Thursday, April 29, 2010
As "Narrow Escape" made the long, cold journey north to Long Beach from San Diego after placing ninth in its ten-boat class in The Border Run race (another blog coming about that), these three birds joined us at separate times.
The first bird seemed exhausted, barely able to hang on to the dodger. It moved around several times during about 10 minutes and flew away. The second bird, all shades of black, gray and white except for the yellow spot above the beak, was more energetic and more curious. It flew in and out of the cabin several times and left the boat and returned several times before it, too, disappeared.
The third bird, with its brilliant yellow patches, seemed to enjoy the boat a great deal. It hopped around everywhere, including disappearing for awhile inside the cockpit coaming compartments. Eventually it ventured into the cabin, hopping down the companionway ladder step by step and then returning to the cockpit by hopping up the steps. Later it flew in and out of the cabin repeatedly, including two times when somone was going up or down the ladder. We crumbled a SunChip for it, which it enjoyed trying to crunch in its sharply-pointed beak. Finally the bird grew comfortable enough with its new surroundings to hop onto our feet, legs and arms as it moved about. But it resisted our efforts to feed it crumbs from our hands.
The third bird, too, flew away from the boat briefly many times but always quickly returned. Then it disappeared. About a half hour later I found it asleep on the cabin sole obscured by a trash bag stashed in a corner of the galley. Later it was gone, not to be seen again, leaving behind three small belly feathers.
To find out what these birds were and why they might be on our boat, I turned to my daughter, a bird biologist who is chair of the biology department at the University of Portland (OR). Below are excerpts of our correspondence.
... What puzzled me is what happens to little birds like this when they leave the boat. Do they know how to fly home? Where is home? Are they social birds or lone rangers? Have they lost their families forever because they spent time on a passing boat?
Those are wonderful pictures Dad!!! The one with the little yellow spot between its eye and bill (called the lores) is a female black-throated gray warbler. Winters in Baja and central America and breeds in the Western US up to BC and over to Denver actually. Cutie pie! The last one with all the yellow on it is a full breeding plumage male yellow-rumped warbler. This is the western race, Audubon’s warbler. Same sort of wintering and breeding range so these guys are just migrating up to their breeding grounds. You probably weren’t that far off the coast so it looks like they were taking a break and perhaps ran out of a little gas themselves without any prevailing winds. The first bird has me stumped still. I’m going to send your pic to some friends and see what they come up with.
Wow – good thing I asked some friends. Ron LeValley, treasurer of Pacific Seabird Group and an avid birder, ID’d our mystery bird as a Lazuli Bunting, female. I don’t think I would’ve figured that one out, but sure enough, staring at the field guide now, I can see that it must be. I couldn’t see this well in the picture, but the rump is blue – kind of a gunmetal blue, but you can see a few of those feathers in your picture. Another species that winters in Mexico and breeds in the western US so it’s just migrating north. You were the easiest way to migrate for these 3 species! Pretty interesting stuff. I’ll look forward to seeing these pics and IDs in your blog Dad!
They’re normally insect eaters – glean them off trees. The two warblers are forest birds and the buntings will eat seeds – more open country. I usually see them on the other side of the Cascades – Bend and beyond area. Definitely very cool to have them on board and so charismatic! Such great close up shots too. Love, Katie
Posted by Dick O'Reilly at 12:23 PM
Saturday, April 3, 2010
It has been ten months since my last post. There are some new improvements on Narrow Escape to report, and our upcoming second year to take part in the spring race from Newport Beach to San Diego (http://theborderrun.org).
But this posting is devoted to the three and a half months I spent in American Samoa after its devastating tsunami on September 29, 2009. I work on an as-needed basis for FEMA and was among the group of workers sent in to help with the American territory's disaster recovery. I was there through January of this year. The disaster took 34 lives, destroyed 276 dwellings and damaged another 2,650. Recovery is going well, but it is always a slow process and the losses can never be fully compensated.
