All posts by El Capitán

Waking up to a Seaplane on the Napa River!

I awoke this morning to a strange engine sound.  It didn’t sound like an outboard, it didn’t sound like an inboard, it didn’t sound like the dull drone of the huge inboard diesels from the tugs that keep us awake every night, I wasn’t sure what it was…I had to get up to investigate.  So glad I did because it was a seaplane cruising down the river and only 50 feet off the port beam!!  Too cool.  I grabbed the camera and snapped a shot and took a video.  Check it out!


Roughin’ it in Napa

So we made it up the Napa river on Friday August 30th and anchored bow and stern on the north side of the river about a mile upriver from Napa Valley Marina and about 4nm downriver from downtown Napa. Picture 268 We have anchored in this spot before so we knew it would be perfect.  To starboard is a beautiful vineyard, to port tall trees and in the distance we can see the mountains on the edge of the valley.  There are no boats or people in sight with the exception of the passing fishing boat or tug pushing a barge.  We spent a week here without touching the ground tackle and Ellies keel only touched the mud once….not bad.

Phil visited the next day via airplane and landed at the Napa airport.  We found a direct route from the river to the airport via an abandoned railroad track. Phil offered to take us for a flight so we jumped at the opportunity and told him we would meet him at the air field.  About a mile upriver we found a spot to pull the dinghy ashore and lock it up.  We made our way to the railroad track and hoofed it for about 45 mins until we reached the airport.  Staring at those tracks is sure dizzying!  Shortly after arriving at the airport Phil landed and we all climbed aboard his Cessna 172 for the short flight to Sonoma for lunch.  What an amazing flight!  We flew up the Napa valley and then over the mountains where we buzzed all the fancy estates of the rich and famous!  We had a great, albeit overpriced, lunch and ice cold Lagunitas on tap and then flew back. Picture 250 All of us hoofed the tracks back to the river and Phil surprised us with a stash of Stella’s!  

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So there we were, three country bumpkins walking down the tracks like a group of hobos!  Haha. We took a great pic to commemorate the moment.  We had a great visit with Phil, Alyssa cooked an awesome dinner and Phil slept on deck under the stars.
In the morning we dinked back up river to drop Phil off and Alyssa and I grabbed the folding bikes and made our way to JFK memorial park which is about 3nm from downtown.  We rode the bikes to downtown along a beautiful bike trail that follows the sleepy Napa river.  We stopped in the park for some GREAT people watching and then found some bomb, soft serve yogurt. Picture 288 We bounced around downtown and found an awesome fountain at the end of a beautiful garden walkway.  We then made our way back to the dink and returned to Ellie for dinner and an absolutely gorgeous sunset.
On Monday my friend John and his wife came to visit. We met them at Cuttings Wharf and headed downtown for lunch and wine tasting. We also stopped at the Princess’s favorite spice shop to grab a few new additions to the burgeoning collection she has in the galley.  John and LindaWe all headed back to the boat for dinner.  We opened up some of Napa’s finest bounty and Alyssa made a huge plate of cheese, crackers and fruit.  The sky put on a beautiful sunset and we all had a great time visiting.  Once the sun went down Alyssa impressed all of us with her amazing culinary skills.  The New Yorkers said the meal rivaled any NYC restaurant and I think it was better!  Curry Sri Lankan salmon with caramelized onions over Yemenite rice, spring salad with cilantro, tomato, avocado, slivered almonds and a light sesame ginger dressing….absolutely incredible!!   You know I’m super spoiled in the culinary department right?!?!IMG_0098
John and Leeenda spent the night on Ellie and left the next morning.  Great catching up with them.  I think we may have started the wheels turning in John’s head though …. Only a matter of time before he bails the corporate world for some real livin’!!!  See ya in paradise buddy!
The next few days were spent relaxing, reading, biking, playing in the park , fishing and enjoying our peaceful surroundings away from the hustle and bustle of the “real world.”
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There are less flying bugs here than the Delta but it seems that we have taken aboard every fkn spider that lived on that island we were moored to in the Delta.  My mornings are busy trying to find where they’re all hiding!  My average kill rate is 6 per day.  If you think that’s high you are wrong, make no mistake – they are winning.  The rig is covered in webs and the monitor looks like we decorated it for Halloween!
It’s Friday night and we just got back to the boat with a couple weeks worth of provisions.  We schlepped them via bike and dinghy.  We plan to leave tomorrow afternoon with the current and try to make China Camp before sunset.  The plan is to make Sausalito and anchor in Richardson Bay by Monday night, spend the week there and then head out the Golden Gate on Saturday!!
Have a great weekend!

Delta Chillin’

Once we arrived in the delta our plan was to spend some time relaxing and easing into the ‘good life.’  It took us a week and a half before we could actually ‘chill’ and accept that having nothing to do was OK.

The first day was spent making sure our anchoring arrangement was sufficient and that our stern anchor was digging in below the copious amount of grass and weeds that you find up here.  Once we were satisfied that our home wasn’t going anywhere it was party time.  We spent the ENTIRE summer getting Ellie ready and now it was our turn to relax and enjoy ourselves.  Alyssa started inflating the floating pool toys, I cranked up the music and we started chipping away at the huge stash of Mexican cervezas that were left over from the send off party….now I can get used to this!

By the way – did I mention the Delta is FRESH WATER??  YA – we were diving in, swimming and bathing in FRESH WATER!  Ellie loved it as well – she got a bath and all the growth on her fresh new bottom died as soon as we were up here – Awesome.

The sunsets were beautiful.  A powerboat that anchored next to us took this great sunset shot.


IMG_0670Alyssa made some delicious food and we ate like kings.  Check out these apps!

We got a little restless after a few days of just hanging out in the pool toys and the next day developed a workout routine we could do on the boat.  Alyssa went for the workout bands and the instructional DVD and I tried push-ups and sit-ups on the bow.  After a few days we had a decent routine down:  1) run up and down the companionway steps for about 15 minutes to get the blood flowing; 2) push-ups and sit-ups on the bow; 3) lunges and squats while holding the 5-gallon water jug over the head.

A few days later I added paddle boarding to the regime…..although we didn’t have a paddle board.  I used the zodiac and one paddle.  OK it isn’t quite the same and the Mermaid REFUSES to try it based on principle alone.  BUT it does provide somewhat of a workout and it’s fun.

Every morning I also swam out to the float that is tied to the stern anchor and cleared about 50lbs of nasty grass off the line.  It was a fun game because if there was a strong current running the float would disappear for 10 – 30 minutes at a time before surfacing again.  As soon as it surfaced I would dive in and try to make it to the float before it sank again.  It kept me occupied every morning.

We also met some great people that were anchored behind the same island.  Jack and Aline from Free Spirit’s and their friends.  They invited us over for cocktails and we all had a great time visiting.  They were very gracious hosts and we all became friends.


Rina (Mother Mermaid, Princess Mom, Moma-Dupolus) came and visited and we all had an awesome time and we totally digressed back to party mode.  It was a perfect day with super warm weather and NO WIND.  The entire river was glass.  We loaded up the cooler with ice, packed it with wine and beer and literally sat in the floats all day until we were all burnt to a crisp!  We had a great visit.

After about a week and a half at anchor we needed to pump out our holding tank and take on fresh water so we headed to Willow Berm Marina which is about 3-4 miles from where we were anchored.  We had the opportunity to PAY $37 for one night on an end-tie that was perfectly lined up to throw us against the dock with every wake.  This was Friday night and let’s just say that the traffic was at a peak.


There was even a fishing tournament EARLY Saturday morning and no less than 40,000 fishing boats went racing past us……didn’t get much sleep.  BUT Princess Pea was able to shower and blow dry her hair and we were able to do laundry.  The next day we even borrowed bikes from the marina and rode around the island which was nice.

Saturday afternoon we headed back to our little Island and our perfect spot was still there so we tied up again, dropped a stern hook (with a fender as a float so it wouldn’t sink) and were glad to be back in the lee of the island and relatively protected from wakes.

The ONE mistake we made this time was we tied a little too close to the island.  The result was evident that evening when we were watching a movie and conservatively 30,000 tiny flying bugs covered the entire screen and were all over the ceiling.  INVASION!!  Are the screens closed??!?  They were.  Then WTF?  How did they get in??

Turns out these little fkrs are so small they can get through our screens.  I was so grossed out and had no wayIMG_0730 to get rid of them I ordered all lights to be turned out, much to the chagrin of the Mermaid.  The next day we staged for war against the IMG_0726bugs.  Step one was to ease the lines that were tied to the island to buy us some distance.  The Mermaid went to work on replacing the screens with no-see-um screen.  Luckily we had a ton of it aboard already.  After a couple days all the screens were repaired and every other hatch had no-see-um screen.  It worked and we only had a few stragglers that made it through each evening.

Did I mention we also had a few mosquitos that made it in the night of the invasion?  Well, I went on Amazon and $100 later we had a mosquito trap, coils, sprays, bombs, even a roach bait station, oh and an electric fly swatter that looks like a tennis racket.  Bring it on bugs!!  The Mermaid says I have a problem with bugs – I don’t deny it.


After we had the bugs under control we chilled out for a few more days.  Alyssa set up the hammock on the fore deck.  We read books, worked on the blog, worked out and relaxed.  We even found a great happy hour spot – the Riverboat Restaurant in Isleton.  They have microbrews for $2 from 4 – 6pm.  We went three days in a row!

We decided to head to Napa on Friday before the long weekend to avoid all the crowds and craziness.  It was a perfect window of weather with relatively light winds and we made it in a single day covering about 50nm.

I’ll leave you with a cool picture of some mating dragon flies that were in our lazy jacks.  These guys were everywhere!  You would be laying in a pool float and they would land on your toes – pretty cool.


Delta Bound

After leaving the marina we headed straight to warmer climes; in the SF bay that means the Delta.  The first day we motor-sailed from Redwood City to Middle Slough near Pittsburg covering approximately 50nm.  We spend the night at anchor and in the morning we had a delicious breakfast and left Middle Slough bound for Potato Slough, a trip of approximately 25nm up the San Joaquin river.


Once we were under way I decided it would be a waste if we didn’t trail at least one fishing line.  The Salmon are starting to run up the river and any free protein we can snag means more money left over for beer!  So out went the line on our largest ocean rod.  We put the rod in the port rod holder – a mistake that will become clear in a few sentences…

About 15 minutes later Alyssa said she smelled something and asked if I could smell it. I said it was probably outside but asked if she could check the engine compartment to see if she could smell it down below.  She came back up and said it was very strong near the engine bay and smelled like something burning.  I immediately started searching for a place to drop the hook so we could shut the engine down and assess the situation.  We dropped the hook behind an island and shut down the engine.

In the process of turning the boat around, the damn ocean rod we were trailing on the PORT side was high enough to get its line completely tangled in the wind generator!  So we have something burning in the engine bay and a fouled wind generator…great.

I decided to focus on the burning smell first.  It seemed to be coming from the aft starboard lazarette.  We emptied out the lazarette and were trying to identify the culprit.  I noticed the low pressure pump on the watermaker was piping hot – oh fk.  One look at the watermaker control panel verified it – we accidentally hit the switch and the pump was running dry and generating a ton of heat.  I opened the fuse box and the fuse was melted in two pieces!  Well at least it was just a fuse and possibly an impeller but nothing catastrophic.  Once we put everything back in the lazarette it was wind generator time.

I climbed on top of the monitor windvane and stern rail and cut the monofilament out of the wind generator and it appeared that I got it all out.  Turns out a few days later the blades stopped spinning and I had to repeat the process but eventually got it all out.

So with control restored we pushed on the rest of the day and had a gorgeous sail – or rather drift – to Potato Slough.  We flew a full jib and averaged 3.5 knots.  By the late afternoon we were anchored in the lee of a peaceful little island with very good protection from the howling afternoon “delta breeze.”

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