Posted by: powellpjc | May 18, 2009

Stinkpot Delivery to San Francisco

 

The opportunity came up quickly. The boat was ready for delivery to San Francisco and the original crew roster fell apart. I was hanging around as I usually do and Joe asked me if I’d like to go. Of course I jumped at the chance. Joe is Joe Ashton—the owner-operator of the marina/boat yard that my boat, la Rosa, is berthed. Joe and his yard crew are doing a lot of the work on my boat—the stuff that I can’t do and that is a long list.

A Carver 'Marquis' at 69 feet.

A Carver 'Marquis' at 69 feet.

The boat was a 69 foot Carver ‘Marquis’ model stinkpot with duel Caterpillar diesels, each of 900 horsepower and a 75 horse Yanmar-engined generator. Italian design, built in Michigan and assembled here in Portland for a San Francisco owner (no sales tax in Oregon.) The preliminary sea trials had been done in the Columbia River and the owner didn’t have time to drive it home to San Francisco so we would deliver it. Joe was skipper and Mike first mate—both have captain’s licenses and Joe has 7 years as mate on a VLCC oil tanker. I would be steward and tender-boy.

I was keen to see the Columbia River, the Columbia River bar and anything else I could along the way. Places to fuel, safe harbours as well as the electronic operations on a modern yacht. My boat, la Rosa, has a chartplotter similar to the Carver yacht and I do have a radar unit as well and although it is old it does seem to work. I have never used radar and while it is intuitive, it is useful to get some first hand experience.

We left Portland at 9 pm on a Friday night, cruising slowly downriver to the port of St. Helens. This gave us a 25 mile head start on the first real day of travel.

Tied up at St. Helens

Tied up at St. Helens

We tied up to the municipal wharf in St. Helens and spent a quiet night. The Carver had 3 separate bedrooms in its layout; one master, one guest and one two-berth kids type stateroom. Each had ensuite baths, three-piece with fancy fixtures and marble floors and who the hell knows what else. I saw a tv/dvd unit in our suite. There were 3 other tvs on the boat including the large, hideaway flatscreen in the main salon. Oh, and a trash compacter, dishwasher, washer-dryer, fridge and freezer, electric BBQ, wine cooler and a hell of a lot more. Wait a sec—there was a fourth berth/cabin for the engineer in the steerage compartment. That guy would need earmuffs to sleep.

Inside the Ballroom

Inside the Ballroom

We let go the St. Helen’s wharf at 4 a.m. Saturday and cruised downriver to a little village near the mouth of the Columbia, Ilwaco.

Early morning on the Columbia river

Early morning on the Columbia river

And sunrise at 20 knots

And sunrise at 20 knots

 There we tied up and waited for the fuel dock attendant. We waited quite a while and phoned his number more than once. A crusty, bearded wharf rat showed up eventually and was in no real hurry. It seems he was out clamming and clamming is a revered activity tolerating no interruptions, especially as there are maybe 2 days a month when the season is on. When he got his 15 clams we got our fuel.

Joe and Mike

Joe and Mike

We took on 900 gallons and let go about 6 a.m. making for the sea. The Columbia River bar is the half-mile or so of shallow water where the sea meets the fresh water outflow. At times it can be impossible to traverse and one needs to plan the passage according to tides and winds. In adverse conditions the outflowing river and outflowing tide meet the sea rollers coming in and the standing waves created are dangerous for ships small and large alike. We timed our crossing for ½ hour into the flood tide and while there were standing waves and our yacht hobby-horsed some it was no threat and it was interesting to see the tidal races and maelstroms that appeared.

Once clear of the coast and its light traffic Joe opened the throttles to about 2000 rpm and we made 26 knots with a following sea and wind.

Underway in the chuck

Underway in the chuck

The motion was unpredictable but easy enough to take. I popped a couple of gravol and did not feel sea sick. I was expecting to be sick as that is the usual course for me when leaving dry land. Maybe it’s because I’ve been living aboard for a couple of months in a sometimes rolly river.

We burned 100 gallons an hour and our cruise was based on which ports would be open for fuel when we needed it. We called ahead to Coos Bay, Oregon and made for their marina. Another bar crossing and a funky little town. We tied up, took on another 900 gallons and spent the night at the city wharf. We met another delivery crew coming north from San Diego headed for Seattle on a 55 footer. Tiny thing.

