Wednesday, October 23, 2013



Twenty years ago, I assisted an owner from Tulsa, Oklahoma deliver his 57' Chris Craft Constellation down the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers to Destin, Florida.

At one of our stops, Vicksberg, Mississippi, we tied up to the backside of a faux riverboat casino for some rest and relaxation. As I explored Vicksberg, I found myself at a large antebellum rooming house that held dinner for their tenants and those who walked up their steps. I was welcomed in and seated at a huge circular table with seating for 10-12. In the center of the table was a large Lazy Susan; a round turntable loading with various dishes. Fried chicken, greens, okra, banana pudding. Thank goodness it only takes three digits to call the paramedics!

Good home-style southern cooking, there was a casserole that I just couldn't get enough of. After dinner, I approached the owner of the house who was also the cook. But no matter how much I pleaded for the recipe, she just wouldn't give it up (I can relate what with my famous mini-muffin recipe). But I was undeterred. After some trial and error, I created my own casserole which has satisfied many a guest over the years.

Casseroles are a terrific way to create a complete meal in just one dish.


3 boneless, skinless chicken beasts
4 cups broccoli flowerets
1 26 oz can of condensed creme of chicken soup
1 10 ounce can of shoepeg corn
2 ½ cups cornbread stuffing mix
3 lemons, juiced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Marjoram
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
(Optional) Turkey or andouille sausage


Juice the three lemons. In a mixing bowl, whisk together juice with the EVVO and crushed garlic. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, in a quart sized freezer bag and flatten with a rolling pin. Cut chicken into 1-2 inch chunks and marinate in the lemon-garlic for 15 minutes. Strain chicken in a colander and toss in the marjoram. Pre-heat oven to 350°

While waiting on the oven, fry chicken in a hot skillet or wok. For this dish, I like season the skillet with hardwood smoked bacon for added flavor. Some stores sell “bacon ends and pieces” at half the price premium thick cut bacon; often coming from the same packers. Because the chicken absorbed the lemon-garlic, as it cooks it releases the liquid. By covering the pan, the chicken is poached to a juicy tenderness. Drain chicken.

In an 8”x 8”, two quart casserole dish, cover bottom with 1/3rd of the condensed soup. Layer the chicken on the bottom followed by layer of broccoli and then soup mix. Add one more layer of chicken/broccoli and the rest of the condensed soup. Top with the shoepeg corn.

As per package instructions, prepare the cornbread stuffing. While “fluffing the stuffing” I like to drizzle a little maple syrup into the mix.

Once the stuffing is ready, cap the casserole being sure that the corners are left exposed for escaping heat. Place casserole on a cookie sheet and place on the center rack and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before plating. Serve with a stout beer.

Enjoy! JW


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The FrankenFerry

Ok. I'll get back to the title of this episode. But I should point out that, actually, there are three "Fs" in my description of this vessel. You can guess the first "F."

Last week, Sean Woods and I flew to Providence, Rhode Island to deliver a 50' x 20' high speed passenger ferry to an island golf resort just north of Savannah, Georgia.

The Providence airport exhibits full sized antique boats of a by-gone era. Rhode Island is rich in shipbuilding history. World famous Newport is about an hour drive from the airport.

We arrived two days in advance of departure for systems and vessel orientation with the seller as well as outfitting for the trip. With no accommodations onboard (more on this later), the buyer has us checked into an airport hotel. Nice enough rooms - the social activity was alive with THREE false fire alarms. Half of the hotel guests were Chinese students and I have to wonder if they knew what it was when "someone" yelled GODZILLA!! as we bound our way down the fire escapes to the parking lot below. The last alarm went off at 0100 in the morning and after the pissed off fire department once again cleared the building and we returned to bed, there was no sleep to be had. Sure, the eyes are shut and the room is dark. But the mind "sleeps with one eye open" in anticipation of yet another WUHAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!!!!

