Why GPS loses its maps

I was still picking up BBs out of the boat from last week, fixing the head from the kids clogging it up, and wondering why all my waypoints have been erased from my GPS when Pam McGreevy, the mother of Andrew's friend Bubba, stops by the boat to pick up her son's bodyboard on her way to work.

As I see Pam walking down the gangway, she says, "Hey Len, thanks for bringing him back in one piece last week."

"Um, yeah, Pam. We did not use the boogie boards that much," I replied.

"Well, Bubba had a great time. Thanks for inviting him," she said.

"Sure," I said. "Did you happen read my story in the Daily Pilot last week?"

Pam had not, so I asked if I could interview her for this week's story. For those of you who do not know McGreevy, she has been a captain on the ferryboats for 14 years and holds her 100-ton skipper's license. Working 40 hours a week is a lot of time on the bay, and I cannot think of many people on the water more than Pam.

When I asked what might be the biggest mistake she sees boaters make, she replied: "Going too fast and not paying close enough attention to their surroundings."

Seems McGreevy has come to notice the rental boats in the harbor and gives them plenty of room because "they never see you."

I then thought, what's the best way for me to communicate my intentions when crossing the ferry zone?

McGreevy told me you could always pick up your VHF radio and turn to channel 6.

"The large charter boat captains do this all the time" she said.

"It's always simpler for me when I know what the other captain's intentions are," she said.

Most boaters do not know the sound signals, but there are a couple of sound signals the ferryboat captain's use.

Three shorts blasts mean the boat is in reverse. Five short blasts mean danger. And one prolonged blast means leaving the dock. A number of ferryboat captains will also just honk at you to get your attention.

Pam also told me that one of her concerns is the speed the cars go when getting onto the ferry.

"With all the kids around and crossing over the sidewalks, I just wish more people would slow down," she said.

My last question for McGreevy was regarding boat handling and how she compensates for current and wind.

McGreevy told me to "always approach the dock, going against the current; you will stay in control longer." I have to try this because I have always tried to approach the larger slips at the Balboa Yacht Club by trying to time my side slip and approach the slip by going with the current.

This is why I have been less than successful when the tide is ripping. It was very reassuring talking with Pam because she knows the navigation rules better than any of the other skippers I have met over the years.

So do the ferryboats have right of way over all other boats in the harbor?

No, they are like any other vessel in the harbor, although when they have a full load it is very difficult for them to maneuver. So when you approach the ferry zone, take a look at what the boats are doing. If need be, contact them on channel 6. Also remember these captains spend a large part of their days talking to their friends at the Harbor Patrol.

And also keep in mind that "tonnage" always wins.

When McGreevy left the boat, I still needed to fix the head. I was running out of time, so I called Jeff Roberts at Boat Plumbing. He told me right away how to fix my problem and also gave me some good advice on keeping my holding tank clean. On my way home from Catalina while dumping my tank, Jeff told me to pump as much freshwater through the system as I could, and also to dump some environmentally friendly cleaner.

What's the best secret to keeping your plumbing system working?

"Use it," Roberts said.

Next I needed to figure out why I had lost all my waypoints in my GPS. So I called my old sailing buddy Robert Kinney at Alcom Marine Electronics. First thing he asked is if I had used the GPS in awhile. My reply was "last summer when we went to Catalina."

"Len," Robert said, "you have to use the GPS from time to time to keep the memory batteries charged. So every time you go down to the boat and take a bay cruise, start up all your electronics so that they can get some exercise. Also, if you have a boat with satellite TV, make sure you turn the TVs on once a month, because if the system does not receive a ping it will turn itself off."

The last thing I noticed this week was that there is no easy way to remove bad fuel or coolant from your boat. You have to pay someone to dispose of it for you. I find it strange that the city does not have a place for us to dispose of this waste for free somewhere in town. E-mail me your thoughts at boseyachts@mac.com.

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