Saturday, May 21, 2016

Harbor Report: Catalina Flyer in good hands with Forbath


BY: Len Bose

The Catalina Flyer's overall length is 124 feet with a 40-foot beam, her draft is 9 feet, 5 inches and she cruises at 30 knots. She is powered by twin 2350 Caterpillar turbo diesels and can make the trip to Avalon in 1 hour, 20 minutes with more than 500 passengers.
The Catalina Flyer is Newport Harbor's ride to Catalina for the general public. I had a chance to interview Capt. Steve Forbath of the Catalina Flyer this week.
Forbath grew up in Costa Mesa and was first introduced to the harbor by attending Newport Beach's recreation sailing class in Naples Sabots at the age of 7-8.
He graduated from Estancia High and then proceeded to UC Santa Barbara for his bachelor's degree, then UC Irvine for his master's.

Forbath started working aboard the Catalina Holiday when it opened in 1978. By 1980, he received his captain's license and then took the helm of the Catalina Flyer.

Captain Steve Forbath

Because of the Flyer's size, the vessel has two captains on board at all times while underway. The first captain is in charge of the wheel house, announcements and the helm. The second captain is in charge of the engine room and passengers. Should the vessel encounter limited visibility, both captains are in the wheel house.
While underway, the first captain is constantly monitoring the sea state, engine gauges, GPS, auto-pilot and radar while all the time keeping a visual lookout for small recreational boaters and marine life.
Forbath recalled a couple of years ago when a large 90-foot blue whale had died and drifted into one of the jetties off Newport.
One of the lifeguard boats was towing the whale back out to sea when a couple of 18-to-20-foot great white sharks picked up on the whale. The sharks came up from behind the whale, then jumped out of the water, biting into the whale then spinning violently, thrashing back and forth, until they broke a large piece off.
There have also been times when the Flyer has come upon an unsuspecting Fin Whale on the surface and had to dodge it, giving the passengers the opportunity to go eye-to-eye with the whale as the two went their separate ways.
I asked him what had been some of the most interesting flotsam he'd seen over the years.
"While departing Avalon, about three miles off the island, I noticed what first appeared to be a rather large person on a Jet Ski heading straight for us off our starboard side," Forbath said.
"The next moment I realized it was too big to be someone on a Jet Ski and tried to hail the object on the radio, channels 16, 13 and 14. Just about this time the Coast Guard started to question my inquiries over the radio, when a very strong U.S. Navy voice came over the radio and said this encounter never happened, and the periscope of the submarine quickly submerged under the water."
I asked when the weather might be too rough for the Flyer to make the crossing.
"This winter we canceled more days than I can remember because of wind and swell," Forbath said. "We are concerned about the passengers, we just don't want to hurt anybody. It's all about our passengers' comfort.
"People get scared, they suddenly stand up and try to run and fall down. The boat, knock on wood, can handle anything in this area. We have to keep the passengers comfortable so it becomes more about the sea state rather than wind strength. There have also been times when the winds will come out of the Canyon of Avalon and we cannot get into harbor and I have had to return to Newport before because the harbor has been closed off.

"Some of you might recall the fires in Catalina over the last 10 years," he said. "One night we had to stand off Avalon all night in case we had to evacuate all the residence from town because of the fire danger."
I asked if there was anything he'd like to say to the recreational boater that would make his day easier.
"Keep a safe distance, we move much faster than you would think we do," Forbath said.
The captain and I talked more about our deliveries up and down the West Coast and shared similar stories of challenges while at sea. Forbath can talk the talk, and for someone who has been around as long as he has, I am quite sure he can walk the walk.
We are all very fortunate that he is one of the captains that runs the Flyer here in Newport Harbor.
I am headed out on the Santa Cruz 50 Horizon again this next week down the coast of California in the California Offshore Race Week. It is a three-race series starting from San Francisco to Monterey, then from Monterey to Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara to San Diego.
Please wish us luck again, it always helps.

Sea ya.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What are those red crabs you have noticed in the Bay

Pleuroncodes planipes

By Len Bose
February 27, 2015 | 4:58 p.m.

Not sure how many of you were on the harbor last weekend and noticed all the Pleuroncodes planipes, or red crabs, doing their thing. By Monday afternoon, it appeared that they had little to no life left in them.
I contacted Michelle Clemente, Newport Beach's marine protection and education supervisor, to get the scoop (no pun intended) on all the red crabs.
"They are typically associated with warm water," Clemente explained. "It's a type of mating ritual, and they got cooked when they landed on the sand. It's a little bit warm for them to be out of the water."

Clemente informed me that this was not unusual and happens during the El Niño years.

6-13-15 I was in San Diego in Mission Bay and the bay was full of them.

05-18-16 I first wrote this story almost a year ago. This round with the crabs are a little different, they do not go away with a simple shampoo, just kidding. This time the Sea Gulls are eating them and popping and pooping red crabs all over the boats and docks nasty stuff yesterday.

Lori Bowman Fernandez Photo Taken in Huntington Beach

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Harbor Report: Yacht clubs celebrate traditional Opening Day

Opening Day is a celebration and tradition to welcome members to the yacht clubs' facilities for the upcoming season.
This Saturday, I plan to attend Opening Day at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club with Commodore Sandy Mills, who will be opening the 2016 yachting season.
The tradition of opening day started many years ago, where yacht clubs would close down for the winter and, of course, re-open before each summer season.
Tradition plays a big part in every opening day, starting with the inspection of the fleet.

I am a big supporter of the inspection process because it leads to the boat owners' preparation and maintenance for the upcoming season. Fleet inspection normally starts early in the morning, with the inspection chairmen and their committee assigned to the different boats for judging.
The judges will then head out to the fleet and meet with the boat owners who have entered into the inspection.
Judges are looking at overall appearance inside and out. They will then head into the bilges of the boats and take a look around with a boat surveyor's eye toward integrity of the vessel.

Some judges might even know Coast Guard, National Fire Protection Assn. and American Boat and Yacht Council standards.
This would cover everything from batteries being boxed and properly secured, looking for fuel leaks, making sure a set of tapered soft wood through hull plugs are leashed to each through hull and to make sure there is a corkscrew for happy hour in the galley.
I have known more than one boat owner who could tell me how many door hinges they have on their boats because they have polished each and every one of them. For the boat owner who has taken the last week off work and has gone through the inspection checklist themselves, I salute you for a job well done.
The odds of you having an equipment malfunction this season have been greatly diminished because of their hard work. If you happen to know this type of yachtsmen, send me a note; I would like to interview them.
Let's talk flag etiquette
This is when I start my yearly rant about flag etiquette. Now, the bottom line is you are enjoying your boat, and are having fun doing so, and I should stop here.
But I have a hard time with people flying pirate flags and thinking that the more flags you fly the better. I noticed one boat last weekend flying a set of plastic flags from the sign shop.
The guy could not have been any happier and said, "Look at all the color I have flying."
I replied, "Looks like you are going to have a fun opening day."
As I turned away, I suffered from acid reflux, but, hey, people on the boat were having a great time, and that's all that really matters.
So, yes, I am a type of snob when it comes to flag etiquette. I wrote a story nine years ago on this topic. You can find it on my website,

Here is the Chapman, book of seamanship, recommend list for dressing ship:
"On the Fourth of July and other special occasions, yachts may dress ship when at anchor. The international Code Flags are displayed from the waterline forward to the waterline aft, using weights at the end in the following order arranged to the effect color patterns throughout: Starting forward:AB2 UJ1, KE3, GH6, LV5, FL4, DM7, PO 3rd repeater, RN 1st repeater, ST0, CX9, WQ8, ZY 2nd repeater."
Now, if you do not have your signal flags in this order, and you get marked down, you can ague that this is only a recommendation for a color pattern, and there is no official pattern.
I have to take Tums every time I see boaters dress ship a week before and still have their signal flags up a week after opening day.
One last bit advice for the upcoming season: Make sure your first mate understands how to read your GPS and how to work the VHF radio and call for help.
Let this person engage and disengage the auto-pilot and let them hand steer to or from Catalina once this season.
It's summer and the sun is out!
Sea ya.

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