Deliveries and Offshore Sailing
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
I don’t have much offshore sailing experience, but I want to participate in regattas in the LA area. What advice can you give me to help me deliver my yacht to the race venue and back?
-Racing in LA
Dear Racing in LA,
When the editors gave me this month’s question, I was thrilled – this is an easy one, I’ll be done and in the bar in minutes.
Step 1: Hire a competent delivery skipper, write the check, and you’re done!
“Not so fast Krabby!” said the editors, “The member wants to deliver the boat herself.”
“Oh #!%@!”, I said, “this is going to take some writing…how much room do you have?”
Coastal cruising up and down the So Cal coastline can be pain or pleasure depending on how you approach it. A well prepared boat and enough time to make some R&R stops, such as Buffalo Beach as well as other clubs along the way can make for a great yachting experience. This applies to both racing and cruising sailboats, as well as motor sailors and motorboats.
If you are truly uncomfortable cruising offshore on your own, don’t let the delivery skipper off the hook yet. If you can talk him or her into an “owner aboard” delivery, it would be helpful to learn a few tricks before you try it on your own.
Let’s start with preparing your boat. All the maintenance items you ignore for bay sailing need to be addressed before your offshore trip. Changing a fuel filter or rebuilding a sheet winch is a much more pleasant experience dockside than rolling your guts out at 0300 offshore.
All the details of going through the systems of a boat, would be a book in itself. To save space here, let me say in general, you should service all aspects of your boat: electrical, rig, sails, propulsion group (engine, transmission, shaft, propeller) all need to be inspected and serviced – and spare parts should be onboard for emergency repairs. For example, have onboard: spare belts, cooling water pump impeller, fuel filters, sail repair kit, winch spare parts, and of course, a big roll of duct tape.
Now, at this point, you might be thinking, “I have no clue how to inspect and service all this stuff on my boat.” Well, now is a fine time to get lessons. Hire a competent rigger to go aloft and inspect your rig, explain to him your sailing ambitions; that you want to watch, learn, help, and paya little extra for such a service. Write notes, or better yet - take video and pictures. It takes years to learn a trade, but use of modern technology will allow you to review the information again later. Don’t be afraid to ask questions - the only stupid question is the one you don’t know the answer to.
You may want to do this with your rigger, electrician, mechanic, sail maker, etc. – get the idea? The goal is to learn their tricks, have some help putting together spare parts kits and learning how to use it, for your different systems.
Next is SAFETY gear – if you are thinking, I’ve got life jackets, check, done – then you had better call that delivery skipper back. They make a living not drowning, pick their brain.
Trip Planning & Navigation
If you are up for an 80+ mile off shore overnight trip from SDYC to Buffalo Beach, here is how I have made the trip with much success for many years. Leave in the later afternoon with enough daylight to settle in before sundown. If you can sail awhile before the engine goes on, it helps give the crew the feel of the boat before motor sailing for the night. As the wind dies off in the evening, you sheet the main in flat and alter course enough to keep from luffing. This will make for a comfy ride on what is usually an upwind slog to the island. Even trawler-type motor boats, with a mast rigged to carry a steadying sail, ought to consider using it – it gives a good push and keeps from rolling; the old fishing boats they were modeled after used this technique successfully – give it a try.
If you can make about 6 knots you will make landfall at the East end of Catalina by dawn. Running along the lee of the island, close to shore, makes for a smooth ride as you make your way to Buffalo Beach for some rest and relaxation. It is worthwhile to be awake at dawn to enjoy these quiet early morning hours in the lee of the island – the scenery is film-worthy, with sea life active all around, in search of breakfast. A hot cup of coffee will help fight off the last remaining chill in the air as you enjoy the sunrise at sea.
There are other coastwise routes to choose from, but treating your crew to a day or two at Buffalo Beach is a good incentive for them to join you on the delivery, and it is an easy trip across the channel to Newport, Long Beach for the regatta.
Get your compass swung (adjusted) – you will have to pay someone to do this (Yes, you will need an accurate compass to steer by). If you have an auto pilot, test it before your trip. Paper charts and plotting tools to go with them. (No, you cannot just punch in the destination in your GPS and hope you get there). I can almost hear someone asking, “Paper charts and a compass? This is 2015!"
A compass and charts are much more water proof and reliable than electronic GPS. Try steering to a GPS read out in sloppy weather when the auto pilot can’t handle her. Half of the fun in the experience of a 14 hour trip is taking bearings on the compass, plotting your position on the chart, and writing lies about your shipmates in the log book. What fun we have now, looking back at our almost 30 year old log book. One last thing, as I am pretty parched by now, so this will hit the spot. Have fun, and take your time. Don’t get in a hurry and put your crew in peril, leave with ample time for the trip. It is about having fun.
Most importantly remember – nothing is a better morale booster at sea than good food & DRINK. See where I am going here? (I am almost at the bar.) You can bring prepared foods along, but if you can stand for a little time in the galley, making little one pot meals can be a crowd pleaser. Try pumpkin soup on the first night out, you will be surprised how good it is with a little ginger – it is great for crew to help get there sea legs (and stomachs!)
I know there is more, but if I keep going, I’ll miss last call. Until next month’s question, I’ll leave you with the delivery skippers’ creed: “Fair winds & cheap diesel.”