A week in Marina del Rey

Beetle and I are hiding out in Marina del Rey as a series of significant storm systems move through the area.  This time last week Kristen and I were moving around Pt Arguello and it was nice and sunny; this morning’s buoy report has SSE wind at 37 gusting 45 and the swell is up 15′ at 16 second interval – that’s big chop.  And at the east end of the Santa Barbara channel wind is up to E at 25 gusting 33 and the ocean swell is making it in that far at 10′ at 7 seconds – that’s even worse chop.  Upshot is I am pleased to be down the coast from San Francisco with the weather window we had last week.


The track to Marina del Rey – the big curve is us sailing on starboard tack and getting lifted right up to the marina entrance. That was a fun lift!

Given that I had some downtime while waiting out the weather, and I’ve got good network access, I spent several days sorting through available weather products for Mexico, crossing to the Marquesas, and French Polynesia.  I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s available, how to obtain it, and how to interpet it.  The other activity I put some time into was getting the communications gear up and running.   I haven’t used the SSB all that much while up in the  Pacific Northwest, and was a little rusty on using the equipment.  Now I have the latest radio net frequencies and times written out, the SSB is receiving SITOR text weather bulletins, with the SSB & Pactor modem I can bring in the WFax broadcasts.  I’ve also get the onboard radio email connections working through SSB/Pactor as well as through the Iridium GO – to both SailMail and Winlink.  It’s super convenient to send a single email from the boat through Iridium, it hits the Saildocs server (operated by SailMail), and 30 minutes later I can download to the nav station computer a complete weather picture of what’s going on.  Pretty amazing!


Beetle at Burton Chace Park, the guest docks at the municipal part of the marina. Most of Marina del Rey is operated by various private marinas that may (or usually may not) maintain open berthing for visiting boats. This set of slips is set aside solely for visiting boats, which is a nice thing.

Marina del Rey has been very pleasant to be in, the place is filled with intrepid rowing folks from UCLA as the 8 man teams shoot back and forth, usually trailed by someone coaching them from a small dinghy shouting suggestions through a megaphone.  Someone I would have though sculling would be a quiet activity, but it certainly isn’t for those practicing for races.


A couple of large visitors at the fuel dock. The fuel dock makes two side ties available as guest docks when the really big boats show up. And there are boats so large they can’t even fit through the turn at the Marina del Rey entrance.

The two giant yachts here are, it turns out, somewhat unusual.  The really big one is Attessa IV, owned by Dennis Washington of Montana – it’s a 328′ remodel of a custom 300′ yacht built for the chairman of the Evergreen Shipping Line (big container ship company in Taiwan).  He has the Attessa IV down here in Southern California on a visit from the Pacific Northwest.

The other big boat, also blue, is the 183′  Perini Navi ketch Asahi, that apparently just arrived from Hawaii.  It’s huge!

Both boats are guest-tied on the long fuel docks at Del Rey Fuel, probably the longest docks available in the marina.  Yesterday morning I motored over to the fuel docks to top up Beetle, and it’s quite impressive to be sandwiched in between the two boats.  The fenders they use are enormous!  Giant long black sausages that float in the water horizontally, and they make a fair bit of noise as the boat presses up against them.


Got to love helicopters on boats. This one is right down the dock from me, and the helicopter looks like it barely fits on the aft helipad. The boat is very swoopy looking, too – like something out of a James Bond movie.

On my end of the marina it’s been quiet.  I did walk over to Marine Communications on Washington Street to have the RogueWave WiFi radio serviced, and they found that the power plug had broken inside and were able to take it apart, repair it, and test the unit out – it’s all  back up and running again.  Very convenient to find that the RogueWave had a distributor right here in the marina.  Other longish walk was over to Home Depot to get some Shoe Goo glue; the heel of my tennis shoe separated from the sole, which was annoying.  Shoe Goo is a great glue for fixing that sort of problem.

One interesting factoid I’ve found is that even with the amazing weather forecasts the National Weather Service produces for the US waters, people don’t necessarily look at them.  Two cases in point, from my adjacent neighbors on the guest dock.  The first boat is a Formosa 50 preparing to head to Ensenada to check in to Mexico.  The owner asked if I was heading there on Thursday (as in several days ago) and I said no, I was staying put as there was a significant storm coming in Thursday morning.  This happened on Wednesday, when it looked all clear and nice here – so how could tomorrow be nasty?  Turns out he wasn’t looking at the NWS marine forecasts… when I showed him how to find the forecast on his computer he was surprised!  So they elected to wait out the bad weather.

Other case in point was yesterday (Saturday).  The fellow and his wife traveling north from Panama, headed to San Francisco, were wondering if next day would be a g ood day to run up to the Channel Islands Harbor, the next stop north from Marina del Rey.  He showed me the GFS grib model forecast on passageweather and thought it looked great.  I showed him the NWS forecast, not so great, suggested the NAM model might be better for near-shore waters (showed a bit more wind), and then we looked real data: the buoy report.  It showed 15 foot seas at 11 second intervals.  He decided that was terrible!  And added NWS Oxnard to his list of weather data to check.  I would have thought anyone moving around in a boat would use all the available weather data to make decisions – hopefully those two boats will do a little more digging next time they contemplate a longer ocean run, and can make good decisions based on the information available.

I spent a couple of hours replacing the port side interior light buss bar.  The original bar had corroded and was dropping voltage to the lights, and I thought I had a spare buss bar on board, and I found it!  A bit of wire terminal clean up of the wiring with the dremel tool and the new buss bar is in and the lights are seeing good voltage again.


Out with the bad, in with the new!


A little light, some tools, and the Dremel. In a short while the connections are all back bright and shiny.

Today should be mostly stay-on-board as it’s wet, rainy, and likely to be windy.  This front is due to spin through by tomorrow morning.  NWS buoy 46025 offshore from Santa Monica is reading ESE 19 gusting 27 with 9′ at 16 second swells, and while there’s no swell activity in the marina there is definitely a surge that shifts the boats back and forth in their slips – that would explain the cyclic squidging noises that Attessa’s fenders are making as the boat shifts fore and aft along the fuel dock.

Stay dry today!  Hopefully Beetle will be headed for San Diego Wednesday morning.

– rob



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