The vessel is a planing catamaran with intrigal watertight cavities in the hull bottoms that are kept filled with pressurized air from fans. Frictional resistance under the air cushion is substantially less than for conventional hull vessels and wetted side hull surface is reduced by the lifting effect of the cushions.The effects combine to intiate planing at lower speed and power. Reduced power required and superior planing deliver enhanced fuel economy, range and speed.

Walking up to the vessel one cannot help but notice the big grill work in the forward third of the hull. The first impression is that the engines are a long way from the propellers. What this freaky boat has are a pair of 900 h.p. Yanmar 8SY-STP diesels in the rear torquing two Arneson ASD12 surface piercing drives. Up front, behind the grills, port and starboard, are a pair of 100 h.p. Yanmar 4JH3-THE providing power to the 3.5' fans which provide the cushion effect.

This being the fourth Arneson drive vessel which I have captained, I am knowledgeable in the challenges of close quarters maneuvoring, much like with jet drives. However, one interesting aspect of this boat is that power can be applied to one fan, or the other and walk the boat sideways as if it were pod drive or had bow thrusters.

With sufficient power application, it is possible to wash the bird poop from the dock and  most likely the unsuspecting marina dockhand. In either case, it sounds like the Space Shuttle lifting off. As no one has seen the likes of this before many heads turn as if to say,"what the.....?"

To configure the boat for speed, we first advance the fan engines to 3300 rpm. This lifts to front of the boat up as air pushes the water out of the hull chambers. Next, we engage the main propulsion engines and advance the throttles to the stops. With drives trimmed down and air flowing down  the hull, the boat quickly is on step at 7-9 knots! As the main engine passes quickly thru 1500 rpm, we retard the throttles to 1400 rpm and with a quick look at the GPS, we are doing 25 knots in as little time as it was to read this pararaph! Full power trials clocked this boat at 47 knots S.O.G.


The vessel carries 780 gallons total. With an overall average fuel burn of 33 g.p.h. @ 25 knots, the ferry has a no reserve range of 590 nautical miles. This includes the consumption of the fan engines.

          (Sean changing RACOR fuel filters; located of course in an inconvenient location)

The displacement draught of the vessel hull down is 5 feet. While on cushion and at speed, that draught is reduced to 2 feet and throws nary a wake. What is impressive is the telltale 12-15 foot rooster tail of the Arneson drives; a sign that you have trimmed the boat well.

Not having an autopilot, the vessel is very hands on. More times than not, after reaching for a bottle of water or answering a text from the owner and the boat is quickly 30 degrees of course. To fihtthe fatigue of hand steering, Sean and I switch wheel watch every hour. 

As mentioned previously, the vessel had no accommodations onboard. That includes the head. So, the morning standing order was to eat a hardy breakfast. As we were bivouaced in local hotels at night the walk or cab ride back to the boat allowed sufficient time to perform bodily functions prior to getting underway. However, as Sean(in backround) found out on day three, the only method to "go number 2" was by that hallowed evolution of "bucket and chuck it."

After 5 days of 180db roaring of four engines, pounding along in 3-4 foot seas, ear plugs, deli sandwichs and 5 Hour Energy, we arrive at Defauskie Island and hand "The Beast" over to the the new owner (L) and his two captains.

Fuel prices at three stops where:
Liberty Landing in Jersey City, NJ                          $4.35
Coinjock Marina in Coinjock                                    $3.54
Southport Marina in Southport, NC                         $3.95

Another delivery completed. Another owner satisfied. And, Sean has an extra $1400 to take to his first year at CU Boulder. I am once again avialable for the next mission.  John Wampler

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cancun to Fort Lauderdale Delivery

I returned last week from delivering a 2007 Doral 47 Alegria from Cancun Mexico to Fort Lauderdale.

To preface this posting, three years ago I delivered this same vessel (fuel cap. 400 gallons), with a 200 gallon fuel cell strapped on the foredeck, from Fort Myers, Florida; arriving in Cancun with 60 gallons remaining.

Along with Sean Woods as first mate, we flew down to Cancun on June 24. The boat was located at the Novo Cancun condo/marina complex; one of the new projects springing up in the Cancun area.

 Cancun Airport Control Tower

The afternoon was spent on inspection and seatrial of the boat with the owner. On the way to the Pemex  dock, I noticed that the performance numbers were off considerably. A look underwater showed a running gear fouled with barnacle growth. Apparently, the local captains have created the legend of a crocodile in the marina so they don't have to go under their boats in the marina.

June 25th was spent trying to acquire a supplemental 200  gallon fuel container as the fuel cell I brought down three years ago had been damaged and lost. The challenge was finding a tote tank that could be  strapped to the swim platform as carrying barrels in the aft deck area would not allow us access to the engine room. Most everything found was used and had everything in them from industrial cleaner to glue. As I had planned a midnight departure, we really didn't have the time to clean out and dry one of these. However, in Mexico, much of the populace is not on "city water." What they use are roof mounted cisterns with potable water delivered by truck. We located a 1000 liter tank that was 44" in diameter; a perfect fit for the back of the boat. With another run to the fuel dock and the Mexican captain charged with care and custody of the boat sent over the side at anchorage with Sean overseeing the chore (a good thing as the captain was only scrapping the waterline), we have a boat ready to go.
The owner took Sean and I to La Farola Parrilla Argentina restaurant in downtown Cancun. No finer steak could be found in Mexico than the flap steak that I had. The service, including table side salad prep, was superb!

Dinner concluded,  Sean and I thanked the owner and retired to the vessel for a few hours shut-eye before pushing off at "media noche."
26 June, Sean and I slip the dock lines and move out the channel by 0015. A full "super" moon two nights earlier, a big waning moon will provide us a horizon for most of two nights required for the 37 hour crossing (@ 9.5 knots) to Key West. Sean and I set into a 3 hours on - 3 hours off watch routine for the 37 hour crossing.

As usual the crossing in the vicinity of Arrowsmith Bank and much of the Yucatan Channel is a lumpy 4-5 feet for the first 12 hours. However, once we got off the coast of Cuba, the water and waves subside into a pleasant day. This enables us a stabile platform to transfer fuel from the tote on our transom. At sunset, Sean and I are looking forward to a calm night.

As we cross the Florida Straight and get out the lee of Cuba, at 0300 in the morning, ESE wind and waves again make for restless sleep off watch.

It was not until we were within 60 miles of Key West on the morning of the 28th do the winds and waves subside and we make Key West mid-day no worse for wear.
With the obligatory phone call and visit to customs, we cleared in. Interesting note: Not only did customs typically want all of the fruits and veggies onboard, they also had us bring all meats; including pre-cooked/packaged products. Some of these, like Johnsville franks, were manufactured in the US! I guess they were stocking up for their Fourth of July BBQ.
We spend the rest of the day cleaning boat, transferring the last 50 gallons out of the tote... 

... and giving a tired Sean a just reward for a job well done.

Once "ship's business" was concluded, there was a little time left to play tourist.

29 June has Sean and I up at 0630 to move the boat to the fuel dock at Conch Harbor for an 0700 opening. Once we uploaded 183 gallons diesel ($4.21 w/ .10 discount), we "shoot and scoot" for the all day run to Fort Lauderdale.

By 1700,  we are secured and mission completed. Total expenditures including fuel (after Cancun), transportation, crew fee, meals, etc...
Available for next mission.
John Wampler

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Costa Rica

One thing I really enjoy about being the hardest working unemployed yacht captain in the industry, is that I never know what adventure will come my way when the phone rings.

Sean Doyle at Yacht Zoo called me with an unusual yacht delivery... 


...load a 2012 model 63' Sunseeker onto Dockwise in Fort Lauderdale and then a week later, fly down to Costa Rica to unload yacht, reposition to it's new home 140 miles up the coast and train  up the owner's Costa Rican captain on the vessel's systems.

Super Servant 4, a semi-submersible heavy lift ship is in a class of ships which normally hauls floating oil platforms around the world. It was also this class of ship that carried the USS Cole back to the United States after it was attacked in the Yemani port of Aden.

