Take Me There…

Boy Fishing
I am down by the water again. And I am young. Very young.
I can hear the seagulls and the sound the wakes of passing boats make against the bulkhead, perfectly timed and mesmerizing. There’s the smell of the old wooden docks and the creosote on the pilings, blue black, bubbling and shiny in the mid day heat of summer. My eyes narrow in the glare of the sun off the water.

The water. Where I want to be.

My fingers are sticky with tar and sand, as are my jeans from where I sat on the dock while I watched the boats go by, dreaming of having my own. Someday.

I look closely at my hand. Now it’s the hand of a middle aged man sticky with tar off of a dock line I just coiled. From my boat, a boat I dreamt about on that long ago afternoon of my youth.

I was just there, in that moment, but now I’m back in the present, not really sure that I want to be. Placing my hand close to my face I inhale the powerful aroma of the creosote.
And I go back there again. Happiness warms me like the heat of that day.

This happens to me a lot, especially as the time of my youth grows further away             from my present. Certain aromas stimulate my memory, as they do to all of us, but mine are always from and around the water.

They can  take me there, even when I’m not.

Gasoline and two-stroke oil will do it.  Mixing the two, my hands become those of a fifteen-year-old again, trying in vain not to spill the blue, precious oil around the lip of the portable red metal gas tank from my first outboard. A tank full of dark powerful leaded gas and the promise of adventure it will yield me with my boat. The clink of the brass safety chain in the tank and the click of the black cap on the lip insure the moment is real.

Then comes the clouds of pulsing exhaust, richly choked, sputtering perfect drops of oil and water behind the boat where they form tiny rainbows on the water’s surface.

I can see the undulating sandy smooth bottom through the clean, salty water. Drying barnacles and seaweed scent the air. Silver and green baitfish are spooked by my shadow and flee from impending danger. I carefully place my aqua-marine Penn 710 Spinfisher fishing reel in the reel seat of my rod and secure it with several twists of the locking rings. A tang of Three-in-One oil wafts by as I slip the rod in a holder. I look up and lock eyes and smile with my oldest friend as he hands down more gear from the dock. Sea & Ski assaults me. Only now, I’m seeing my friend through progressive lens, prescription sunglasses. I’m closer to four times fifteen than one. I close my eyes, inhale, and go back there once more.

Paint BrushesOpening a can of Z Spar Captain’s Varnish takes me there. I am drawn closer to the amber, viscous elixir of my youth, breathing deep, meaningful moments from its pungent scent of tung oil. I’m twenty-one, standing at my bench on the sandy-floored, quiet paint shop of the old boatyard surrounded by the tools of my trade. I carefully select my badger hair brushes from a dented metal ammo case. Unwrapping them from their cloaks of waxed paper, the hairs are soft and slippery with thinner from yesterday’s cleaning. A thirty- five foot Aage Nielson mahogany sloop named Masquerade is behind me on the railway, as are her five coats of black enamel and countless hours of my labor. Sunlight mixes with unfiltered Camels as the ancient mechanic leans in the doorway of the adjacent engine shop.

You done with it yet, Michelangelo?! he wheezes and then tosses out a butt with his final say as he slides away. It’s just a boat you know. Well, maybe to him I think, but not to me or her owner who is coming out from New York this weekend, anxious to see her and my hand applied progress. I return to my task, readying to brush her first coat of cabin house varnish. I fret about how much Penetrol to add to the varnish to help counteract the press of the day’s humidity. Its golden color swirls as I stir it into my paint pot of strained varnish, releasing the pleasantly teasing but unhealthy aromatic hydrocarbons. I need more…

Three decades and 3000 miles span the moment. My hand shakes with nervousness as I now attempt to apply varnish to the tiller of my sailboat, Patience. I stare at the foam brush in my hand, wishing I had retrieved my badger brushes out of storage, still wrapped in wax paper in a metal box with more dents. Smelling of my youth.

Take me there.

We all go there thanks to something that triggers our memories. Not for long. Time unfurls itself and we are there again in the moment. Fleeting but real. A place and time we knew and perhaps shared with others. Just don’t try too hard to look for it. It’s there waiting, right under your nose. Have a nice trip.

MasqueradeTake me there.

Posted in About John Baier, Boating, Fishing | 3 Comments

They’re Back……….”Patience” Wins 1st in the 2013 Corinthian Yacht Club Midwinters, Division C and 1st in the 2013 Rob Moore Memorial Race, Division C

During January and February I liberated Patience, my 23′ Ranger, from her slip in front of my office and aided by several friends, participated in two beautiful, spirited weekends of sailboat racing on San Francisco Bay. Once again the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon put forth what has long been recognized as a premier Bay Area Midwinter Regatta with the added enticement of including the Rob Moore Memorial Race as Race #3 in the four-race series.

Rob Moore was a very close friend, long time editor at Latitude 38 magazine and a world-class sailor.  His death last year from lung cancer at age 58 left a global void in the sailing community.  Rob, a non-smoker, was a huge proponent of the Corinthian YC Midwinters, hence, the designation of Race 3 as the RMMR.

Close racing in Division C left the top three boats separated by only one point each. Our scores of 2, 1, 1, and 3 gave us the low point total of 7 to win Division C overall.  Most personally satisfying was our first place finish in the RMMR.  I raced with Rob for years on his various boats and benefitted accordingly from his vast knowledge.  Some of it I actually retained over the years despite my somewhat famous attempts with Rob at beer-making.  Fittingly, the first place trophy in each division consisted of a large, etched glass beer pitcher.  A likeness of Rob’s trademark mustache dominated the etching.

Laughter was the key ingredient in our four races.  In the first race I was joined by my longtime crew member, Steve Shinn, as well as Mike Wrisley.  (Mike introduced me to racing as a crew member onboard a Moore 24 back in 1982.)  We had a great start but traffic at the weather mark from larger boats in different divisions made for a laborious (should I say confused!) rounding.  The rest of the course was sailed with non-stop, good-natured criticisms of each other’s abilities covering everything from my steering, choice of sandwiches and beer brand to Mike’s footwear (suede boots?) and inability to now fit in a 2XX large PFD (most likely due to beer consumption), to Steve’s long-suffering tenure onboard Patience as foredeck where he sometimes referred to her and me as Impatience.

Winning the CYC 2013 Midwinters, Division C

Winning the CYC 2013 Midwinters, Division C

The second race had Steve and me joined by Grand Banks 32 and Cal 20 owner, Glen Hall.  New to the race program, Glenn had completed a few CYC Friday night beer can races with Steve and me.  Laughter again ruled the day despite very light winds and adverse currents which clearly affected the beer supply and our Patience!

The third race (the RMMR) had Mike, Steve and I scheduled.  At the last minute I received a call from James Fryer, old friend and single-handed sailor extraordinaire, on his Wylie 34, Cheyenne.    In the early 90s, I frequently joined James onboard Cheyenne in double-handed bay or ocean races, including a memorable and rough Double-Handed Farallones race.  We nicknamed ourselves The Fryer and Baier Hard Rock Sailing Team after really pranging a rock in the shallows off Pinole on the return leg of a Vallejo 1-2 race.  James was also a part of the early days of beer making/sailing with Rob Moore and held Rob in high esteem.  What better way to pay Rob tribute than for James to join us onboard Patience?

So now, having four sailors aboard for the upcoming race, with a combination weight close to 800 lbs (Mike!), I purged every ounce of unnecessary gear out of Patience to compensate for James and the additional sustenance he would require, including the extra sandwich.

Race morning found a relaxed crew onboard a slightly lighter Patience as we headed out to the start from the CYC.  We were pushed along at five knots by my whopping 4HP Johnson outboard.  With forty minutes to our start we had plenty of time to make it across Raccoon Straights and out to the starting area by Little Harding buoy.  There was no wind in the Straights as I motored by a fellow Division C competitor drifting under flogging sails on his Harbor 20 (which rates the same as my Ranger 23).  The ebb current was insuring him of never making the start as he drifted out towards the Golden Gate Bridge with no engine on board.  Clearly saving weight!  The same scenario was befalling an Etchell 22 as he vainly tried to sail to the start but was even further away from the starting line than the Harbor 20.