American Samoa is a beautiful place populated with friendly, generous, family-oriented people. If you're familiar with Santa Catalina Island here in Southern California, imagine it in the tropics and covered with rain forest and you have a fair idea of the size and shape of the main island of American Samoa. Now put 60,000 people there, with a village on nearly every cove and a large dog-legged harbor in the center of the island complete with shipping docks, tuna canneries, a small shipyard, a large fuel tank farm, homes, shops, government buildings, churches, and very few tourist accommodations and the picture is more complete.
I work for FEMA's External Affairs Division, where my 40 years of journalism experience is put to use. In American Samoa I was a videographer/photographer for the recovery effort. I've included links to my official videos and photos on FEMA's website in case you're interested. There also are links to personal videos I took on my days off.
Immediately below, are photos taken from a sailboat in Pago Pago Harbor during the tsunami. I got the pictures from the island's public television station, KVZK-TV, but no information on who took them or the name of the boat. The most dramatic pictures, which show waterfall-like wave action, were taken when the water was rapidly receding after flooding the Pago Pago area to about 18 feet above sea level. The water is falling back into the harbor over the shore and docks, with disastrous effect.
"Power Restored in American Samoa"
"Private Property Debris Removal for American Samoa"
"Hazmat Recovery in Pago Pago Harbor"
"FEMA Region IX Administrator Visits American Samoa"
"Larger Tents for American Samoa"
"Interim Electrical Power for American Samoa"
"Temporary School Buildings in American Samoa"
"Damaged Cemetery Eligible for Federal Aid"
"EPA Cleans Up HAZMAT in American Samoa"
"Permanent Housing Construction in American Samoa"
"New Temporary Classrooms in Use in American Samoa"
"ICS in American Samoa, USCG"
"ICS in American Samoa, NPS"
"ICS in American Samoa, Governor and FEMA"
Other FEMA videos taken before and after my tour of duty in American Samoa are available at http://www.fema.gov/medialibrary/collections/401
Christmas Caroling in American Samoa
Riding buses in American Samoa
Posted by Dick O'Reilly at 11:43 PM
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
It was a great afternoon a couple weeks ago. The wind out of the southwest was building. The 1-2 foot waves were growing and white caps were beginning to appear. I was on a close reach several miles south of the Long Beach breakwater aiming for the Queen's Gate entrance. The dodger had just proved itself, deflecting the spray from a particularly boisterous wave that managed to get past the remarkably dry, beautifully flared bow of "Narrow Escape", my 1968 Ericson 30.
Suddenly water was soaking through the back of my shirt as I leaned against the teak coaming on the windward side of the cockpit. A puddle of water was trapped against the coaming by the 20-degree heeling angle of the boat. And it was working its way through the caulked joint between the two longitudinal planks that formed the port side cockpit coaming. I looked across to the starboard side coaming and saw that it was made of a single plank. No joint to leak.
Funny I never noticed that difference before. After all, two years ago I had spent months crawling repeatedly over every square inch of this boat refinishing the fiberglass of the cockpit, deck and cabin.
But I didn't pay any attention to the teak coaming then. It was coated with old varnish, cracked and peeling here and there, but my attention was focused on a filigree of gelcoat cracks in the fiberglass. Wood refinishing could wait. When I finally did strip all the varnish and decide to leave the teak natural, relying on occasional washes with soapy water and bleach to keep it clean, I didn't pay attention to the differing construction of the two coamings. And I didn't recaulk the port side seam.
The other day I tackled the job. First I dug out the caulk between the deck and the coaming outside of the cockpit. Then I dug out the thinner line of caulk inside the cockpit between the two planks of teak.
Somehow it also escaped my notice that there was something inconsistent between the perfectly horizontal line of caulk inside the cockpit and the gently sweeping line of caulk on the outside between the coaming and a deck which doesn't have a straight segment to it.
My defective powers of observation got some help when I cleaned out the inside seam with sandpaper and a corner of the paper finally emerged on the outside, slightly above the deck. The seam was exposed on the outside for several inches just ahead of the winch pad before it disappeared beneath the upward sweep of the deck. Suddenly my wet back made sense. It wasn't the deck seam that leaked. It was that small, exposed horizontal seam, right where the pool of seawater collected.
