Clark Beek

Core Electrical System Revamp

1 Feb


This is a standard project for any sailboat older than thirty, for three reasons:

  1. Sailboats used to be built with electrical systems designed to power a VHF radio and a reading light, and now we ask them to power refrigeration, inverters, all kinds of electronic gizmos, and to charge the battery banks that supply them.
  2. Electrical stuff has come a long way in the last thirty years. Back then we had variations of automotive equipment, and now we have purpose-built, high capacity alternators and regulators, marine wire, and better distribution products.
  3. The thirty-year-old stuff is, well, thirty years old,
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Dock Line Death Test

25 Jan

In the book The Bad Girl, by Mario Vargas Llosa, a character named Arquimedes has a preternatural ability to tell where breakwaters and groins should be built. He can tell just by meditating on the sea whether the breakwater will serve its purpose or make matters worse. The best hydrologists and engineers in Lima always hired Arquimedes, because if they didn't their projects often ended up as expensive failures.

Pier 39 Marina, where I keep my boat in San Francisco, did not hire Arquimedes. It's hard to figure out the mechanics, because there are breakwaters and sea walls every which ...

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Looking for a Ship

20 Jan

I'd just finished reading John McPhee's excellent book, when I had to go looking for a ship myself.

I am a member of the Clipperton Project, which embarks from La Paz, Mexico for Clipperton Island this March.

We have one boat, the Lucia Celeste, which is a sturdy craft, but as the numbers wax and wane with camera crews, turtle savers, ham DXers, and others whose functions I don't understand, we might want some additional capacity.

We stayed aboard the Lucia Celeste while in La Paz, and we were quite comfortable, but it's hard to imagine her loaded down ...

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Minivan Aweigh

14 Jan

My dad and my brother had a very busy day at the Balboa Island Ferry, our family business in Newport Beach. Each ferry carries three cars, and for nearly a hundred years we've upheld a kind of social contract, which says that the cars will ride on the ferry to get to the other side. Today the social contract was broken.

A minivan with a Taiwanese tourist family inside was pushed off the ferry, into the bay, by an errant Mercedes. The minivan floated for several minutes, during which a few dinghies unloaded the family, their baggage, and their ...

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Not Born to Buff

13 Jan

You might ask what my buffer is doing in the bathroom. I'll get to that.

I few months ago I ponied up and bought the Makita 9227c buffer/polisher. I'd accepted that no real buffing or polishing of paint, gelcoat, or stainless was going to happen by hand. I needed some horsepower, and followed many recommendations for this beefy, variable-speed machine, which cost about $250.

I am the first to show proper awe and reverence to a power tool, more so for anything that has a spinning blade. Before I use a table saw or circular saw I take all the ...

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Commerson’s Dolphins Video

6 Jan



This video shows the only friends we made on the Patagonian coast.

This pod of Commerson's Dolphins stuck with us through thick and thin for hundreds of miles of sailing. They are the cutest of all cetaceans at about five feet long. Most dolphins/porpoises swim excitedly off your bow, sometimes for hours, but if you stop the boat they lose interest quickly and drift off. No so with our friends the Commerson's Dolphins. When the weather got nasty we hove too, as we did in this video, and they hung out in the slick we left to windward…for hours. ...

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Remembrance of Things Bashed

5 Jan

The link posted by The Mariner to the Cowes Race Week boat dismating was like replaying what happened to me off the Brazilian coast in 2006. It was nighttime and the ship that hit me was moving a bit faster, but the accident was much the same: A T-bone by an 800-footer, my ketch then sliding down the ship's port side, and the ship's port anchor catching the forestay/roller furler and carrying it away. But my mast stayed up. Isn't sailing fun?

You can read my whole container ship accident story here, and scare your children into keeping a ...

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Bluenose New Year

30 Dec

I’m in Nova Scotia, visiting my wife’s family for the week. I’m sorry I ever complained about San Francisco being cold. Even the lobsterman down the street says it’s too cold and rough to go out.

My in-laws live just outside of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home of the Bluenose. The Bluenose is a 140-foot fishing schooner, built in Lunenburg in 1921, and famous for beating the US for the International Fisherman’s Trophy over the course of the next seventeen years.

Bluenose launch, Lunenburg, March 26, 1921 - courtesy of the Nova Scotia Archives

She was the first non-human to be inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. She’s ...

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Running and Broaching Video

22 Dec

This video is a great illustration of the mechanics of running with a storm. It's hard to see this kind of thing live, becaue nobody wants to get a camera out in these conditions,  plus they're hanging on for dear life and can't film. In this case another vessel was following them to capture the action.

The waves aren't that big, but they sure are steep. You can have huge waves out there, but if they're not breaking they pose no danger. These are short, steep little monsters, and the possibilities of pitchpoling or a knockdown are obvious. 

This boat ...

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A Lot of Wind Video

19 Dec

As I've said many times, sailors are notorious exaggerators, and the wind and waves always seem to get a little higher and stronger after a few drinks. The video below is what I consider a lot of wind. I posted this video on YouTube a few years ago as an experiment, and I'm shocked that over twenty thousand people have watched it, which I guess isn't that many in the YouTube world.

To answer nitty-gritty questions, this was at Peninsula Tamar, at the Boca Occidental of the Straits of Magellan, with a typical low pressure system blowing through. Captain Slocum ...

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