Hmmmmm, I mused.  I could laugh at both skippers’ poor planning and misfortune, carry on to my own start and clearly not have a prime competitor to race against me.  My other choice was to be a good sport and tow them both to the starting area.  The clock was ticking against them both and then me as I turned around towards them.  We rigged two  lines, one on each port and starboard primary winch, hooked them up and made off to the start with only 20 minutes to spare.  Patience’s speed was down to three knots as the little Johnson gamely struggled onward, towing the additional 5,000 lbs of Harbor 20 and the 30′ Etchell, plus their combined weight of five crew!  This was going to be really close and might be the stupidest thing I had ever done in the name of sportsmanship.  If I missed my start I would never forgive myself, not to mention my crew’s assessment of me and this dicey move.

Thankfully we were granted a reprieve when our start was delayed due to an earlier start having to be repeated because of overly eager competitors.  Whew!  So a bit later, off we went crossing the line on time, accompanied by the Harbor 20.  At the first mark they were way out front due to our/my bad tactics (gulp).  Nice work John.  I could really use some help here Rob I said under my breath as the phrase no good deed goes unpunished rattled around my head.

Faced with the decision of just following the leaders of my class and losing or trying another great (?) tactical move and splitting from the fleet, we unanimously chose the latter.  We would die trying and go down in flames or maybe, just maybe, pull this one out of the hat.  We sailed off confident and of course, laughing.  A half hour later we crossed the finish line ahead of all our competitors, except for one 30′ boat who finished slightly in front of us.  Due to our rating differences, I corrected out in front of him, winning the race.  My crew and I marveled at our change of luck or perhaps, it was Karma pay-back?

The last race took place the next day with just Steve and myself aboard Patience as we had been so many time over the years.  A long course took us across San Francisco Bay over to the city and then back to the CYC to finish.  The fresh breeze at the start, on the weather leg, and for most of the first third of the reach back to Tiburon, slowly diminished.  Thanks to a very quick sail change from the #2 to the light #1 by Steve, we stayed in the hunt but still mid-fleet.  Once again we split out from our competitors and headed to the Sausalito side of the course in search of the building flood current, hoping it would help us get pushed to the last mark before the finish.  It did and we came in third, good enough to take the series first overall.  We’re back!


Mike, Steve and John with pre-start smiles

Mike, Steve and John with pre-start smiles

Race #1 Start, "Patience" carries the sail designation R23 and sail# 37987

Race #1 Start, “Patience” carries the sail designation R23 and sail# 37987

CYC 2013 1st Race Reaching Leg

CYC 2013 1st Race Reaching Leg

Corinthian Midwinters 1.20.13

Corinthian Midwinters 1.20.13

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Meet Lucy – Oceanic’s Newest Member

For anyone who has been involved with Oceanic over the years, they are familiar with the family of standard poodles that have greeted them at Oceanic’s door.  Each of our dogs had their own personality and considered intelligent, social as well as opinionated….they lived long, happy lives and are very much missed.

We were down to just one four pound toy poodle, Roxy, who is technically our daughter’s dog when last month, we acquired a black Lab named Lucy.  Lucy comes to us from Portland where she was my father-in-law’s dog.  However, he has since become quite ill and asked that we bring Lucy home with us to California.  We immediately said, yes.

Lucy was only born July 2011 so in many respects, is still a puppy.  She has a heart of gold but definitely needs several lessons in good manners.  So while Lucy won’t be accompanying me to the office at this time, you can expect to see her later in the year as she comes to understand what is socially acceptable and how to control her joyful exhuberance……..Image

Posted in A Day in the Life of a Yacht Broker, About John Baier, Dogs, Oceanic Poodles | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year

Wow!  I can’t believe 2012 has flown by and I haven’t posted anything since last January.  But it was an amazing year at Oceanic with a great deal happening so updates were sadly neglected.  Of course that meant I didn’t get much racing in either but perhaps that will change in 2013……

We opened a new office in Silicon Valley at the new and beautifully designed marina at Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City.  For individuals living in the Bay area’s south peninsula, Westpoint Harbor offers a central location, generous amenities and Mediterranean weather.  Please check out their website at www.westpointharbor.com.

Consequently, a new office meant adding more sales representatives in Silicon Valley.  David Lee started in June 2012 and Rick Pfaff will be starting this month.  Both will be working at our Westpoint Harbor office.  David has a long history in yacht sales in the Bay area.  Please read his bio at www.oceanicyachts.com, under Meet the Crew.  His cell number is 510.381.1400.  Rick Pfaff, a past Commodore of the St. Francis Yacht Club, recently sold his company but being an avid sailor and owner of the famous sailboat, Alpha, a 47′ Sparkman and Stephens Custom Aluminum Sloop, he wanted to stay close to the water.  Rick has sailed Alpha on San Francisco Bay for the past 22 years and now has her for sale with Oceanic.  If you would like to contact Rick, his cell phone is 650.222.4563.  Photos and specs for Alpha can be found under Yachts for Sale at oceanicyachts.com.

Meanwhile, Oceanic is working towards building its sailboat division under the direction of Joe Biondo.  I heard of Joe when he worked a few years ago for another Bay area brokerage because he was achieving outstanding sales results during the worse of times for this industry.  Joe started with Oceanic in the fall of 2010 on a part-time basis but is now working full-time out of our Sausalito office.  His marketing skills are superb. And interestingly, Oceanic is now being approached by several sailboat manufacturers in the United States and Europe to perhaps represent their brands in the bay area.  Stay posted. And check out our sailboat listings as well.

Our office at Perry’s Harbor in the Delta continues going strong.  Last year we quickly sold our inventory there so we are eager to replace those listings.  For interested clients, Oceanic can offer covered or uncovered slips.  We also intend to add to our sales force in the Delta area if anyone is interested.  Our sales rep, Steve Coghlan, has been managing that division alone so would welcome assistance with an office that still has much potential.  If you are interested and have serious sales experience, please give me a call at 415.377.0866.

I am proud to say we were successful in selling a number of boats in 2012 which I have listed below.  Thank you to our many clients who come back to Oceanic time and time again, for referring us to family and friends, and to new clients who have put their trust in our experience and customer service.  We couldn’t do any of this without you.

And as we continue to forge our way into the 21st century, we are building on social medial outlets as well.  Check out our Tumblr page entitled The Nautical Life at oceanicyachts.tumblr.com.  It’s an interesting visual collage of nautical events, products, videos, etc.  Enjoy and Happy New Year.

Yachts Sold During 2012 by Oceanic Sales Staff
  1. 68 Hampton 2009
  2. 68 Hatteras 1984
  3. 57 Symbol 1999
  4. 56 Carver 2003
  5. 56 Sea Ray 2001
  6. 56 Bruce Farr 1983
  7. 56 Stephens 1970
  8. 55 Ocean Alexander 1979
  9. 48 Offshore 2001
  10. 47 Hanse 2009
  11. 47 Grand Banks Europa 2009
  12. 47 Grand Banks Europa 2006
  13. 47 Bayliner 1996
  14. 45 Meridian 2008
  15. 45 Bayliner 1993
  16. 44 Atlantic 1977
  17. 44 Hylas 1980
  18. 43 Feretti 1999
  19. 42 Beneteau 2004
  20. 42 Grand Banks Classic 1993
  21. 42 Nova 1987
  22. 42 Grand Banks Europa 1980
  23. 42 Grand Banks Classic 1978
  24. 41 Hunter 2008
  25. 41 Regal 2001
  26. 41 Hunter 1999
  27. 40 Cruise-A-Home 1976
  28. 38 Pearson True North 2005
  29. 38 Pearson True North 2004
  30. 38 Grand Banks Eastbay 2000
  31. 36 Catalina 2006
  32. 36 Meridian 2006
  33. 36 Grand Banks Classic 1974
  34. 36 Grand Banks Sedan 1965
  35. 34 Mainship 2008
  36. 34 Sea Ray 1986
  37. 34 Mainship 1983
  38. 33 Sea Ray 1997
  39. 32 Sea Ray Sundancer 2005
  40. 31 Sea Ray 2003
  41. 27 Tiara 1993
  42. 27 Sea Ray 1990
  43. 25 Harbor 2008
  44. 25 Bayliner 1988


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Racing Corinthian Yacht Club Mid Winters

This past weekend, January 21-22, I participated in one of the largest regattas on San Francisco Bay at the Corinthian Yacht Club. Although I have owned my Ranger 23, Patience, for over 22 years, I had not raced her since 2006. After weeks of preparing her, both days’ conditions of 25 knots of wind and driving rain tested both of us.