At the wharf in Coos Bay, OR

At the wharf in Coos Bay, OR

Day two was similar with a 4 a.m. start and 27 knots with both Cats pulling easily. The swell was maybe 8 feet with some small wind waves on top and the Carver rode it well. We had microwaved chow and no end of snacks and junk food. An easy life.

I was dry when I took this but not for long.

I was dry when I took this but not for long.

Fuel stop number three was in Ft. Bragg, California. Joe couldn’t raise the fuel dock but did talk to the Coast Guard. They were quite helpful and met us at the entrance to the bar and escorted us in. A tiny little harbor had just enough room for us and we tied up for the night.

Coasties meet us and show off.

Coasties meet us and show off.

I went ashore looking for the fueler and came across a sea urchin plant. The divers were bringing in their catch and the workers were processing them. I checked it out. The urchins were bound for the markets of New York, Chicago, Tokyo and the rest of the world. All were washed, cooled and packaged for air freight. I know little about these spiny morsels so I walked into the plant asking questions. I got the full tour included a tasting. One live urchin was cracked open for me and I scoffed it whole and live. Delicate and salty it was delicious.

A shitload of spiny sea urchins gathered by divers.

A shitload of spiny sea urchins gathered by divers.

Still alive. One eats the yellow shit. It's good ,believe it or not.

Still alive. One eats the yellow shit. It's good ,believe it or not.

 

It was Mother’s Day and also my birthday so I took the boys out for dinner at a wharfy restaurant overlooking the sea. We watched the sun go down over coffee and argued about the so-called Green Flash with no apparent winner.

Monday morning now saw a foggy passage to San Francisco with Mike and Joe paying close attention to the radar sweeps. Most of the other boats out there were commercial fishing boats and a couple of pleasure craft poking about. Didn’t look like much fun to me. In fact, I didn’t really understand what people get out of stinkpotting, even in a $3,000,000 baby. There is a hell of a lot of room. So much room that when you want to move about you must time your run because there is bugger-all to hold on to when you lurch across the living room. The glass-stepped spiral staircase leading to the elevated pilot house skinned a few knuckles and other close encounters and quickly gained immense respect.

Watch your step here.

Watch your step here.

The fog evaporated in time for us to see the Golden Gate Bridge in all its glory about 10 miles out. We cruised in under the spectacular landmark and Joe throttled back to 12 knots.

The great Golden Gate to San Francisco.

The great Golden Gate to San Francisco.

 

It felt like we were walking. Time for all hands to have a shower and clean up the boat as well as we chugged past the giant cruise liners and other workhorses of the commercial maritime trade.

Last mate.

Last mate.

 

A really big stinkpot.

A really big stinkpot.

We docked at the marina of the Carver yacht brokerage. There were about 10 vessels there for sale, all Carvers ranging in size from 30 to 72 feet. The broker was having a tough time selling these multi-million dollar babies in the current economic reality.

Tied up in Oakland. In one piece, too.

Tied up in Oakland. In one piece, too.

We snugged up our baby and said goodbye to the rich man’s pastime. No regrets. I still don’t get stinkpotting. You turn the key, step on the gas and listen to the turbo-charged bangers chewing their way through fuel at a frightening rate.

The trip from Portland to San Francisco consumed $6,000.00 in #1 diesel.

We hit nothing. We damaged nothing. We saw a few whales, dolphins, seals, albatrosses and a lot of sea birds I can’t name. Reminds me I must get a wildlife book for my upcoming voyage. The boat handled the modest seas very well at speed. We buried the bow a couple of times and she shook it off. The Carver had bow and stern thrusters, operable from the helm or via a handheld remote which made docking a snap although Joe is an expert yacht handler without that toy.

I didn’t contribute much to the crew. I handled some dock lines and fenders, stewarded some soft drinks and coffee to the others and kept out of trouble. It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride and I learned a lot from Joe.

If you gave me this yacht I would have to sell it. There is not enough suffering and misery and not nearly enough handholds.

And I couldn’t afford to gas it up.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Fantastic recount of the journey – enjoyed it thoroughly – that staircase was killer! Have heard of many of this sort of boat being abandoned by those who have hit hard times and cannot keep up the payments, let alone the fuel costs, yikes. Great blogging, always look forward to the next installment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: