When All You Have Is A Hammer

Our first set of “official” boat visitors came from Colorado. Friends Dave and Helen spent the weekend sailing and exploring the harbor. With breakfast on the beach, fresh fish markets, and sailing on the Pacific, it was a wonderful weekend enjoyed by all.

Saturday morning we made it a point to do some snack provisioning for our daysail with Helen and Dave. Upon their arrival we toured the boat, reviewed guest expectations, rules and safety procedures. Next we practiced going through our pre-sail checklist. This time a written version. We made notes on a few items that we missed. While reviewing how to use the VHF radio, we turned to a quick listen for the weather. I started filling out our log book.  The log book records valuable information such as weather, wave conditions, navigational headings, radio use, engine hours, mileage etc., and should be competed with each sail. On this day our weather and sea conditions were North East winds 5-10 knots, variable by afternoon. The sea was flat with 0-1 foot waves.

Presail Checklist

We were ready to go. The pre-sail checklist, done. Just needed to start the engine and we were off. Easy enough. We inserted the key, turned it and click. Uh, . . . nothing? That was a first. We tried again. Turn, then click. Still nothing. The engine would not turn over. As we were troubleshooting, our neighbor Mike came by and told us about the fresh fish market happening at the Harbor Village. Helen and I were excited about this, and opted to run and take a look while the boys worked on the engine. After explaining the dilemma to Mike he suggested hitting the engine starter with a hammer because he had a similar problem in the past. Helen also remembered something similar for dealing with her old VW. At this point, we thought, why not give it a try? Dave grabbed a hammer and hit the starter while Grant turned the key. Sounds crazy, but the engine started!

Troubleshooting   Hammer Away

The boys let the engine run a while and were going to try the trick a few more times to determine if it was just a fluke. Helen and I ran to the fish market. The fish market was put on by local fisherman who had a variety of fish available for purchase. In Iowa you’ve heard of people  getting together to purchase a whole cow, then splitting the meat to take home to stock their freezers. Here, people do the same but with a whole tuna or other large fish. We found that one small precut piece of tuna would suit our needs for the day. We decided we would make a batch of fresh ceviche. A quick stop at the Farmers Market down the road and we had limes, cilantro, onion, tomatoes and an avocado. All good ingredients for fresh ceviche.

Back at the boat, the boys were ready to cast off. We sailed 6 miles off shore and while we were out there wanted to make sure we dumped our waste overboard. For dumping waste in California there are multiple options. You can visit a pump out station within the harbor where you can pump it out yourself,  you can schedule Rusty Bucket a company who will pump you out right in your slip, or, you can go sailing three miles off shore and dump directly overboard. We like the last option the best. As we were pumping, we wanted to make sure the manual overboard waste pump was actually working, so we were straining to see if we could see anything exiting the boat. After some time we finally realized the discharge hole was below the waterline.

Looking for something?   Islands? What Islands?

As the afternoon went on, the ocean causally turned to glass. We enjoyed our freshly made ceviche (by Helen) with some tortilla chips. Then we worked on sail trim and watched our speed increase as the wind picked up enough to get us back into harbor right before dusk.

Ceviche Yum!   We're Sailing!   Folding Up The Sail

On Sunday we had to perform our engine trick once again to get us out of the harbor. There was always the risk that the engine would not start again to get us back into the harbor, but we had a back up plan. Sail to the fuel dock right inside the entrance. Fortunately this was not an issue. On our way out of the harbor a pair of sea lions greeted our friends.

Sea Lions Say Hello

The sea had picked up a bit from Saturday with 2-3 ft. wind waves at 12 seconds. Winds were SW at 5 knots. There was an additional West swell with waves at 4 ft. At some point the wind picked up and we were heeling (leaning over) pretty good. We put a reef (shorted the sail) in the main sail and sported our life jackets. Before the fog fully set in, we decided we should return to the harbor. After a fresh water boat rinse, we finished up the day with a stop at the Ventura Pier and celebrated our friends visit with Indian food at a local restaurant.

LIfe Jacket 1 LIfe Jacket 4 Life Jacket 3 Life Jacket 2

(Photos provided by Dave Taylor)


  • Denise and Grant,

    I would recommend pulling the starter motor and lubricating the bendix throw out shaft. It probably is not returning fully after each ignition attempt. Another maintenance procedure should be to clean the brush contacts with some light emery in case there is a dead spot in the armature track. If this is too much trouble, just replace the starter motor with a new or rebuilt unit.


  • Sticky solenoid. probably don’t need to replace entire starter, but then the difficulty is in the labor and time lost.

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