A Taste of Small Boat Cruising – Labor Day 2015

So I don’t have a job currently to be taking the day off from. So what? Does that mean I can’t enjoy a labor day cruise?

“No, that holiday is for working folk.”

Well, you know, screw you then. Anyway…

[Not mine… but there’s a lot of text that follows and you were owed a pretty boat]

What I needed after a summer of driving from coast to coast twice, missing my wife and son, and missing out on the July 4th festivities in Mission Bay was to take a cruise on Alotta Potential. This Labor Day, that’s exactly what I did.

Here was the plan:

  1. Tow the boat from Lakeside to Shelter Island, raise the mast, and launch said boat on Saturday afternoon.
  2. Drop the trailer at Shelter, and let Lindsay take the car home (SNAFU #1)
  3. Drive the boat over to the police dock on the Kona Kai side of Shelter Island, and dock up for the night.
  4. Get some well desired rest, play some video games, and watch some TV testing the amenities aboard Alotta Potential.
  5. Sail around the bay on Sunday, check out the Festival of Sail down by the Maritime Mueseum.
  6. Pick Lindsay and her coworker up from Bali Hai, and sail a bit.
  7. Drop them off
  8. Drive back to the boat ramp, dock the boat, walk over and get the car, get the trailer, and then put the boat back on the trailer.
  9. Lower the mast, secure the boat, and drive home.

Wow… that actually seems like a lot of work now that I wrote it out.

Okay, so everything went pretty well. The boat towed nicely down the road, and nothing broke on the way to Shelter Island. We got down there after a half hour, and the big commercial fishing guys were mostly pulling out for the day.

I was kind of worried about a boat ramp like Shelter Island. Its like five lanes wide, one way access only, and really busy. Guys don’t screw around down there with guys who can’t back up a trailer. You launch/retrieve and get off the ramp. That’s kind of hard to do quickly when you’re doing it by yourself though. I just tried to have everything squared away before I got anywhere near the ramp.

The mast raised, and the boat launched, the only other thing to really do before I sent Lindsay on her way was to drop the trailer. Well… SNAFU #1. The signs at the parking lot say “no unattached trailers.” Now… there were a couple. Here and there. So I don’t know how seriously the police take that rule down there. I was willing to risk a ticket, and a potential tow (but boy I hoped not a tow), but Lindsay stepped up and offered to take the empty trailer home and back the next day. Way to go Lindsay! Crisis averted.

As I sat at the ramp dock (for way too long mind you, I’ll change procedure in the future) a guy wondered by. You know the guy. The guy without a boat, but a ton of helpful advice.

“Got balls?”

What? Do I have balls? Dude… I’m not in the mood for this…


“For your hull. That’s not good for your hull to be tied up without bumpers man,” noted the very helpful stranger.

“Yeah… I don’t. But no worries, I have plan.” I didn’t. But whatever.

I got moving lest any further dock lurkers were there to help.

It took me a few minutes to motor over to the police dock behind the customs dock and find slip 8. But then I slid right in, and tied up. At this point noted that not only did I not have bumpers, I didn’t have proper dock lines. I’d never really needed them before. I don’t tie the boat up very often. So I rigged some workable things from the anchor rode, tied up, and set out to find the office where I assumed I would check in.

[Nice little spot. Lots of families. Lots of kids swimming.]

No one there. Nobody at all. Just us sailors down at the dock. The whole process is automated now. One of the guys across from me complained about the how fouled the whole thing is during the next day. But he seemed more of a malcontent than anything. Getting a slip seemed pretty straightforward to me. But then I guess this guy would have considered me a local, whom he suggested were “fucked.” He knew an awful lot about the San Diego system to be calling locals fucked… but hey… whatever.