As for the other question - why was one coaming a single plank and the other was two pieces? - the only answer I could imagine was that they ran out of wide teak and made do with narrower planks when they built my boat. I searched for some structural reason for the split on the port side and found none.
No matter. A couple hours of work and an entire tube of white BoatLIFE Life Caulk should keep my back dry for many years to come.
Posted by Dick O'Reilly at 6:38 PM
Friday, May 1, 2009
Before the start.
A video of our race highlights is on YouTube at:
A week ago my three-man crew and I raced "Narrow Escape" to San Diego in the inaugural Border Run race (http://www.theborderrun.org/). It was wonderful. There was wind from start to finish, with a few brief lulls before midnight, and we averaged 5.1 knots. The handicap distance for the short course we raced was 69 miles, which we completed in 13 hours 27 minutes. We probably sailed less than a couple miles longer than that because the rhumb line course from the start off the Newport Beach harbor entrance to the San Diego entrance buoy "SD" was generally a reach the entire way.
Our competition was four other boats that finished the "CRUZ Spin C" race and we beat one of them. The Cal 27-2 that was the only boat with a slower handicap than ours, took second place. We never saw it during the entire race, a strategic mistake on my part.
We got a clean start at the gun on starboard tack at the leeward end of the starting line, while most of the other boats were crowded together at the windward end, which undoubtedly blocked our view of the Cal 27-2. There were three cruising classes racing the short course and all of us shared a single start.
Running the line before the gun.
This is a new race, competing with the venerable Newport to Ensenada race, which we've failed to finish in the two times "Narrow Escape" was entered because of light to non-existent wind. In fact, it appeared that I would not have a crew for a third attempt, so it was welcome news when word of the Border Run alternative popped up and my crew decided they would risk a shorter race.
A Columbia 50 passes quickly.
There was some acrimony between the two race organizers, which can be found with web searches, but in fact, they coexisted nicely and both races enjoyed great wind and nearly all entrants in both competitions finished. A record pace was set in the Ensenada race. And Randy Reynolds, the force behind the Border Run alternative, was first to finish the same short course we raced, in a blistering 6 hours, 7 minutes, 36 seconds on his Reynolds 33 turbo catamaran.
Nate Tucker at the helm.
We slowly pass a Catalina 30 - but it is racing in a different class.
Paul Barbe and Hobby Hobson: I prepared four-cheese ravioli with Alfredo sauce and Caesar salad,
During the Friday evening lulls we hoisted a gennaker, which we had not previously used, and were delighted with the 1-2 knot advantage it gave us over the 155% genoa. But when the wind freshened and stayed that way after 11 p.m., the gennaker was overpowering and proved difficult to take down. Had we ever practiced with it, we would have been able to unroll the genoa in front of it and then peel it down and under the gennie. But I feared something would go awry in the dark and we'd end up with two intertwined sails or pairs of sheets and be in trouble. So we brought in the gennaker accompanied by a lot of commotion -- ours and the sail's -- but no permanent damage to sail, gear or egos. It probably cost us 10 minutes. But we lost to the next fastest boat by 18 minutes and 10 seconds on corrected time, so we didn't defeat ourselves.
The gennaker gave us better speed but was hard to douse.
We spent a comfortable two nights at Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego's Shelter Island basin, where we arrived about 3 a.m. Saturday morning. On Sunday we motorsailed to Dana Point in about 11 hours and a marina guest slip Sunday night. The motorsail home to Alamitos Bay Marina in Long Beach was another six hours on Monday. The Tohatsu 9.8 hp outboard performed flawlessly, consuming no oil and only about 15 gallons of fuel, including the four hours of motoring to get to the race course Friday and cruise around awaiting the start.
Relaxing Saturday in San Diego.
Coast Guard makes sure we stay away from Navy submarine returning to base Sunday morning.
The Ericson 30 is a comfortable and easy boat to sail, even if it isn't particularly competitive in PHRF handicap racing, at least under my leadership.