This series of photos was taken from the Committee boat moments after the starting gun went off in Sunday’s race. Wet, wild and cold but a fun return to one of my favorite pastimes.

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Night Lights

Solstice Sunset

With winter’s chill upon us, one of my favorite holiday boating experiences is a night cruise to see the Christmas lights at various marinas and yacht clubs.

The Friday before Christmas I coerced my friends, Glenn and Mary Beth Hall, to bundle up and take the tour of Sausalito and Belvedere with me.  The Halls own a Grand Banks 32 and recently purchased a Cal 20, both which are kept in Sausalito at Clipper Yacht Harbor.  Capable and enthusiastic shipmates with adventurous sides, Glenn and Mary Beth are on my go-to short list for waterborne fun.  We left at sunset aboard my 1966 16′ Slickcraft with a 60HP Yamaha 4-stroke outboard, appropriately named Laughter.  This was my  first boat I purchased when I was 14 years old, growing up on Long Island.

They say you never forget your first girl friend.    Trust me, in my case it’s true because I still have her, 38 years and 3000+ miles later.  Like any wonderful woman, she has cost me dearly, but to me she is priceless.  Tonight we shared another special evening together.

The temperature hovered in the high 40’s.  Not a breath of wind distorted the reflections of the various objects above the water’s surface.  As twilight enveloped us the air’s clarity intensified, sharpening the image of every single light ashore or afloat.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus I mused as the first arrays of Christmas lights began clicking on and brightening our already festive mood.

We passed through Sausalito’s various marinas as the night began its own display of brilliance.  Each star wavered and danced above us on the deep black background of infinity.  My thoughts went back to similar December nights some thirty years ago as my frozen fingers attempted to manipulate my sextant to achieve a star sight off the coast of eastern Long Island during a celestial navigation (aggravation) class.  Once again I was engulfed by the good feelings of our winter holidays as warm memories came to mind, aided in a small part by our friends in Scotland…..

Approaching Belvedere and Tiburon from Raccoon Straights, we were delighted by the colorful displays onboard the yachts at Corinthian and San Francisco Yacht Clubs.  With many a Corinthian Yacht Club Friday Night Race behind me on my Ranger 23, Patience, we headed to their guest dock.  Once inside the club, what to do?  Sit at the beautiful bar overlooking the Christmas-lighted boats?  Face the crackling fireplace?  Or, position ourselves at a table in the lounge overlooking Angel Island and the city beyond?  I was drawn to the boats as usual.  I deeply appreciated the spirit and creativity the owners of these decorated boats displayed.  We sat entranced by their thoughtfulness at the bar and toasted to their good fortune.

Leaving CYC we noticed the solitary white light atop Angel Island.  I mentioned this light had been extinguished during WWII but was re-lit every December 7th for the holidays in memory of those who sacrificed their lives serving our country.  I gave silent thanks to those individuals and their families for allowing me this special moment.  Turning towards the Bay we were stunned by the reflection of lights from the city and Golden Gate Bridge.  Those lights seemed to melt together leaving no visible horizon.  We were afloat on a burnished bay of gold, red and green.  Looking back toward Tiburon we saw our wake was alive with moving colors.  There was not another boat underway, anywhere.

In short time, we found ourselves tied up and warmly ensconced by the fire at Sausalito Yacht Club.  Peeling off layers of fleece, we settled into a comfortable seat, relishing the moment and our shared appreciation for boating, boats and our fellow yachtsmen.  The gift that keeps on giving……

Next stop was Sausalito Cruising Club.  After a challenging unmarked approach, we were secure beside the club’s concrete barge.  The club was floated upon that barge back in  1980. I helped prep for that moment down in the bilge of the leaking original WWII vintage barge, nailing sheets of plywood to reinforce its bottom and “waterproofing” the seams with roofing tar.  It worked and here we were years later, enjoying a fine meal and live music.  The views of boats only added to the evening’s pleasure.

