Subject: Poor Boys Yacht Club Hall of Fame
Sometime within the past ten years my friend Bill and I visit the mast up storage yard at Marina Del Rey, California, where he maintains his sailboat, a 26′ MacGregor. This small trailerable sailboat is known as a power sailor because it is capable of doing over 20 knots on the water while at the same type pulling a water skiier. No kidding!
I believe Bill’s MacGregor carried at least a 40 horsepower outboard but something tells me Bill may have opted for a 75 hp if one was offered as an option. Near Bill’s boat was the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet, particularly in a British pub. This Brit was the first guy I ever heard of that was a liveaboard at a mast up storage site. Mast up storage is simply a parking lot adjacent to the launch ramp, so you don’t have to go through the hassles of taking down the boats mast every time you take your sailboat out of the water. Our new friend, I forget his name but for the story let’s call him Brit. The poor guy lost everything as a result of no healthcare and cancer.
Brit tells us that he is taking off soon to the backside of Catalina known as the Isthmus (a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land.) to spend a week or two.
Bill and I go about our business, Bill showing me his MacGregor and we also talk about sailing or powering over to the island. Somehow within a week or two Bill and I up at Two Harbors – don’t recall if it was on my boat or his.
If you recall the definition of an isthmus, a mere mile of land separates Two Harbors from the backside of the island. Lo and behold who do we run into but, the Brit. The Brit then introduces us to whom he calls his PBYC buddies. Sizing these guys up on an LA street you might mistake each one for a homeless migrant, vagabond or possibly a wandering bum, but not on the island – they are liveaboard sailors. In no time these guys are chatting up a storm about the in’s and out’s of free living on the island. Each maintained their own free mooring and when the rules changed they would swap their moorings every required days to maintain “free” status.
Such a close tight knit group I comment. Of course we are, we’re part of a club. What club I ask? PBYC of course. Finally it had to be spelled out to me; P B Y C stood for Poor Boys Yacht Club!
The funny part about all of this is that we were asked if we wanted to join – however, there was only one catch. Once you joined you could never get out, unless of course you paid everyone in the club to get out! However, no one knows for sure how big the club is so you might be paying for a long long time. Now isn’t that a new concept.
I first met Hans at the Cabrillo docks while visiting another liveaboard – Carlos. Our biggest experience together was looking for a boat part at Kelly Marine. The proprietor (woman) pointed out a customer and said, “he came from the Russian Sailing ship”. Before I know it Hans is speaking Russian to the guy. As it turns out the guy is also looking for this unknown boat part.
Off we all go, Hans, the Russian Sailmaster and me, all looking for unknown boat parts. I even drove him all the way to Minnie’s in Orange county. Where else do we end but at the evil empire – West Marine. Here the staff posed with the Sailmaster. Finally we end up back at the Cabrillo Marina.
I point to the most prestigious of them all yacht clubs – The Los Angeles Yacht Club – LAYC or as the members like to say, a tradition of excellence enjoying good company since 1901. The Sailmaster now wants a picture in front of the LAYC – I open the door and enter, he is impressed.
Next thing you know I let someone in the club know that this is the Sailmaster from the Russian tallship. They are impressed. We are all then invited to come back during dinner celebrations to welcome back the clubs sailing fleet that just competed in the TransPac.
(The Transpacific Yacht Race (Transpac) is an offshore yacht race starting off San Pedro at the Pt. Fermin buoy, and ending off Diamond Head Lighthouse in Honolulu, a distance of around 2,225 nautical miles (2,560 mi; 4,121 km).
At West Marine
One day while jet skiing the Cabrillo beach area, inside the breakwater area I spot an anchored sailboat. Next thing you know I strike up a conversation with this Aussie who says he fought in the Falklands war (lost a foot over the incompetence of medical professionals) and other nefarious type deeds. The guy on the left is the Aussie and the guy on the right (Fred) recently sold his boat and is no longer a liveaboard. Some how these guys usually end up in my ever changing backyard.
These guys are from the racing Kava’s – they are Samoans.
I found them as they arrived. I ask them what they needed and they all replied a hot shower and new sandals. Off we go on a new adventure!
South Pacific islanders revive sail power with traditional fleet on tour
On April 19, 2011, five 60-foot boats left Auckland, New Zealand to set off on a year’s voyage. Stops have included a sacred Polynesian homeland known as Hawaii, the end of one of the longer legs of a round-the-Pacific tour. A sixth boat had joined at Cook Islands, and a seventh in Tahiti. The crews represent the biggest traditional transport and exchange of Polynesian islanders in modern times.
The nearly identical boats are traditional but modern canoes, a catamaran rig called a waka (or vaka or va’a according to dialect). They are too tall in the water to paddle. I was able to meet up with them in beautiful Monterey Bay, central California. When I asked if these boats were of original design, a crew member told me “hundreds of boats like this came out to meet Captain Cook at one of his early calls.”
Just as important as the sailing of these traditional craft is perhaps the navigation method employed, handed down for uncounted generations by a revered master to a chosen student. It’s not just about reading the stars, but the waves, wind, birds, and more.
To complement tradition and bow to 21st century demands, the fleet has high-tech assists, such as auxiliary power in the form of twin submersible electric engines for each boat, powered by solar panels. The motor power, good for 5 knots for 8 hours per charge, is just for maneuvering in and out of harbors. The batteries are not so heavy that sailing speed is compromised, but each engine is always lifted out of the water by pulleys for sailing.
The prime supporter making the project possible is the Okeanos Foundation, Germany. It is producing a feature-length documentary film on the voyage called “Blue Canoe” — referring to our Earth home.
From Monterey the fleet is — at the moment I write this — on its way to Malibu, working its way down to San Diego where it will winter. Then from Mexico it’s on to the Galapagos, and the South Seas. The last official stop will be an arts festival in the Solomon Islands, the end of the voyage next July.
Six boats were at anchor on August 13 in Monterey Bay, backed right up to the sand. The seventh waka had remained in Hawaii for training, and returned to Tahiti. Out in Monterey Bay at anchor was the accompanying support ketch serving as home for the film crew. The formal name for the fleet is Fleet Tavaru 2011, “Te Mana o te Moana” – The Spirit of the Sea.
I felt that what crossed the world’s biggest ocean, lying in front of me, was historic. But to then go out on the waves and speed along in a traditional catamaran canoe under sail was more than exhilarating. The large swells were like gentle souls for our craft, Te Matau a Maui, gracefully moving along as fast as 9 knots. The crew were patient all the while as they let visitors on at the shore for free, to go riding together and help out with rigging and steering. It wasn’t a time for the usual activist networking, but I did mention to a couple of voyagers, “this is what the Sail Transport Network is about.”
It was beautiful to be on the shores of the same Pacific that has been shared with the Polynesians from time immemorial. It was a red letter day for me, and a red letter year for dozens of young Polynesians connecting with their roots:
“We are a group of Pacific Islanders who have come together from many nations, sailing as one across the Pacific Ocean. We are voyaging to strengthen our ties with the sea, renew our commitment to healthy ecosystems for future generations, and to honour our ancestors who have sailed before us.”
I was glad to hook up the voyagers and organizers with Capt. Charles Moore, author of the upcoming definitive book on the plastic plague, Plastic Ocean. Wakas had collected samples of plastic trash north of Hawaii in the infamous garbage patch discovered by Moore.
I was tempted to offer to join crew, so I offered although there’s a waiting list. The nice people involved are an inducement. I soon found myself being interviewed on camera for the feature length documentary, and I spoke of peak oil, climate change, sail transport and the plastic plague. This was one of my greatest opportunities to date to potentially expand the Sail Transport Network by including the Pacific Voyagers in the network as well as telling a film audience about STN. Our network unites peoples and their cultures, and its work has barely begun as the globalized world gets back to human-scale proportions and natural values.
Many voices create the Pacific Voyagers’ blog. Such as, after a closing ceremony before leaving for Maui, two crew members wrote,
“What the hell do we think we’re doing? Are we so lazy and stupid that for the sake of convenience we won’t change our lives? Is it too much for us to stop using plastics, stop driving fossil fuel cars and take the focus off profit and back onto people? The collapse of our world in various ways, social and environmental, is evidence enough that our systems haven’t worked. There is a huge groundswell of dissatisfaction building on many fronts. – Tihei Mauri Ora,
What will your legacy be? – Dunc and Haunui.
Fleet Tavaru 2011 arrived in Hilo, Hawaii, 18th of June 2011, and blogged:
“The fleet was greeted with chanting and hula dances by our Hawaiian cousins; each va’a participated in a braiding ceremony connecting tea leaves to a set of stones in the middle. The inspiration of this ceremony reflects the braided leaves as tentacles of the fe’e (octopus) reaching out to everyone, regardless of the distance and the differences each Island is connected. Afterwards, the navigators and captains were invited to take the braided tea leaves up to a hill next to the cliffs; according to oral history this hill was used for navigators of the old to train.”
“The crew feel invested in a cultural and environmental responsibility. We honor our canoes of a new type, we honor those who participated the revival of traditional navigation in the wake of Hokule’a, Hawaiki Nui o Te au o Tonga, and Hawaii Loa Makali’i, Te aurere. This is the first time that so many people of the great ocean come together to convey a message, that of protecting our common heritage: the Pacific Ocean ‘Te Moana Nui Hiva.’ To end commercial over fishing, pollution and the killing of protected animals. A shout to the world so that the ocean and its resources, both natural and cultural, are preserved for future generations, the ocean is the cradle of our civilization and the reason to live for millions of islanders.”
I took these guys on a San Pedro sightseeing adventure and more!They wanted new sandals. Almost everywhere I took them their feet were too big!!! Finally, success. Note the fanny pack I gave one; then they all wanted a small present. Out came my stash of warm clothing, old war gear, etc. Believe it or not – taking them to the .99 cent store was the biggest hit. I could hardly get them out of the store or into (to fit) in my 4Runner. These are big guys!!!They each want to adopt me!