Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico


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Entries in licensing (6)


worked on my first six-pac fishing charter yesterday

Yesterday was my first time out on a local San Diego six-pack charter, The Long Run. For the unitiated, there are basically two types of boats with paying passengers onboard (this includes sport fishers, whale watchers, charter sailing trips, harbor tours, water taxis, etc):

- Inspected Vessel. This type of boats have a Certificate of Inspection onboard in which the US Coast Guard goes through the boat literally with a ruler and determines how many passengers can be onboard. Based on the naval architecture, deck space, and bunks, a day limit and overnight limit will be established. 

- Uninspected Vessel. This is the typical boat that most private owners will buy. Unless you have the USCG issuing you a Certificate of Inspection every year, you are (naturally) uninspected. As such you will be restricted to six paying passengers. Whether it's a 300' mega yacht or an 26' sailboat, six passengers will be your maximum load. Hence the "six-pac", "six-pack", or "six-pax" designation that gets applied.

Bonnethead Shovelhead SharkBeyond the smaller passenger load, the other big difference was our route. On the Pronto we head offshore as a rule. Fuel up, get passengers, hit up the bait barge, clear the point, and usually motor throughout the night making 8 knots to the outer banks, arriving roughly ~50 miles offshore by first light down in Mexico. 

On The Long Run we already had fuel (despite going out the night before as well) and spent the day in the bay, raking in probably 25+ fish. Everyone got something, several legal sized bass, and even a ~35lb bonnethead shark (or shovelnose, as they're called out here). 

We left the dock around 6:00am, and were back around 2:30pm. All around it was a great trip. Clients had fun, I got a chance to work on a different vessel with its own handling characteristics, and the weather was just about perfect. Really couldn't ask for better conditions. 

There's the business end of this boat that I still need to figure out (how often it's running, what my schedule would be, how much it pays, etc) so it's up in the air a bit as to whether this will be a regular thing for me. But for what I got out of it I'm happy, and it was great meeting a nice group of clients and deckhand (Mike) who really had his act together.


captain of the pronto

Friday night I took some clients out on a local sport fisher, the Pronto. It was a pretty interesting experience, being the first time I've operated that vessel and the first time I've worked as the captain of a sport fisher.

I'm not really a motivated fisherman, but I do a lot of scuba diving so I have a bit of insight into what types of sea beds hold what types of critters. For my first time out we got 20-30 fish, some of decent size, which was better than some commercial boats out that day and worse than some others.

We left Friday night after fueling up and grabbing some bait from the bait barge, and anchored maybe half a mile off the middle of the southern Coranado Island. Got started bright and early putting around the islands and in near the coast of Mexico, picking up rock fish and trying to get our clients to have the most amount of fish they could get. This year is marginally better than last which isn't saying much since last year was horrible.

The vessel itself is a single screw two stroke diesel that *will not* back to starboard, ever, at all, no matter what you do. We had to put our trash cans out to bump off of another sport fisher on the way in. It wasn't pretty, but it worked and no egos/paint/wood/fiberglass was damaged.

Maritime law stipulates that (for most sport fishing vessels) two licensed captains need to be onboard, so the other guy I got a chance to work with was a captain by the name of Joel Miller

Amongst other things, Joel spent five years of his life cruising around on his 50' Kettenburg with his family, coming back to the states about three years ago. Great guy, and very nice to have onboard.

I finished up the weekend with a scuba trip down at La Jolla Cove on Sunday night. Very much an aquatic weekend. 


lessons learned during a delivery collision


This is not the blog post that I would like to write, but I think it’s important that I do. For those of us moving other people’s boats around for hire, a typical reason they’re hiring us is because we’re better than they are.

We’re captains. We’re the guys with sea time, the guys who know what the clouds mean, the guys who know what single engine prop walk does and how to use it to your advantage.

But at least for me, I’m still a guy. And after ten years of being behind several different helms and going back and forth along the California coastline more times than I can honestly remember I finally hit a boat. Now I’ll get the drama out of the way and admit that it was a glancing blow to a dinghy sitting on davits of another vessel that was docked while I got out of the slip. Impact speed was under half a knot and the damage is probably (and hopefully only) in the few-hundred-dollar range. But either way I was spending my next day calling owners, and my paying customer, and explaining how I managed to cause everyone a lot of headache. And avoiding headaches and having a smooth operation was the very reason I was hired in the first place.


It was a common enough event: making a tight exit on a vessel I’ve never operated before, with a strong wind blowing laterally. Backing out as much as I could to clear the bow, by the time I got forward propulsion going the stern was being sent laterally into the docks that I had just reversed from.