Alotta Potential did really well for one person over night. I watched some TV. The Longhorns got killed by Notre Dame (shit… spoilers). Doug Flutie was the color man I think. Dinner was Mountain House Mac & Cheese made on the Coleman propane stove outside in the cockpit. Hit a little snag with the threads not threading right and blew most of my gas out before I got it fixed. Such is life. Backpack food has gotten a lot better since I was a kid.

The house battery ended up putting me to bed early. When Jim and I camped out earlier in the year the house bank didn’t deliver amperage to the computer after dark. I assumed at the time it just needed a better charge, so I had charged it. Well, same thing here. Soon as the new solar panel was shaded, the computer charger died. No video games for ol’ Steveo. I could have plugged the computer into the trolling motor battery, but there wasn’t much going on and I was tired anyway. So when it got dark I turned in and slept like a rock.

Sunday morning was breakfast, and preparations for sailing. Made some backpacker eggs and bacon with only like 200% of my daily cholesterol. Packed everything up, and then got the sails out and rigged. I was ready to head out by 10am.

[Did get a little relaxing in before I left though]

The Police Dock was great. Showers were to be had, as was a fairly clean bathroom. Power and water hookups were there, and appeared to be unmetered. You need the yellow 30 amp chord though. I didn’t have one. Should have though. Wifi was free (OpenDock network SSID) for 240 minutes every 24 hours, or $5 a day. Fairly reasonable really. The Kona Kai hotel is nearby. All in all, I didn’t use the amenities really, but it was sweet.

Okay, off to see the tall ships at the other end of the northern bay. I used the trolling motor to get off the dock so as not to bug the other tenants. Once I cleared the dock I fired up the 2 stroke, and got clear of the shoal by Shelter Island. After that, it was a long, slow, reach all the way down the bay.

As I was rigging up the jib, I thought about all the people who have suggested on the interwebs that you “run the lines aft to the cockpit for easier single handing.” Never gave it much thought, but sitting on deck with a touch tiller tamer I gave it some more thought.

“Yeah, I should do that.”

Then I tripped on some hardware on the cabin top and almost fell off the boat (yes, I had my jacket on). I looked at the hardware, cursed it, looked at the halyards which I always thought were quite long, and then ran the lines aft… dumbass. How do I miss things like that?

There wasn’t a ton of wind in the morning. So I just drifted down. I saw a C17 sitting at North Island. Then I passed Short Sail looking forlorn and missed. Too bad about her. I don’t think she’s been moved or used since we removed the motor and towed her over there years ago. Sad.

The tall ships were firing cannons at one another and tacking back and forth from the Maritime Museum to the Midway and back. I steered clear to the north and tacked around the “G” mooring buoy.


I made a couple of half hearted tacks back and forth trying to beat back up toward the Bali Hai, but realized I’d never make it. So I fired up the motor again and pounded up into the wind. Doing that broke the attachment for the luff of the mainsail on the boom.

“Shit… that’s going to foul the plan later.”

That meant the afternoon’s sailing with Lindsay’s coworker was going to be fractional rigged jib only on a boat that’s already under-canvased. Eh… such is life. Those rivets gave 20 years hard service and gave out. Whatcha gonna do?

I met Lindsay at 1pm and picked up her friend. We sailed up a bit, and then down a bit. Then one of our guests got sick, so we headed back to the dock at 3pm.

I was off the water and ready to head home by 4pm. I got extremely lucky with traffic over at the boat ramp. It was busy as I drove the boat up to the dock, in fact, no place to dock at all. Not good. But then someone pulled away, and I wedged myself in there. As I walked up to get the car the ramp was full, and there was a line. By the time I got the car from over by the Bali Hai, the ramp was empty! Score! So I pulled down on the very close end, jumped on the boat, and pulled around with the trolling motor. Centered the boat first time, snapped the shackle on her, and then headed up to a pull through spot to lower the mast.

It took us another half hour to drive home, and pull into the driveway.

Hey, all in all, I’d do it again. I think those trips to the river, the Salton Sea, and some other locals might be in the offing!

[This is why my shoulders are currently burned]
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