to admire. Since my own boat’s ancient engine was temporarily inoperative, I found the nice clean Volvo engine particularly appealing. He represented Helmut’s Marine Services and assured me that, for $15,000, he could replace my boat’s tired old Universal M15 engine. Giancarlo was a really persuasive salesman and I almost signed on the dotted line. Instead, my engine options remain open at this time which I will cover later in my column.

Ethan Hirschfeld of H&M Marine in the Dunk Tank.

I knew that people were going to be in the dunking tank, so I walked further and watched the fun for a while. You have to throw that ball really hard to dunk the person inside the tank, but boat show attendees obviously have strong arms because there was a lot of splashing going on. A. Lot. Three balls cost $5 and all the money went to support the local preschool, Sausalito Nursery School. There were plenty of volunteers willing to be dunked for charity and two of the biggest sports were Ethan Hirschfeld of H&M Marine and Ross Tefft of Silver Seas Yachts. Each of them took their turn in the tank and in all the dunking, never once did their smiles waver even the slightest.

Ross Tefft of Silver Seas Yachts in the Dunk Tank.

Then I went looking for boats. There were lots of gorgeous sailboats and (I’ll admit) swanky and beautiful power boats, too. Across the water, what was this? I saw a brand-new houseboat for sale! I have read all Hal Schell’s books including Dawdling on the Delta and Erle Stanley Gardner’s book The World of Water. For both authors, houseboats anchored in the waters of the California Delta figured prominently. Being a Delta aficionado myself, the idea of an updated houseboat was particularly intriguing. So, I walked over to the Navisyo houseboat and did a walk-through.

From my brief tour I found the Navisyo houseboat to be sleek and compact with light-colored wood laminate and stainless appliances. They are fabricated in Vigo, Spain, and here in California they are categorized by the Coast Guard as catamarans. They fit in a 30-foot slip and are 9.5-feet wide, 14-feet tall. Navisyo will deliver your houseboat, complete with a washer dryer combination and two brand-new double beds in two cabins, one up and one downstairs. The houseboat has a 48-gallon holding tank. The houseboats have a two-year warranty and their two Mercury engines have their own warranties.

I had a chat with Chris LaManna. This is what I learned from our conversation.

Discovery Bay has recently been sold and is now a Suntex Marina. There are 48 Suntex marinas throughout the United States, mostly in Florida and up and down the West Coast. Chris himself is based in Discovery Bay and he is the contact person for Navisyo Houseboats. According to Chris, marina developers are buying houseboats and will allow rentals. The Navisyo houseboats will be sold to people who are interested in renting them out through the Safe Harbor boating network.

My understanding has always been that marinas are reluctant to allow houseboats and I asked Chris about that. His reply was that houseboats are unfairly maligned. These houseboats will serve as small, high style condominiums on the water meant as short term rentals. They require 50-amp service for everything to work, which will require that marinas be newer or have updated shore power that will allow for the need of such power. Navisyo houseboats have agreements with Safe Harbor Management Companies around the world. In our local world that means that they will be available for rent in situ at these Safe Harbor locations: Ballena Isle Marina in Alameda, Loch Lomond in San Rafael, Marina Bay in Richmond and Emeryville Cove in Emeryville.

Navisyo Houseboat.

These are not your Hal Schell-type houseboats, although back in the day those houseboats probably looked pretty modern to their buyers, too. At the Sausalito Boat Show the cost of a Navisyo houseboat, including two brand-new 15-horsepower Mercury outboards, was $299,000. The more I learned, the less this houseboat seemed to have in common with what I had read about those old timey houseboats where families spent weeks anchored out in the sloughs off the South Mokelumne. Hal Schell’s houseboats were meant to be taken up to the Delta, anchored out in the shallow tributaries off the South Mokelumne River. Navisyo houseboats do not strike me as nests for Delta Rats.

Golden Gate Yacht Club

Just outside the tent was the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) booth where Director John Volpe and another fella were enjoying themselves enormously. Golden Gate is a very generous club to the sailing communities on the Bay. Among other things, GGYC makes its deck available to yacht clubs’ race committees. Its location just east of the Golden Gate is perfectly positioned for the start of sailboat races. From the big yellow mooring ball just north of the club a sailboat enjoys a perfect start for summertime offshore races. Start on starboard, then tack and sail over to the middle of the Bay for help from the ebb. If you have the right wind, you can sail all the way over to the north tower before you have to tack one more time. Then you are under the bridge and into the Golden Gate, that area between the Bridge and Point Bonita. From there it is just a matter of going further, to Infinity and Beyond.

John and Pam Volpe.

I told John how much his club’s generosity has been appreciated over the years. Gregarious and fun, John acknowledged his club’s generosity. He regaled me with the story of how Larry Ellison used to live on a 27-foot boat in the Berkeley Marina before he founded Oracle. Upon some kind of dispute with another yacht club, Ellison joined Golden Gate Yacht Club, refurbished it to its current splendor and brought the America’s Cup back to the San Francisco Bay. This is something GGYC members are inordinately proud of and John clearly enjoyed telling me the story.

John talked about GGYC’s annual Lobster Feast and showed me a photo of himself in a huge red lobster outfit standing with his pretty wife. I told him that, from the photo, he seemed to be having a good time. His response?

Zoom zoom boat.

“They tried to cook me!”

John was master of ceremonies at Fleet Week and in 2024 GGYC is looking forward to hosting Sail GP. Last year he really enjoyed being Santa at the Club. He arrived on a Whaler and described how he shook the bells as the boat approached the club. What did John have to say about his favorite club?

“Golden Gate Yacht Club is Back in Business!”

DeDe Thoma.

I also met DeDe Thoma at the Boat Show. Previously a part owner of a Beneteau 44, S/V Drama, DeDe now sails other people’s boats (OPB) and has plans to sail to Drakes Bay soon. We talked about what she might see and I pressed a copy of this magazine upon her. She lives on a houseboat on Liberty Dock in Sausalito and we agreed that one day I will visit her there for an interview.

Marin County firefighters.

Down the dock from the houseboat, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of this gorgeous boat. No one was around and I looked furtively for a key to its ignition. Then, who should approach? Two members of the Marin County Fire Department, here to guard all these expensive vessels. Like any person with criminal intentions, I distracted them and asked if I could take their photograph. Here they are: Pete Rossi and Giovanni Qeuzadas. Oh well. I didn’t have my PFD with me anyway.

Richmond Yacht Club Member Recognition Reception

Once a year RYC throws a bash for its members with shrimp, crabcakes, cheeses, all sorts of hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Since it is a club full of competitive sailors, it also prints a glossy booklet with a list of sailors who have done well in races around the San Francisco Bay and beyond. Longtime member John Dukat, no slouch himself when it comes to racing, invited Bill and Sue Wells to attend.

Sue and Bill Wells and Howard Paul.

Bill spent a good deal of the afternoon chatting with Howard Paul, winner of the infamous Richmond Yacht Club Booby Prize.

Eric Arens has been running the Wednesday night beer can races out of Potrero Reach since sometime in the 1980s. Eric himself is famous for what is popularly called his Dynamic Scoring Method, which means that he decides who wins the race and it often has nothing to do with who crosses the finish line first. If you win by Eric’s dynamic scoring method you get a bottle of wine.

Eric Arens.

At every annual Members Recognition Reception Eric is responsible for awarding the booby prize. This year it was awarded to Bill’s new friend Howard. Thank you to Eric Arens for the following description of this illustrious award:

“The name is ‘Booby Prize.’ However, it is often said as Booby Prize, but it could also be called the Booty Prize.” Howard Paul, who won it this year and is shown in the photo, called it the “Boutee du Femme” award in his acceptance speech at the Members Recognition Reception on Nov. 5. If you would like to see a copy of his acceptance speech, which he wrote and printed out in the way Nobel Prize winners do, please ask him. He is being sent a copy of this email. Anyway, what is interesting to know is that the English word “Booty” is not a silly, made-up word but is actually derived from the high society French culture.