It has been 11 months since my last posting on this blog. Much of that absence is because I have been working disaster recovery assignments for FEMA rather than sailing. That includes time in Des Moines, Iowa for historic floods last summer, Baton Rouge, Louisiana for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and here in California for the wildfires of last November. I'll probably be deployed again soon, so there likely will be another gap in my sailing ruminations. But when I have more to share, I'll be sure to post it.
Posted by Dick O'Reilly at 4:05 PM
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Last weekend was the annual spring cruise to Isthmus Cove on Catalina Island for my club, Little Ships Fleet of Long Beach. We were also joined by the Port Royal Yacht Club from Redondo Beach. And a group, including some of our members, who charter their rides from Marina Sailing, a club with six outlets in Southern California.
Those charter boat guys miss out on some of the experiences of boat ownership. Not me. At 8:30 am Friday when I turned the key to start my engine, it made several weak revolutions and then stopped. Luckily, I had unplugged the power cord about a half-hour earlier, so my dead batteries weren't masked by the battery charger. Otherwise I would have had a couple of dark nights aboard at the island.
Just to make sure it was a battery problem and not an engine problem, I untethered my emergency starting battery from its stowage spot in the forward cabin and connected it to the engine, which fired right up.
The boat batteries were about a year old when I bought the Ericson 30 in the fall of 2005, so no surprise. I knew exactly what to do. Disconnect them. Wheel them up to my car in a dock cart and go buy new ones. Forget about the planned 9:00 am departure from the fuel dock.
I saved $52 per battery compared to West Marine's catalog price, by driving over to Wayne Electric Co. in west Long Beach and buying Delco Voyager deep-cycle batteries for $88.00 each. They were the same Group 27 size as my dead West Marine Sea-Volt Deep Cycle 90s. But they had an extra 15 ampere-hours of capacity and were noticeably heavier.
It was 1:00 pm that afternoon when I finally left the fuel dock with my tank topped up with gasoline at $5.19 a gallon. Sure glad I have a sailboat.
But that's another interesting topic. Sailing isn't always the easiest way to get to Catalina Island, which stretches in a generally NW-SE alignment roughly 25 miles south of the southern shoreline of Los Angeles County. The best way to get a sailboat to a Catalina Island destination is to leave in the morning and motorsail while the wind and seas are calm, arriving in mid-afternoon while there's still hope of getting a mooring, which are first-come, first-served unless you are lucky enough to have your own. The power boaters have all the advantages in the summer-time mooring lottery at Catalina.
Leaving in the afternoon often guarantees a long beat to windward, and several tacks if you're going to the Isthmus from my marina at the east end of the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor complex. That Friday, the wind hit 20 knots in mid-afternoon and I flopped around for awhile hove-to trying to get a reef into the main. Finally I remembered to uncleat the boom vang and the reefing line easily pulled the new clew the last few inches to the boom. I like single-handing. But sometimes I could do with a better skipper to yell at me what I'm doing wrong.
It took seven hours and 34.7 nm to get there. I tied up at mooring a little after sunset.
I needn't have worried about being shut out for a mooring. There were plenty on the preferred west side of Isthmus Cove, and the less-protected east side was nearly empty. It was still sparsely occupied Saturday night. To my eye, sailboats far outnumbered power boats in the mix. I think fuel prices may make life tough this summer for the Catalina residents who depend on boaters for their livelihood.
The comraderie of Saturday night's beach barbeque and Sunday morning's breakfast seemed to match everyone's expectations for the weekend.
The only thing lacking as we departed late Sunday morning was wind. For me it was a case of motoring for an hour, hanging out the sails for another hour hoping the zephyrs would link up into a sustained breeze, and then motoring some more. But by 2 pm it began to blow for real and by 3:30 I was flying on a broad reach straight for home at 6 to 7 knots. Before I got there I had one period of continuous surfing down three-foot waves that saw the GPS hit 8.4 knots. That's heady stuff on a boat with a 23.4-foot water line, flying a 110% jib.
The ride home took only 5 1/2 hours and covered 28 nm.