The SS4, converted to haul yachts, has internal tanks that fill with water, which ballasts the ship down into the water. The yachts are carefully driven into the "well" where they are tied to cat walks. Once the yachts are in position, the ship pumps the water out of the tanks and is it rises, commercial divers in the water position jack stands as the yacht keel settles wooden blocks. The ship then sails to the overseas destination where the process is reversed and the yachts are floated off. I have personally been a "rider" (someone who rides along  while staying on the yacht) twice across the Atlantic from the Med to Florida. B O R I N G two week trip. No all night buffett, floor show, casino or movies under the stars on this ship!

The flight from Miami to Costa Rica is only about two hours and a half. However, if your flight is delayed (like mine was), you may end up at San Jose Airport with 5 other airliners on the tarmac. Note the happy bald guy in one of two lines of about 500 people; it took my half as long as the entire flight just to get through customs!

But, waiting for me at baggage claim, was the owner's right hand man, Rama.
Originally, our plan  was to drive from San Jose to Los Sueños (the yacht's new home) to check out the marina after which we would drive to Golfito, the port where the yacht will be discharged from the ship. However, the ship is delayed at the Panama Canal, so the decision has bee made to fly directly to Golfito instead.  So, with baggage in hand, Rama and I head to the Sansa Regional  Airline  gate to check in.

Sansa flys the 12 seat single engine Cessna Caravan which I affectionately call The Jungle Bus.
Just prior to boarding, we are informed that because of weight and balace, four pieces of luggage will not make the flight, but will be on the 0530 flight the morning next. Volunteering, I dig into my bag and grab my spit-kit, clean socks, shirt, shorts and bathing suit then board the little plane.

To drive from San Jose to Golfito is about 5 hours. The flight takes 45 minutes!
Once airborne one cannot help but press one's nose against the window and marvel at how rugged the mountains are and just how lush and green the topography is...

...and the sublime feelings it invokes. 

Golfito is on the Golfo Dulce on the Pacific side of the country. On the map below, Golfito is the nearly land locked bay at the yellow dot just right of center. Having been here over a dozen times, it is truly one of my favorite places in the world!

As it lies in the southern part of the country, the jungle literally spreades itself 
from mountain to sea.

Below/Right is the entrance to Golfito, one of the best natural harbors in the Eastern Pacific.

Once on the ground and on our way to the hotel, we stop by to arrange for boat fuel at 
Banana Bay Marina. For those who are familiar with Banana Bay, it should be noted that Bruce Blevin is no long  there; but has moved down the road to Fish Hook Marina.

We check into the Casa Roland for what will turn out to be a two day wait for the ship.

An absolutely stunning hotel, the rooms, are exquisitly decored. The lobby-bar is breathtaking and the paintings throughout, by local artists, are museum quality. amazing considering that Golfito is but a small village in a remote part of the world.

Breakfast is taken daily at the pool.

Looking towards the south end of Golfito Bay and it's entrance; our destination of exploration tomorrow.

Jorge, the yacht owner, brought a Toyota SUV to Golfito and I cannot see any reason why we should just sit in the room waiting for the ship. So Jorge, Rama and I pile into the rig and head to the south side of the bay; where the locals hang out.

After driving down a road that, in places, a 2WD vehicle  shouldn't go. It including a concrete bridge with a really big hole in it but we easily end up at Playa de Cacao.

A simply idyllic stretch of beach...

... clean as a pin...

... however, the lifeguard can be a bit impertinent!

Anchored off golfito is the 360 foot cruise ship STAR CLIPPER which carries 36,000 square feet of canvas. Below, Super Servant 4 finally arrives at Golfito anchorage and starts to ballest down.

Jorge,  his captain Rafa and I hitch a ride on a panga to the ship to take care of customs and  discharge paperwork before the yacht gets wet. It takes about 30 hours to ballast down the ship.
Note the wooded cross ties that the yacht keel rests on.

Jorge (L), his captain Rafa (R) and I perform a bottom inspection on the well deck. 
Note the yellow jack stands. In the loading evolution, commercial scuba divers position these as the ship is refloated and the keel settles on the cross tie. Once the well deck dries, these are spot-welded to the well deck to keep the jack stands and yacht from moving while the ship is underway. The yacht is then secured with six inch ratchet straps.  At discharge, with straps released, the yacht simply floats off the stands as the ship ballasts down. 
Paperwork completed, we return to shore and stand-by at the hotel for tomorrow's discharge.

The following morning, all of the various yacht crews arrive at 0800 for a ride out to the ship. Myself, Jorge and Rafa do the Dockwise "Walk of Death" down the enter catwalk to the back of the ship to make preparations (open seacocks, put up canvas/cushions) to get the yacht ready for discharge. Our plan is to reposition the yacht to Banana Bay, fill up with fuel and pick up the rest of the family for the six and a half hour run up the coast to Los Sueños; arriving before sunset. 

Well, as I always say,"itinerary is an abstract thought." We wait another hour and a half for discharge. Then it's a "No Wake" race to fuel dock against the other yachts discharging only to find that the marina fuel pump is inoperative and diesel is taken by gravity flow; which adds another hour and a half. But, after a couple of "inconveniences" we get everyone onboard and underway for Los Sueños under severe clear skies, breathless winds and calm seas.

The owner's daughters and a friend took little time to post the dolphin lookout and took great pleasure in bow jumping on the long Pacific swells encountered at 21 knots.

Irene, the other owner, decides that this couch is"just right."

At the southeast end to the entrance of the Golf de Nicoya is the man made harbor of Los Sueños.

Once the yacht is secured at her dock, I perform the time-honored rechristening ceremony; de-listing the vessel's old name and entering her new name into nautical records.
The ceremony of christening ships began in the distant past. Romans, Greeks and Egyptians all held ceremonies to ask the gods to protect sailors. Maritime superstition holds that a ship not properly christened would be considered unlucky.

And as such is the case, an offering is made to "Mighty Neptune, king of the deep and all that moves upon the waves. And  Aeolus, guardian of the winds and all that blows before it."

A libation is offered  in accordance with the hallowed rituals of the sea. 
Of course, it's Dom. Nice touch Jorge!

Another happy owner and family.

Captain Rafa, after a couple of days systems training, returns from his first solo trip (center). 
And with the conclusion of another project well done, we fade to black....

- - - - - -


I've got four days left before my  flight back to the world (funny how that got planned) and the owner has graciously provided the use of a very nice condo. Time to do some exploring!!

First on the list is grabbing my camera, tripod and renting a quad-runner to explore the mountain rainforest surrounding Los Suenos.

The fauna is lush and flowers abundant, like ginger (above) and lobster claw heliconia (below)

If you like the color green, this place is for you!!

Bird of Paradise (below) are everwhere!

There are well over 50 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica

Even though January is the "dry season" in Costa Rica, streams and rivers abound.

Without a soul around, it's swimmin' time!!

Cue the Ennio Morriconi music,  a la "The Mission" starring Robert de Nero

This Crestnut-mandibled Toucan (below) landed not 20 meters from me.

Monkeys jumping from tree to tree, parrots flying overhead, and this guy nearly drops in my lap!

I spotted this scarlet macaw nesting in an broken branch of a Ceiba tree

Yet another pair watching my activities.

After running the mountain back roads, it would be rude of me to return a dirty dusty quad. So....

Trust me, zip lining is harder than it really looks. Fourteen platforms and the last run, a 2400' drop with speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour; stopping before crashing into the next tree platform is a serious concern. Hench the heavy leather gloves for grabbing the cable to slow down!

Playa Herradura (below) with Los Sueños in the background.

After an exhilerating couple of days, I am only too happy to relax in the condo infinity pool.

Sunset (below) at Los Sueños
"Twizzle Twazzle Twozzle Tome, Time for This One to Come on Home"
(Kudos to Mr. Wizard from the Toter Turtle Cartoons)

More to follow...