There are of course numerous ways to avoid the situation: using warping lines and/or waiting for the wind to die down would have solved the problems I encountered. However beyond the maneuvering lessons to be remembered here are two other lessons I learned from this event.

#1 – Feel Sorry For Yourself Later. Subsequent to causing a ruckus in the marina getting underway (and finding no damage to our vessel), we encountered a mainsail furler failure that resulted in a jammed-open position. Wind was ~20 knots, seas where 8-10’, and all of it was on the nose. My sole crewmember was seasick and puking in the cockpit and we were 15 miles offshore. I had to bullride the boom to free the outhaul that had tied itself around a block, and got whipped in the face by the line. Sitting in the cockpit I remembered that I have two lives onboard, the safety of the vessel, and a family back home to care about. So I could feel sorry for myself later but it was time to buckle down and remember all training and experience. From that point forward, we actually had no more problems and everything else went textbook.


#2 – Awkward Adult Conversations. No one likes to have them, and calling a fellow boat owner to let them know you hit their vessel definitely qualifies as one. Calling your sweet-as-pie client who will undoubtedly never ask for your services again now and saying “Yes ma’am, this is the captain you hired and you have some insurance claims coming your way.” is up there as well. You can take your pick as to which you’d rather have to deal with but let me tell you that neither one is any fun.

What I found interesting though was that within hours two other delivery skippers had pulled me aside, and looking around to make sure no one was listening, told me of the accidents they’ve had, as recent as a couple in the last month. It’s the kind of thing that you’ll never hear from a potential captain and they’re certainly not going to give you that phone number for a reference. One guy simply said, “.. the only guys not having problems are the ones who never leave the dock…”.  I don’t think there’s any excuse for maritime collisions in general and I’m certainly not offering any here for myself, rather my intent is to hopefully let current and would-be captains know that yes, you will screw up. It’s why commercial drivers and higher mileage drivers pay more for insurance: you’re just doing it more often so the risk goes up accordingly despite your skillset.


Although it was a rather small incident in the grand scheme of things and perhaps not the “crucible of humiliation”, a Biblical quote kept popping up in my head of: For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.

When things go well, it’s easy to walk around with your head held high and have a sense of dignity and integrity. Having that sense of inner fortitude when you’re explaining your failures publicly and in writing is a whole different ballgame and one that has really made me take stock.

When there are problems, especially when they are of your own making, that is when it is most important to maintain your poise and confidence. Conducting oneself with honest integrity while under fire via a maritime accident is not a lesson I would like to repeat but it is one that I believe I have met properly.

Now if only I had gotten that departure right I could have skipped the lesson entirely.


what i bring on a yacht delivery 

If you find yourself needing to move a boat from A to B, hopefully this video will be of some use to you when outfitting your kit.


there are a lot of friggin buoys out there

In the continuing study-a-thon that is my captain's license, I have now gone through more about "navigational aids" than I ever wanted to know. Day shapes, lighted aids, special aids, informational aids, and of course where would we be without the Intracoastal Waterway and Western River systems?

My favorite of all so far is the "station buoy", which is a little buoy that sits next to a bigger buoy in case the big buoy gets blown away. A buoy's buoy, if you will.

It should go without saying (or typing, in this case), but being able to pick up a chart and "read" the navigational aids quickly is very helpful. Down here in San Diego, Stevie Wonder could find his way around, but in a place like Coos Bay with a lot smaller margin of error the navigational aids become much more relevant.

And regardless I've gotten a chance to use a lot of colored pens. Between the blue cold fronts, red warm fronts, purple occluded fronts, blue striped mooring buoys and so much else, one might mistake my notebook for Cora's drawings.


back to the captain's exam process

My Study PartnerI've had an on-again-off-again relationship with the captain's license (OUPV 100 ton) process. By its nature it's not supposed to be easy and there are a lot of barriers to entry. Sea time, book knowledge, practical ability, physicals, paperwork, time, and of course an endless string of fees.

On Friday I went and got my Transportation Worker Identity Credential, or got my picture taken for it anyway. I've filled out my sea time forms, got a bead on a place that can provide the physical, and have been slowly but surely amassing all the paperwork.

I'd like to try to take the test before the end of October. It's nice to pick a date or else things never get done. 

Every day is a day to chisel away at the COLREGS (Rules of the Road), but tonight was also weather, which I honestly find pretty interesting. I forget a lot of it during the summer because the Pacific High keeps everything away from us, but this winter I'll be paying more attention to the clouds, pressure, wind veers (and backs), and precursors that accompany cold fronts, warm fronts, and occluded fronts. And don't get me started on Buy's Ballot's Law.