Monday, August 31, 2015

The Harbor Report: Swift brothers stay close and fare well in marine business

By Len Bose
August 29, 2015

I am always looking to talk with people who make a difference in our harbor.
People like Carter Ford, Mark Sites, Chuck South, Duffy Duffield, so this week I had a chance to talk with Pete Swift of Swift Slip Dock and Pier builders. When I first contacted Pete, he brought up how close he and his brother Tom are, having worked together over the last 30 years,
"We are best buddies," Swift said.
Pete and Tom Swift grew up together on Balboa Peninsula where they learned to swim and enjoy our harbor together. They are three years apart in age and attended Newport Elementary, Ensign Intermediate and Newport Harbor High School.
They went on to separate colleges, and in 1982 Pete picked up a part-time job building a private dock on harbor Island. It took him about three weeks to complete the job working out of the homeowner's garage.
"Something our crew can complete in an afternoon now," Swift said.
Today, Swift Slips has 20 employees and just purchased a new building in Costa Mesa that will allow them to work indoors. I asked Swift how long it takes to have a new slip built. His response was rather enlightening — with all the different government agencies, it takes about eight to nine months to complete the permit process. To build then install the slip takes about 45 days.
It is my understanding that most customers purchase decks made from PVC material. Washing it only requires a brush and salt water and the job is done. This decking is scratch resistant and long lasting. I was also surprised to hear that the floats under the dock can have up to a 50-year life expectancy.
I learned the docks float better with all the sea life attached to them.
"The heavier the dock, the less is going to rock or tip, it's better for the dock," Swift said.
I was deeply disappointed to learn that our city's new Eelgrass Mitigation Plan is only for dredging and not dock replacement.
"This is a major breakthrough for our tidelands permit holders although it has little to no effect on dock replacement," Swift said. "We are hoping that when someone, with eelgrass under their docks, dredges we can come back the next year and hope that the eelgrass has taken a different pattern."
At this time if a tidelands permit holder would like to replace 20% of the structure of their slip they will be required to follow the Coastal Act, which involves permits from the Coastal Commission, Army Core of Engineers, Fish and Game, two city permits and possibly even the county.
"Customers ask if we know anyone at the different agencies so that they can get through the process faster," Swift said. "I reply we know everyone, that's how we get it done so fast. If we didn't know everyone, it could take well over a year."
"If the restrictions from the different government agencies continue to grow at the pace they are now, permit holders may not be able to build new slips 10 years from now," Swift added.
I then asked Swift what he felt about the condition of our harbor.
"It has never been cleaner," he said. "After the dredging and how the public protects the water quality our harbor has never been cleaner."
We talked about the condition of our harbor seawalls, and Swift said he has not spent much time researching the problem of the sea level rising and feels it is best just to repair the seawalls where they are failing and keep an eye on the topic.
On their off time, Pete likes to SUP around the back bay and stay away from the crowds while Tom sails a 30-foot boat in our different summer series twice a week. I found it quite refreshing to see two local brothers make it good for so long in the marine business.
I am off this weekend for the Long Point Race Week aboard the Santa Cruz 50 Horizon. Please wish us luck and wind.
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist for the Daily Pilot.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Harbor Report: My meeting with two boat-making legends


While walking the docks this week, I learned that quality produces quantity.
As I was showing a boat, I was introduced to one of my prospect's friends, Mike Howarth. As our conversion progressed, I quickly learned that Mike knew a whole lot more about boats than I did.
So, rather than proceed with my introduction, I got quiet and listened. Mike had been building boats in California since the early 1970s, and has owned Pacific Seacraft and Cabo Yachts.
Two days later, I called Mike and asked him for an interview.
"OK. Sure, Len," he replied. "I should call my partner Henry Morschladt. We have worked together from the beginning, and he has a shop across the street from me."
When I met Mike, Henry was pulling into the parking lot. Mike started to talk about his boat-building career. Mike's passion for working with wood brought him to Harbor Yachts, where he became the foreman in the woodshop.
His next job was with Islander Yachts, where he moved over to the fiberglass tooling department, which relocated from Costa Mesa to Santa Ana. One day a number of boat molds showed up next door where Pacific Trawler started building boats.
Mike then moved to Pacific Trawler and was doing woodwork and engine installation. That's when he meet Henry Morschladt, who was its engineer, purchasing agent and part-time sales guy. Henry showed Mike one of his designs of a 25 cruising sailboat. It later became the Pacific Seacraft 25, and the two of them started building it.
As they came to the completion of that first boat, they needed to sell it and have it ready for the upcoming boat show in Newport Beach in the spring of 1976.
"I remember Duncan McIntosh really getting upset with us because he had never seen anyone bring a bandsaw down to the docks, before the show, in order to complete the boat in time," Henry said. "We had called in every favor and had all our relatives down on the docks, sanding and helping us finish the boat before the show started."

