Left Coast Lifter

October 27, 2011 Building a Bridge for All the People

Here at work is the Left Coast Lifter. Left Coast a right wing epithet coined to characterize the voting habits of California, Oregon and Washington. We are reliably Liberal. Yesterday was a classic Indian summer day on the San Francisco Bay. This gigantic crane is preparing to hoist into position the last piece of the new Oakland-San Francisco  Bay Bridge. It is a two million pound piece of steel fabricated in Shanghai, China. Ironically the largest public works project in California history turns out to be not quite what it seems. Yes, it will be the largest finished public works project, but it is the largest public works project ever fabricated in another country. I am not sure how that decision was made, but it doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate that if we had fabricated within the United States we might well have employed more people and had more revenue flowing into the community where this fabrication was taking place, paying workers and the factory, and then the workers and the factory would have revenue to pay taxes with and as they say a virtuous cycle might have been enjoyed by the cities, counties and states that all of this activity might have taken place. This is what we our supposed to be electing and appointing leadership to do. In downtown Oakland last night there was a candlelight vigil for Scott Olsen the Iraqi War veteran injured earlier this week when Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan ordered the Occupy Oakland protestors removed from the park they had been encamped in. Here is life, this rich, complex, diverse, multi-faceted stew of all of us mixed up all together and trying to build something that will work better for all of us. I have a suggestion. First, if you are a Mayor forget about removing protestors from your parks. Embrace our right to free speech, to peaceful assembly. Second, if you want to empty the parks of the protestor’s maybe get the big things right, like policy, for example building bridges. Maybe, the cheapest possible price for a bridge part built in China isn’t really the bargain it seems. Perhaps making those bridge parts here might have put food on the table and kept roofs over the heads of our own citizens. Yeah, I’m all for the Left Coast Lifter, I just want it to be lifting the right thing, like the people in this country who need a hand up.

BANKRUPT HEART                                   THE SECOND NOVEL

Ry walked a footpath out to the edge of the bay, a
jetty jutted first south then turned hard to the west forming a breakwater for
the marina. Ry hiked on the trail above the rip-rap. Out on the point where the
jetty turned a woman stood alone in front of an easel. Ry took in the brisk
cool air of morning from behind the watercolorist. She faced the cracking sun
rising from behind the hills in the East
Bay. Next to her was a
portable folding table, sponge, tubes of paint, vase of water, and an
assortment of brushes. She was in no hurry. She stood motionless watching the
horizon. Then, as if coming out of a trance she turned and smiled at Ry. She
had a kindness in her eyes. She was silent, focused. She turned her attention
back to her watercolor.

            “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you
out on the jetty before.”

            “I’ve never been here before.”

            “I know the old Cambodian fisherman,
I call him Bok Choy. He calls me his little pain in the ass.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


Prayer at Sunrise before the Masts

At Dawn Upon the Gateway to Paradise

Here at the Emeryville Yacht Harbor just a stones throw from downtown Oakland site of the horrific riot by police that sent an Iraq war Marine veteran to the hospital where he was being treated to a traumatic head injury when what seems to have happened is a tear gas canister shot at the Occupy Wall Street Protesters by the Oakland Police Department collided with his head.

Not one banker arrested for the world wide meltdown induced by their crimes yet the 99% of us who stand up to them are gathered up by mass arrests. What is so pathetic is that all of this is that as the middle class has undergone three decades of abuse while the masters of our economics and politics have flirted with policies that they knew put at risk the stability of our democracy. You have to have a robust, sizable, functional middle class, of robust size and with reasonable opportunities to sustain and build upon the successes we enjoyed since we last escaped from the brutality of the original Great Depression.

So, does anyone believe that we can enjoy a future based upon allowing the financial system to remain under-regulated… and all of the
other nonsense that seems to be part of a long list of failed policies. Most of the solution is through a path of getting big money out of politics. That won’t happen without a long struggle. Game looks on…

I walked Lacey this morning. It is serene here. There is peace. Floating on the surface were three Western Grebes. I love these birds. I
adore watching them hunting, diving for small fish. They are beautiful. All of this beauty, all of this wonder, this great country, all put at risk by the implementation of the wrong policies by a kind of human being that can not bring themselves to share the loaf of bread. Humanity is all of us, all of us together. I’d recommend the top 1% join the rest of us so that we can get to work building a better world.


two go have a walk. I’m going to stick around shoot the breeze with Mike, he’s
our resident scholar; I enjoy listening to him solve the world’s problems.”

            She found Ry’s comment irresistible
bait. “Not worth it. The world as we know it probably came to an end today.”

