Getting Papoose

and how it almost didn't happen
By Allen Edwards

Thank you Eric

There is a story on Latitude-38 (December 2023 page 62) about the sailboat "Boat Bum Gal" whose owner hired a volunteer captain to help take her boat down to Mexico as part of the Baja Ha-Ha. They ran aground and Boat Bum Gal sank. This brought back memories of my first trip on my inherited boat Papoose in 1989 and what didn't but almost did happen.

hello world
Papoose was my dad's boat and when he died it became mine. At first I tried to sell it but ultimately decided to bring her up from Los Angeles to San Francisco Bay where I live. I had no clue how to go about this. A good friend, let me call her Fran, said she knew someone who would bring the boat up and that he was a rockstar. Turns out they knew each other more than I realized which may have clouded her judgement but that is another story. I will call him John. John knew everything about everything and agreed to bring Papoose up the coast. He got a few friends and a bunch of liquor and started out. First thing he did was try and start the engine and when it would not start he replaced the water separator fuel filter with a glass inline filter from Pep Boys a hundred times smaller. He also decided the rigging was lose and as he could only get the turnbuckles to turn on starboard side so he did all the tightening on that side. Needless to say the mast was not straight when he was done. The rigging was lose because that is how Lapworth designed it, that is the way my dad kept it, and is the way I keep it now. Oh well, no harm came from that.

Anyway, he motored up to Santa Barbara where his crew abandoned ship. It was then up to me to put together a crew for the rest of the trip. I needed two plus myself. One was Fran and one was Eric, someone I worked with at HP who was both an exceptional engineer and sailor. He worked at Trimble Navigation at the time. We flew down to Santa Barbara with the intension of starting out early but things I can't recall got in the way and we left the dock at 11PM headed for Point Conception. John kept complaining that the compass was bad and that it was a problem on the way up from Los Angeles. As I recall, he said it was off by 30 degrees. It was very dark and all we could see were some points of light off in the distance. John said that he identified one point from the chart and that it was as a buoy and we needed to keep that buoy to our left.

chart to point conception

Luckily Eric brought a GPS receiver along. GPS was very uncommon in 1989 as the first satellites had just been launched earlier that year. This was suitcase sized Trimble prototype. It was very fortunate because he identified the light on the GPS map and it was ashore. John had substracted Magnetic declination instead of adding it. That is why he thought the compass was wrong. Without Eric, we, like Boat Bum Gal, would have run aground and sunk. I ultimately learned that anything that differed from what John thought was correct was not due to John being wrong because John was never wrong. But in this case he was wrong and Eric saved us from a premature death.

The other thing that was happening was that John's Pep Boys fuel filter kept clogging. He would take the filter apart and clean it. I recall he started the engine without turning on the bilge blower several times. This is a gasoline engine and that is not good practice.

It is not uncommon for wood boats to leak a little and Papoose was no exception. After a few hours, we noticed water in the bilge and it bothered John a great deal. It didn't look like much to me, maybe a few cups per minute, but with no electric bilge pumps we got enough water to come above the floor boards with the boat healing (we had unfurled the jib because of the engine problems). The 160% jib in 25 knots was pretty exciting. John counted pump handle pulls, multiplied to what he thought the pump would pull per cycle, and decided we were sinking. I took the pump apart and cleared out the pieces of wood keeping the valves from closing and got the water out of the bilge but by then John had called the Coast Guard saying we were sinking and we were heading back to Santa Barbara.

By the time we got back to Santa Barbara it was the next morning. We were hauled out and the boatyard recommended we put the boat on a trailer and have it driven up to San Francisco. I wanted to take it to a boatyard in Sausalito but the GG bridge was closed to trucks because of the earthquake so we took the advice of the truck driver and took it to Redwood City, which was close to my home and turned out to be an excellent choice.

And that is how I got my boat to SF Bay.

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