Henry sold the boat at the show, and the team went on to build 275, 25-foot boats. They had opened shop at an old Dr Pepper bottling company building in Fullerton and started Pacific Seacraft. One day, without telling them, Fortune Magazine wrote that they were building one of the top 100 products in the world.
This led to the team building thousands of boats from 20 to 37 feet, and becoming one of our country's top boat manufacturers. In 1988, they completed the sale of the company to a group out of Singapore.

By 1990 both Henry and Mike started talking about building another boat again and focused in on a 35-foot sports fisher.
"If we had been smarter, or shown any form of intelligence, we would have thought it to be crazy to go out to the High Desert and start a boat company," Mike explained.
But that's what the two of them did. And, under a small shed, they worked their magic again and completed their first boat just before the Long Beach boat show in the fall of 1991.
"On a Friday, I was calling the five or six people we had working with us, and told them that we would have to stop working until we sold the first boat," Mike recalled. "That weekend we sold the boat, and on Sunday I was calling everyone to come back to work on Monday."
Within five years the guys had started Cabo Yachts, in Adelanto, and were producing more than 120 boats a year, from 31-footers to 47-footers, with 400 employees. Again, the duo raised the bar and produced the highest quality sportfishing boat in the world, following it up with a "hassle-free warranty" that kept their customers coming back. In 2006, the guys sold the business to Brunswick.

Will Henry and Mike return to the boat-building business?
"I always am looking around," Mike said.
These guys are very smart. They were not going to tell me anything about what they were up to. I am just glad they did what they did and hope for the future that they return.
If any of my readers would like to meet me, at 1:30 p.m. on April 25 I will be at the OASIS Senior Center, 801 Narcissus Ave., Corona del Mar, speaking about our harbor's beer can races. Hope to see you there.
Sea ya!
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Harbor Report: This captain has quite a log

Capt. Brian Blair, right, with crew member Jesse Drury offloading their catch of black cod. (Len Bose / January 31, 2014)

By Len Bose
January 31, 2014 | 2:53 p.m.

Last week, I noticed Brian Blair, captain of the 45-foot Ultra Pacific, offloading his catch at the commercial sea wall between the Bluewater Grill and the Cannery restaurant. When I asked to speak to the skipper, Blair quickly introduced himself.
I have to assume many local fishermen and surfers already know the name. Brian Blair was raised in Newport Beach and graduated from Corona del Mar High School. By 19, he had already obtained his captain's license and was running sportfishing charters.
When he was 23, he purchased the Ultra, a 50-foot Delta Marine that quickly became known around the docks as a fishing machine. Blair's reputation grew as one of the hardest-working captains along the California coast.
In 2012, Blair sold the charter company and headed to Millennium Marine in New Brunswick, Canada, where he had the Ultra Pacific built.

"The boat took almost a year to build," he said. "I moved to the boatyard the last three months of the project and then followed the boat to Newport Harbor Shipyard, where we commissioned the boat."
He designed the boat to fit his needs as primarily a light fisherman. The boat is a 45-foot downeast-style commercial fishing vessel with a 16-foot beam and single diesel. It features two auxiliary generators. When I asked if one of the generators can propel the vessel as a get-home engine, Blair said, "No, we rely solely on that single Man Diesel and provide all the proper maintenance to keep her running."
I have to say that the Ultra Pacific is one of the best-looking vessels in our harbor.
I did not know what a light fisherman is, and Blair explained that he goes out looking for squid and then turns on lights to bring the squid to the surface while the other boats are setting their nets. These types of trips can last from one to three weeks at sea.
The squid fisheries are only open between Sunday and Thursday. On the off days, he is hunting for the next spot.
"We are the hunting dog," the captain explained. "We go out and find the best spots and then attract the squid to the surface. For this service, we get a percentage of the catch.
"It's very competitive. We are all fighting to take the biggest percentage of the quota."

Blair said all of his boat's electronics are Furuno, from auto pilot and radar to sonar and radios, and they are all integrated. He talked about his Nobeltec marine navigation software, how it works through the sonar and how he has been charting the ocean floor bottom to improve his catch.
I had to ask who his go-to people are for keeping the Ultra Pacific working and at sea. In other words, who is his pit crew? "I try to keep all my maintenance work local," he said. I like to use Newport Harbor Shipyard for haul outs. For my engine repair work I use Jimmy Vidales from The Boatworks and for my electrical I use Derrick Ropes.” He said.

I then asked how the harbor and ocean have changed over the past 10 years and how these changes have affected him as a commercial fisherman. He said the Marine Life Protection Act has not affected him so much as it has the local lobster fishermen.
"We are already highly regulated by the different government agencies, and our fisheries are some of the healthiest in the world," he said. "To us, it felt more like a land grab."
We then talked about the harbor and the reduction of the commercial sea wall, where I first met him. When the city built the guest dock, it left the harbor commercial marine industry with only 800 feet of working sea wall.
"It gets rather busy in the Rhine Channel during summer between the two restaurants, boats on the public dock, lobster fisherman, mooring maintenance crews and other commercial all trying to fit into that small space," he said.
Most of Blair's catches are sold in San Francisco. Few if any of our harbor's restaurants purchase the fresh fish off the boat. It is my understanding that our local restaurants prefer to outsource their purchases.
To me, that's just wrong.
Also, if there are any TV producers who read this column, there is a good potential reality series following the Ultra Pacific. I know I will be.
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Harbor Report: Getting some tips from the winners

Jake Mayol won this year's Jr. Sabot National Championship. 

By Len Bose
August 15, 2015

I am back from Hawaii and the Transpac race where we finished second in our class, only two minutes out of first place, aboard the Santa Cruz 50 Horizon.

Speaking of first place, my yacht club, The Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, has something to be very proud of this season. Not that it is so unusual, but Mark Gaudio has won this year's Naples Sabot Senior Championships sailed in Alamitos Bay back on June 6-7.
According to Gaudio, this could be his 18th Sabot Championship but for the second time in three years, a BCYC member Jake Mayol has won the Junior Naples Sabot National Championships sailed in Alamitos Bay in Long Beach Aug. 3-4.
In an effort to improve my own sailing skills I got on the phone and interviewed both Jake and Gaudio.
Jake is 11 years old and attends the Don Juan Avila Middle School in Aliso Viejo. He has been sailing in the BCYC junior program since he was 6 with his brother Max. Max, 15, has placed third in the Sabot nationals the last two years and is away at the Canadian Youth Championships.
Max Mayo at The Canadian Youth Championships

During the Sabot nationals, Jake sailed a Phoenix-made sabot with the sail number 9333. From my understanding it came down to the last race, on the last leg, for Jake to secure the victory.
"All the pressure going into the last race, having to beat my competition was one of my most difficult moments in my sailing career," Jake said.
After he received his first-place trophy I asked him which past winners' names grabbed his immediate attention? Jake said, "Jim Otis, Mark Gaudio, Brian Thomas, Chuck Driscoll and Charlie Buckingham."
My next question was: "Jake, since you have just won the Sabot Nationals where will you be going next?" It was not Disneyland. He has goals of placing in the top 20 on the U.S. team trials sailed in Optimist sailboats next year and is looking forward to qualifying to the U.S. Olympic team someday.
I asked Jake what advice he would give to the C3 sabot sailor who has aspirations of becoming the next national sabot champion?
"A lot of practice, practice always makes you better, you can never really get to the best of your ability," he said. "You will always have to work at one thing at a time. Don't overload yourself with a bunch of things at once. Work at stepping stones, focus on one thing until you have it down. If you have a bad race try to always forget about it and do your best on the next race."
I asked him how it goes when he sails against his brother. He had a quick laugh before answering: "We try not to get into each other's faces to much. He is my best friend out there, on the race course and it's kind of fun to race together. We will talk about how one of us got ahead of the other and improve our results."
We also had a good laugh when I asked him if he would be sailing in the BCYC Club Championships this summer. He turned and asked his mother if they would be in town and then asked me for the dates. I told him it was more of a joke — I was hoping he would be out of town that weekend.
Gaudio 2015 SR Sabot National Champion

Mark Gaudio
If you have ever raced in a championship in our harbor, be it sabots, Lido 14s or Harbor 20s, you have to have beat Mark Gaudio to take home the gold. Gaudio started sailing in our harbor back in 1964 at the age of 7 in the city's program at 18th Street and later at the Orange Coast Yacht Club which turned into BCYC.
Today Gaudio works as an institutional bond trader but in the late afternoons is often seen coaching the BCYC junior program or sometimes giving private lessons.
Gaudio also sails a Phoenix-made sabot, which he has had for the last 20 years, name Private Idaho.
"I have had this boat for so long, I am just comfortable with it," he said. "I have tried them all and it has a looser feel. Just not quite as stiff as the others."
I asked Gaudio the same question about which names have caught his eye on those first-place trophies.
"It has to have been Brian Thomas, Jerry Thompson or Nick Scandone," he said.
Then I asked him what advice he would give a C3 sailor.
"Get out on the water as much as you can and keep in mind most sailors will weigh out, become too big for a sabot," he said. "You can find the right boat for your size, just go sailing."

Trying to learn as much as I could from Gaudio before our Harbor 20 fleet championships coming up in a couple of months, I asked him what a Harbor 20 sailor should keep in mind when starting a championship regatta.
"Know who you have to beat — who are the key players in your fleet. Don't get into any confrontations with them and try to control them and dominate early," he said.
I have no idea what Gaudio means by that answer, so I had better go out and practice more.
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Flash back two years ago: The Harbor Report: Picking a young champion's brain

Derek Pickell, the 2013 Junior National Sabot Champion

By Len Bose
August 15, 2013 | 1:56 p.m.

I'm not going to lie — I took advantage of being the Daily Pilot's harbor columnist and called up this year's winner of the Junior Sabot Nationals, Derek Pickell. My intentions were solely personal in an effort to improve my own sailing ability. What I came away with was a number of good ideas on how to win a big regatta and better sail our harbor.
About nine days ago, Derek qualified for gold fleet in this year's Junior Sabot Nationals, sailed in Mission Bay, San Diego. For a complete review of the race, be sure to read Daily Pilot writer David Carrillo Penaloza's article in last Sunday's sports page titled "Pickell captures Sabot crown." This is a rather large title to place on your resume, and it does not come very easily. What I was looking for was how he got the "W" and what advice I could take away from this interview.
I congratulated Derek, who is 15, on his win and asked him which names of past winners got his attention when he picked up the trophy. "Jon Pinckney and Mark Gaudio," he said. "Over my career, I have noticed their names on most of the perpetual trophies I have competed for." Derek has also become the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club's third member to have won this event, which dates back to 1948; the two other BCYC members were Pinckney and Bill Ward.

Derek has had two Phoenix Sabots from the time he was a beginner until now and explained that the most difficult time for him was when he advanced from beginning sabots to C3s. "I was out on the harbor alone, new to the sport and lots of big boats all around me" he explained, with still a touch of anxiety in his voice. I asked him what advice he would give the C3 sailor who is struggling to make it into C2s. "Try not to focus on the other boats," he said. "Stay on the right point of sail and trim your sail properly. Stay away from the giant clumps of boats that gather around marks. You can spend minutes mixed up in those clumps."
Derek went on to tell me that what helped him the most was to listen to his coaches and watch his fellow competitors. He is not a superstitious sailor and does not have a lucky hat or shirt. "I prefer to rely on myself and not become dependent on a object," he said. I laughed at loud at this point, knowing how superstitious I am and that his coach, Gaudio, is the same way.
Trying to obtain as much information from the champ as I could, I asked if he had any secrets to sailing Newport Harbor. "There is always the 'Lido Lift' if the wind is blowing down the channel," he explained with confidence. "Always anticipate that a large boat will go through the course at some point in the race and make sure to show up a half-hour before the race starts and take a look around the harbor."

In a number of recent interviews, Derek was quoted as saying, "In sabot racing, you only want to think and plan 100 feet forward at a time so that you don't overwhelm yourself with tactics and anticipation." The quote continued, but I wanted to get a better understanding of what he meant about 100 feet forward. Derek called it "kind of like in chess — the players that are trying to look seven moves ahead and spend so much time on what might happen in the future. Because sabots are such a small boat, there are so many variables you don't want to get to distracted. I try to stay focused on what is right in front of me and what is going on in my own boat."
Derek sails on the Corona del Mar High School varsity sailing team and plans on sailing in college. I asked him if he has been following the America's Cup. "I will definitely watch it," he said. "What amazes to me is the amount of articles in magazines. It's becoming more intense and thrilling. I will be watching it live."
Another pair of champions was crowned last weekend: Katie and David Levey are BCYC champions. I tied Gaudio for second and lost the tie-breaker and ended up in third. In the Family Championships, the Kerrigan family took home the gold.
Time to head out on my Harbor 20 and work on my boat speed and mark roundings.
Sea ya.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.