            “Good thing I bought a boat,” Finn

            She continued. “Lehman filed for
bankruptcy in London
this morning. Market tanked today.  Guy I
work for looked worried.  All I know is
when my boss looks worried, probably a good time for everyone to worry, but
then that would be a perfectly awful waste of a perfectly delicious bottle of

            “I’ll try and put my drinking to
better use,” Ry said, sitting back down on his stool.

            Ry looked across the bar at Mike.
“You didn’t tell me the market plunged today.”

            “Looks like everything went down
today.” Mike said. “Where’s Finn off to?”

            “He’s off on a little trip to
heaven. Thought I’d stick around and enjoy a little more of this hell.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


Good Man to Go with a Good Woman aboard a Blue Water Vessel

Handmade Excellence...

I’m a big fan of traditional yachts. Here is Chris and Helen’s. Lyle Hess designed this vessel with the Bristol Channel Cutter in mind. She displaces almost twenty thousand pounds. She is made of wood. Chris built her in New Zealand. While her hull is made up wood she’s been sealed (in fiberglass?) and LPU painted. Helen and Chris have sailed her around the world. Chris helped me on a few problems with my wooden sloop Maestro. Building a yacht of this type requires something on the order of seven thousand hours. Having worked along side Chris it is impressive to compare the speed and accuracy of his work with mine. Not only does my work go slower my work doesn’t look as good as Chris’s work when completed. When I lived in the same marina I used to pause anytime he was working on a project to observe how he approached the thing, what tools and techniques he used. In matters such as wooden boat repair not only are there unusual tools there is also an oral tradition to the craft. Much of what you might want to know isn’t written down. The way to do something is passed from one craftsman to the next. You want to know if someone knows what they are talking about take a look at their boat. I enjoy being aboard their fine boat. It is a place where every inch of every part of their boat is an example of skill, seamanship, and wisdom. It is rare that we are allowed to enter into the very inside of the results of a person’s handmade best efforts. I admire this couple and their fine yacht for what it says about how much beauty they see in the building and maintaining of a classic blue water sailing yacht.


“Creating the
universe was really pretty simple, one big bang…and boom, the whole of creation
in one flash. You’d think after a stunt like that it would be so simple, what
in the name of god would have been so hard about making a good man to go with a
good woman?”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


Sailings Unimpeachable Reliable Sources……

Lifeboat Ready to Launch on Stern...It is that diagonal orange object

Sailing is a thinking man’s game. The equipment is complex and so are the sailing skills. And like all human endeavors there are a host of actors, some good and most of the rest? Well, we’ll wish those bad actors a safe voyage as they go about hazarding their own lives at sea. If you look at a big ship you’ll always see that they come equipped with lifeboats. A ship of any size can sink, and any sinking ship is going down because of human miscalculation. If it is equipment failure it is a human that failed to manufacture, maintain or replace the equipment. If the ship hits something it is because a human being wasn’t keeping watch. If it goes aground it means a pilot wasn’t steering the boat in the right direction. And of course
if it is a hurricane, tsunami, lightening storm, collision with an aggressive whale, asteroid falling from the sky or other marvelous acts of god that get us killed at sea we can take comfort in knowing that at least in this case it is our own damn fault for deceiving ourselves into believing that such a thing could never happen to us, those kinds of things happen to those other people. Relatively safe voyaging is never perfect, but for those who simply must take to sea it beats never going because of what you know about mankind. In fact many go to sea because of what they know of mankind. Obtaining good training, finding the best information, and identifying the best most experienced sailing mentors you can find is going to prove crucial to your life. As much as I esteem Bernard Moitessier it should be duly noted he crashed one boat into Mauritius, lost a second in the Caribbean and the last in Cabo San Lucas when Joshua was swept ashore at anchor by Hurricane Paul. So, by all means take what I have to say with a grain of salt, think this through on your own, be careful, you’ve been warned, my hero was a three time loser.


“So, Mike, tell me when was the
last time you were talked down off of a limb you climbed out on, you know what
I mean? According to my understanding on these matters, a man has to do what’s
in here,” Nick pointed to his temple, “and down there,” he pointed somewhere
south of his belt buckle, “they both get to have a say so, they get to speak
their piece, about what a man has to do, and then once its settled, just let
the chips fall where they may.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith



Bernard Moitessier Pelagic Wisdom for Celestial Loons

Inscription from the author

“I am a
citizen of the most beautiful nation on earth. A nation whose laws are harsh
yet simple, a nation that never cheats, which is immense and without borders,
where life is lived in the present. In this limitless nation, this nation of
wind, light, and peace, there is no other ruler besides the sea.”

Bernard Moitessier

            If you don’t
know anything about sailing and would like to know more you could do a lot
worse than to head to your favorite book vendor and acquire anything written by
Bernard Moitessier. I had the great fortune of studying celestial navigation
aboard his world record setting steel ketch Joshua in 1981 in Sausalito. He was a capable navigation instructor.
He spoke with a French accent. At that time I didn’t know his life story and
had no idea he’d been born in Viet
Nam. He embodied both East and West. He
looked all French to me. I knew he was a circumnavigator. I knew he had gone
alone non-stop one and three quarters time around the world aboard Joshua. I
knew right off at first sight that he was a romantic, that his life was a story
of the poet, the soul, the delicate balance between foolishness and courage.
Seeing sailing through Moitessier’s prose is to transcend the practical, the technological
and instead penetrate to a man who has found a method for speaking about the
natural wonders of the oceanic world. Yes, he can be practical. But, it is his
spirit that shines in his books. His bed aboard Joshua was lush, sizable, with
an abundance of velvet pillows and thick multiple colored quilts and goose down
comforters. It was mysterious, celebratory, it was a refuge, a place where deep
sleep could be found, spirits revived, a place where lovers could play. Joshua
was at first sight a no nonsense sea boat. Her purpose was visible even to a
novice. Here the boat and man stood, a team, a boat with a hull made of steel
and a man with a soul infused with the heart of a poet. So, as I suggested at
the outset of this essay and I emphasize at the end. Where do you go to find
out about things? Who do you trust? I would suggest that a place to begin would
be by reading some of Bernard Moitessier’s books. He will prove to be a
reliable timeless guide to the art and craft of sailing the oceans of the world
by way of the soul.

BANKRUPT HEART                                 THE SECOND NOVEL 

“He’s heading out?”
Kristine asked.

“That man loves
open water.” Jackie couldn’t manage a smile. Lenny’s leaving was just as well.
“Those close calls, the false alarms, break a girl’s heart when it turns out to
be nothing.” Jackie was pensive, she reconsidered, “It was better than that.
Must have been, when this one ended it hurt like hell, worst heartache I’ve
ever had.”

“Sometimes a man
can tear a hole right through us,” Kristine said.

“Men will do that.”
Jackie lamented. “But, I’ve never been drawn close to a man who’s not full of a
fight. I like the brawlers, someone you can argue with, I’m talking about a man
that’s trying to make something of his life.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith




Prideful Mariner and the Wooden Sloop that Could

The Joy of Painting

What is it about sailing that you don’t get? The
years I devoted to Maestro had more to do with my learning how to show up and
do something. The relationship between the sleek wooden sloop and my character
expanded me. I became a more complete sailor. I learned that I could handle a
lot of things I didn’t think I could handle. Some days I was lost. Some days I
didn’t know what to do next. Some days I’d spend the whole day doing something
I thought I was going to be done with in less than ten minutes. Hah! What I
believe happens to a sailor who repairs their own wooden boat is that the relationship
between the sailor and boat is more intimate. You come to know every plank,
every screw, every part of every inch that is the boat you sail. And then
sailing does one of the best parts of what sailing can do and that is teach us
more about ourselves, teach us about our capacity to learn. Another piece in
the puzzle is the pleasure that wooden boat is as an experience when actually
being sailed. They have their own motion, they make their own sounds. The
reality is that the whole thing is so temporary, a paint job lasts a year or
two. Everything is from the first day forward in decline and the end of a boat
is not lost from the sailor’s sight. It is the metaphysics of the boat, her
soul, her temporary visit into your life, and the certainty of her final demise
that turns the whole experience into something precious and to be cherished.
Much of this journey will come to be felt as a pain, a vivid sharp pain in your
ass. But, isn’t it always like that?

BANKRUPT HEART             THE SECOND NOVEL             

about purpose that gets a man’s juices flowing. Project like this fills a mind
with planning. There was a new project, unexpected surprises. He had seen
drawings of what his boats hull looked like, but this would be Ry’s first
opportunity to see her out of the water, to see her lines, her shape, what
condition she was in. He sat down with his yellow pad and pencil and began
making a list of the tasks he’d face, tools he’d need and the supplies to buy. Ry
began imagining that Jasmine would
soon be set loose from her dock and that her sails would be hoisted, the wind
would blow, and she would sail. It had been such a long haul. One task at a
time; and with that task now completed it was the appropriate moment to begin
to plan for the next.