You might know that Jim DeWitt drew this drawing in art school in Los Angeles. He went there and also to the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, which is now located in San Francisco. Jim hung it in a prominent place in his house near the entrance for many years and then asked me in 2003 if I would like to have it.”

Thanks for all the wonderful evening sailing, Eric!

Letter From Bill Crowley

I received this letter from Bill Crowley addressing a topic most people hesitate to discuss aloud. Feeling no such compunction myself, I respond below:

Ahoy Jackie!

I am a Bay sailor with a Newport 30 Sloop I keep at Glen Cove Marina, where I am a member of the GCYC. I’ve been sailing from this base since 2016 and read with interest your travelogue in the October issue of Bay and Delta Yachtsman. Always looking to try something different, I think the main thing holding me back from following in that particular wake is sewage. Let me explain: our boat has a standard onboard MSD head plumbed to a holding tank of +/-20 gallons capacity.

Porta potty.

Having had my share of issues with household plumbing, which carries waste through pipes of twice the diameter of marine installations I have always been reluctant to send any non-liquid waste toward the holding tank. This has limited our overnight adventures to places like parks and YC’s that have shoreside restroom facilities. So, I am curious how you personally deal with this issue. I have chartered yachts in the Caribbean with electric “macerating” heads that worked well and might be an effective (+/-$1000) approach – but wonder if there might be a more “budget-conscious” approach.

The other issues that pop into mind about your trip are weather (what service do you use to find a suitable “weather window?”) and fog (we are without radar on board).

I enjoy reading your sailing adventures, whether inside or outside of the Bay, and always look forward to your next installment! Cheers!

Bill Crowley,
S/V Erewhon,
Newport 30-2 Vallejo

Hi Bill,

I have seen your boat around the Bay. Who wouldn’t remember the name Erewhon? I don’t suppose you are from New Zealand? Anyway, I will address your questions about a “budget conscious” approach to dealing with sewage aboard while anchored out or in a lovely place like Tomales Bay. This is what I do, but it might not work for you. You refer to “our boat” and “our overnight adventures,” which suggests that you do not sail alone. Ah, Bill! That is a different kettle of fish altogether from what I do aboard my boat. Remember that I am always alone while sailing. It sounds like you are not. Renegade behavior can occur when one is alone on a boat for days at a time.

You ask what I do. I line my porta potty with a compostable bag. Afterwards, I seal the bag, put it into a thicker plastic bag (Walmart bags are excellent for this purpose) and tuck it into the far back of the lazarette for the duration. I make sure nothing will disrupt it. Repeat as often as needed. When I return from somewhere along the coast, I sail out three miles and empty the bags off the transom. Carefully. When I am in the Delta, I usually stop in one town or another every couple of days to eat at a restaurant or re-provision. While there I wait until a restroom is empty, then dump the bags. Carefully. I also wear those latex gloves we all use to change the oil in our engines. Because really? What’s in my compostable bag is just another bit of waste requiring disposal.

You also ask about the weather services I consult prior to sailing. First, I look here: https://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/Forecasts/FZUS56.KMTR.html

Then I walk up and down E Dock at the Richmond Yacht Club and ask several different people their opinions. Finally? I hope for the best. The only time I sail in bad weather is when there is a race, and even then, I whine about it.

Once a year the Singlehanded Sailing Society sponsors a race around the Farallon Islands. Years ago, on the morning of the race, I was standing on the dock at Golden Gate Yacht Club preparing to step aboard for the race. Greg Nelsen, a very competitive racer on the Bay, stood next to his own boat on the same dock. We looked at the Bay and I confessed to being a little bit… well, scared. Greg told me this: “here’s what you do, Jackie. You go out the gate and you gauge how comfortable you feel. Then you sail to Point Bonita and you do the same thing. You do it all the way around the islands and then you turn around. If at any time you feel like you don’t want to keep going? You turn around. You have to decide for yourself about your own confidence in yourself and your boat. It’s your decision. That’s the beauty of sailing.”

Greg Nelsen.

I appreciated Greg’s advice then, and I would encourage you to do the same.

Back at the Wooden Boat Show in June I was walking down a dock where the smaller wooden boats were tied up med style. I stopped along the way to chat with Wesley Nunez. Wesley and I met earlier this year at the Berkeley Marine Center, when he was delivering his wooden boat, Flotsam for a bottom job. His father, Roger was there, too, and it was a windy day. It’s always windy in Berkeley and they were arriving in the late afternoon when it is windiest. They had just arrived under sail and the boat, full sails up, was pinned to the guest dock over there. I walked down to watch what I thought would be a problem, the way one is drawn to an accident. I found Wesley and his dad laughing, enjoying themselves together, problem solving how to get the sails down in the big wind that comes directly from the slot.

Wesley Nunez aboard S/V Flotsam.

On this night at the Corinthian Yacht Club, I walked by Wesley on my way to my own boat at the end of the dock. Wesley was sitting in his cockpit savoring what was left of the beautiful, almost balmy evening. I sat in the cockpit with him for a while. We talked about his work with his father at Reliable Marine Electronics in Alameda and his plans for his boat. He told me he might sleep aboard or he might drive home, he hadn’t yet decided. He would make a decision once he finished the last bit of Mai Tai in his glass.

New Year’s Day Sailors’ Traditions

Sailors have lots of different traditions surrounding the New Year.

In 2018 I was invited to sail around Alameda aboard the Beneteau S/V Encore! on Jan. 1. Every year sailors share a sailboat version of the pub crawl, where boats go from one yacht club to the next, all around the island of Alameda. The long-suffering bridge operators cooperated graciously and it was a lot of fun. It was also cold. Very cold. Here are Kim, Shannon, John, Maddy, Pete, Brad, Cheryl and Rascal the dog.

New Year’s Day ‘round the island.

Although COVID disrupted lots of those new year’s traditions, other people just went ahead and sailed, either alone or with family members. A group of people have been rafting up together for years in Clipper Cove. Here is a raft up of Cal 40s back in 2018 with Jim Quanci eating breakfast first thing in the morning.

Cal 40 New Year’s Day raft up.

Here is the same group of boats four years later with Mary Lovely all bundled up on the morning of Jan. 1, 2022.

Mary Lovely and friends.

Thank you to Bob Johnston for his photographs. Bob had this to say about the annual New Year’s Day raft up in Clipper Cove: “What’s fun is having the tradition and spending it with sailing friends.”

Next Month

If you are reading this magazine, you might be a gearhead who always reads Terry Goble’s column first so you can learn about new boat products. Or maybe you prefer to read about fast boats with big engines, boats that can get you places in a hurry and then home again before dinnertime. In that case you turn first thing to Pat Carson’s articles. He’s the guy on the staff who gets to ride in the fast jazzy boats with the big engines when they first arrive on the San Francisco Bay.

Engine on the pallet.

Ordinarily, in this column you read about sailing and sailors, with other stories only when they knock me upside the head. But now you’re in for a treat. The engine on my boat is being rebuilt and I plan to write about the process. What does that mean? I’m not exactly sure, but I’ll tell you all about it.

In the meantime, in all that extra space where the engine used to be, there are wires to be hunted down and re-routed or cut mercilessly. Mayhem will probably ensue, but it promises to be entertaining and there will be photos. Don’t miss it. Have you gone through a repower yourself? Do you have suggestions for me? Send them in. Please!

In the meantime, enjoy your time on the water and please 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.