Decorated boats for Christmas

Leaving the dock at low tide proved adventurous with Mary Beth operating the search light as Glenn and I tried to navigate the channel out.  Laughter vibrated with an occasional tap of the prop in the mud.  We called it boating by Braille many nights among the sandbars of Great South Bay.

We finally arrived back at my sales dock around 9:30, somewhat chilled but clearly thrilled by our Yule tide experience.

So my advice for 2012?  Just do it!  Take advantage of these calm, cold, clear nights afloat.  Feel the evening’s bite in the air, the companionship of close friends and a splash of holiday spirit.  Have a safe and Happy New Year!

Mirror, mirror......

Posted in About John Baier, Boating | 1 Comment

Big Wheels Keep “A-Turnin” (Most Times)

“Breaker, Breaker, Yacht Roller? You got your ears on? Big Wheels wants to know.”

“Ten Four Big Wheels.  This is Yacht Roller.  Come on back now.”

“Yacht Roller? Big Wheels here.  I heard your kitty cat is sick.”

“Affirmative Big Wheels. We’re broke down on I5.  This big Cat engine gave it up this morning pulling on this load.”

“Dang Yacht Roller! You must be in a world of hurt.  You got a dragon wagon ready to tow you?”

“Ten Four Big Wheels…wait’n on it.  Just like the owner of this here yacht loaded on my rig.”

Not to mention his yacht broker!

So began yet another chapter in what proved to be a most challenging boat deal.  I had helped my Buyer find the boat of his dreams in L.A. last March but we had been unsuccessful in our initial attempts to reach an agreeable purchase price with the Seller through his Listing Broker. When the Buyer came back to the negotiation table three months later, we discovered that the boat was technically off the market and the Seller was in the process of trucking it from Los Angeles to Seattle in hopes of finding a more responsive marketplace.  As it was now Labor Day weekend the truck was stopped somewhere in Oregon waiting for permits to move further north.  Meanwhile, the Seller was cruising his other yacht in the vicinity of Vancouver Island with sporadic cell phone coverage, his Listing Broker was back in L.A. enjoying the holiday weekend, the truck dispatcher was in Tacoma, WA while the Buyer and I were in Northern California doing our best to re-negotiate the deal.

By Sunday of Labor Day weekend we had reached an agreement on the price of the boat  as well as the new logistics and costs of returning the boat to San Francisco Bay.  The truck could then simply turn around and start heading south while the dispatcher re-applied for California permits.

Within hours of closing our deal the following Tuesday and with the knowledge that the truck was now headed back, we were informed by the dispatcher that the truck had blown its engine.

So this was a new one in my 27 years of yacht sales.  I have had many boats moved all around the country with no problems.  But now, a blown engine on this truck?  Sounded simple enough.  Send another truck to finish the trip with the same rig.  Except there were none powerful enough available.  This Eastbay 43 weighed 35,000 pounds empty.  With fuel and water onboard, it was closer to 40,000.  The dispatcher told us they were towing the rig to a repair center and we would have to wait for the engine to be re-built.  Turn-around in these 24 hour-a-day shops was 72 hours, three days max.  With no choice but patience, we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  As did the shop for parts from Caterpillar.  Finally, after six full days the rig was underway again.

The truck ran great for almost 100 miles.  Then it blew up again.  And so did I.

Surprisingly, this time there was another truck powerful to carry all the eggs in the basket as the truckers say.  So they swapped out the cabs and the rig was off and rolling.

Except for the blowout.   Which broke the fender loose.  Which scratched the bottom of the boat.  Which raised my blood pressure.

Ten days late from the original ETA, the truck finally did arrive and the boat was off loaded safely.  Re-assembled and launched, she was delivered to her home port and new owner a week later.

“Breaker, Breaker, Yacht Roller.  This is the Yacht Broker.  Got your ears on?” (Hmmmmm, no answer?  Maybe his radio is broken now…….)

As I mentioned, I can’t remember such an incident ever happening before unless of course you count the time when the driver of a rig we had loaded with a power boat in Florida that, per the insurance company, absolutely, positively, needed to leave the next day before the hurricane arrived, broke his tooth and called us on the way to his dentist……..but that’s another story.

Posted in A Day in the Life of a Yacht Broker, About John Baier, Boating | Tagged , | 1 Comment