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith



Total Displacement of Your Fate

Two point Five tons of fun.......

I sailed into an unexpected robust 29 knot steady wind
Saturday in San Francisco.
By October the autumn pattern has taken hold and with it lighter winds. My wife
and I sailed with another couple departing from the Sausalito Yacht Club. The
gentleman owns a Hinkley 43. It displaces 25,000 lbs according to the numbers I
looked up. Our Jeanneau

Sun Odyssey 36.2 displaces 12,500 lbs. There are a lot of
other disparities between the two boats, but lets just stick with the two
vessels total weight. What do these two numbers mean? One thing it means is
that the heavier displacement vessel, the Hinkley was built with the purpose of
sailing offshore, whereas the Jeanneau can sail offshore, but will handle and
feel begin to get pushed around when the wind and waves increase in speed and
size. For jaunts up and down the coast along California the Jeanneau is sufficient to the
task. Properly prepared the Jeanneau could be sailed offshore in the middle latitudes.
The lighter vessel will need to reduce sail area when conditions intensify, and
sooner. Depending upon the seaway it might be that the lighter vessel is more
difficult to settle down against larger swells and surface chop. The lighter
displacement vessels are attractive because they are designed to move in
lighter conditions where the heavy displacement vessels are ready to slog it
out in a blow. The heavyweight champion in the Hinkley 43 range would be the
Hans Christian weighing in at 31,500 lbs. The Island Packet and Westsail 42 all
go north of 30,000 lbs. J/133 weighs 17,500, a Baltic 42 tips the scale at
16,400… these are the boats that answer to their lighter angels…. The Beneteau,
the Jeanneau tip the scales right at 20,000 lbs. A Swan and Hanse get close to
that same displacement as the Hinkley. If you want to think about the character
of a boat a great place to begin is finding out how much the vessel weighs.
This will tell you much about what kind of sailing you will experience. Did I
mention that the A/C 45’s they’ll be racing in San Diego next month weigh 3500 lbs.? This
will tell you something about the nature of extreme sport. You don’t always
want to bring a knife to a fight sometimes you want a feather.

Bankrupt Heart                                                    The Novel

 It was almost
dark when into the channel the motor yacht Finn was piloting appeared. Her
navigation lights were illuminated. The deep throated rumble of the twin
diesel’s produced a resonant basso
profundo tone. Finn tooted the twin air powered horns announcing his

arrival and alerting other navigators to his movement. She was a sizable boat,
fifty feet long, fifteen feet wide, made of wood, displacing more than eighteen

            Philippe recognized her as soon as
heard the motor and approached the deck overlooking the channel. “Come, Finn
might need a few extra hands…”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


Water Wonder Dog World

Yacht-Doggie as Sailor


Lacey is a good dog. I tell her that. I say, “Lacey you are
a good dog.” She’s deaf now. Can’t hear me, didn’t listen when she could unless
I said, “Where’s the ball?” Then she heard me! She’s 14 years old now and sinks
like a stone. She doesn’t have the energy to doggie paddle any longer. She
traveled with me to Sunfest in West
Palm Beach, Florida
back in 2003. We did shows for a few days and then we sailed off to the east of
Key West and
anchored off and snorkeled for a few days. Barracuda were mighty impressed with
this furry lure. If I dove in off the stern Lacey followed. She didn’t want to
miss a thing. She’ll bury her head beneath the water to look around, at least
she did back in the day. Now, she’s just an old dog. So, we sail the San Francisco Bay together. On blustery days she gives
me a look like, “who do you think, you’re kidding. You call this fun?” Other
days when things are not too raucous out there she doesn’t mind. I used to
leash her to the stern of the Golden Gate
sloop we owned and she’d spend the entire sail mesmerized by the wake kicked up
as the sloop healed over close hauled. Waves to a Jack Russell are like smoke
rings to a cat’s imagination. She can’t hear much anymore but she still helps
me see the world, or in this case the water, through her terrier eyes…This is
dog as lesson, lessons of wonder, life as never seen before….

     Bankrupt Heart                          The Second Novel 


      “Finn possesses such character. I
know your friend well. I think the loon loves his boats more than he loves his
women.” The man began to walk down the dock.

            “You do know Finn,” Ry finished his
thought. “Right about now I’d say there’s a woman trying to change his mind
about that.”

            “God bless the woman for trying. We
should all be so lucky.” The man waved goodnight.

            “What is your cat’s name?”

            “Her name is Asia…I
call her Catalyst, she owns this neighborhood.”

            Ry laughed. “I used to own a whole

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith



Under the Spell of a Golden Gate Wooden sloop, Hull #18 Maestro

Baby in Cradle of the Imagination

Indian summer ignites my passions. I don’t mind a hot summer
day, don’t care for a cold winter night, but those last gasps of balm that
slather my skin as the Northern hemisphere inevitably marches toward winter
stir some deeper part of my yearnings. Because fitting out a wooden sloop is so
time intense they become objects of contemplation. Some days a single task
takes the whole of the day. You get out of a thing what you put into it. Put
your whole back into a marriage and you might just get the life partner your
heart has always dreamed of. So, like the feel of sun on my skin in October the
mere sight of a wooden sloop displaying a refurbished and seaworthy appearance
stirs some illusions I carry in my soul as I quest toward perfections that I
know do not actually exist in reality. And so against the odds a beautiful day
appears between the last storm and before the next. One repaired and soon to be
launched wooden sloop pushes back against the tyranny of all those neglected
hulls dissolving back into the primordial soup from which they arose. My mothers
love for her son was unconditional, absolute, and foundational. As Shunryu
Suzuki would say, “we must find perfection in imperfection.” Work on a wood
sloop beneath the healing beams of an Indian summer day comes close to such a


Bankrupt Heart                                               The Second Novel 

“He had to start over and walk the length of the mast one more time. Seemed by the
time he got to the other end he’d forgot he was supposed to be doing a final
inspection instead of dwelling upon his new job. It was like that for Ry. He
looked up. He turned and looked one direction and then in another direction, he
looked up into the sky, it was blue the air clear the sun warm, he looked down
into the water it was calm, reflecting the sky it was darker but blue, the
siren like high pitched scream of a woodworker cutting an edge with a router in
the distance sounded right to his ear, Palo and Javier were moving boats with
the jitney, Max had just dashed by in his straw hat with his stoic manner, the
yard was alive with one man  painting a
bottom, another man carving out a piece of rot from the hull of a wood boat in
the early stages of a major refit. The long rainy season was giving way to
warmer days. The light of the sun shined more often and longer. The late
afternoon was after a hot shower, if a man had worked to his limit became a time for
satisfaction, for a beer, with the acknowledgement that a hard day’s labor had
moved a project closer to its end.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


Sail Home, Be There, Happy

Here is Home

The canal in San   Rafael, California terminates near downtown just east of Highway 101. A bit further eastward sits the San Rafael Yacht Harbor. I worked on my wooden sloop- Maestro, a Golden Gate hull #18 in this boatyard. I worked on the boat for a few years and then by way of a thousand impossible to predict fateful occurrences ended up living there too. It could be windy, foggy, cold and wet. Winter could be dreary. Weeks of rain made getting from the parking lot to your boat a soggy task. A twenty-five foot flushed decked 70 year old sailboat designed for racing isn’t the most elegant boat a person might choose for living aboard, but where necessity is concerned this boat was more than adequate. I put an awning over the cockpit. Below I had a long bunk with sleeping bag and pillow to sleep on. I kept my shaving kit, bath towel, suitcase, laptop computer, dog bed, dog bowls, and my performing dog on the other bunk. My galley consisted of a single burner stove powered by white gas. I had a sink and water. I had a pot for making oatmeal, bowl and spoon, a kettle for coffee, and two coffee mugs. I maintained two long stem wine glasses for the other end of the day. A few books rested atop my bed next to my reading light.  Winter I ran a small electric heater to stay warm. A small battery powered cool chest was lashed securely in the well of the cockpit. I installed a good bilge pump and unless it was raining it remained off. I kept my act for my show in my Dodge Cummins out in the parking lot. I kept a second suitcase of clothes in my truck. It was where all the extras were stowed. I had a lantern for nights when romance whispered in my ear, and a demure boom box to fill the hull with song. I had a mouse for a guest until he was found. I made new friends and learned new skills. On certain days I actually felt as if I had everything I could ever imagine wanting. There was peace and serenity here. The cost of the thing was well within my means. It was a simple affair. It was compact. I was happy and still am….

Bankrupt Heart                             The Second Novel 

The rigging on the boats in the marina whistled when
the wind blew. The tall wood mast caught the gusts and the sailboat rocked in
her berth. Then, a light rain began to patter atop the roof of the cabin.

“I like it when it rains. With the heater, a fire,
get bundled up, lie down on the bunk, sip something warm, have something good
to read. I find it peaceful.”

Sophia didn’t feel the same.  “I don’t know, I’m not used to it, I miss our
house, I miss San Francisco.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith