Training Complete, Bring On the Big Boats

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Nice to be home from attending the weeklong SCTW training at the Maritime Institute in San Diego, as an enhancement to my Coast Guard Master’s license.  What is SCTW training you ask?  Well a week of training for operating vessels over 200 gross tons and in international waters.

SCTW is “The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping” and it sets qualification standards for Masters, officers and watch personnel on large seagoing merchant ships.  STCW was first adopted in 1978 by a conference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, and entered into force in 1984.  The Convention was significantly amended in 1995 so that my grandfathered STCW no longer is valid on boats over 200 gross tons.

The five-day course comprises First Aid and CPR, Live Firefighting, Personal Survival Techniques, Liferafts, and Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities.

The Amendments require that seafarers be provided with “familiarization training” and “basic safety training” which includes basic fire fighting, elementary first aid, personal survival techniques, and personal safety and social responsibility. This training is intended to ensure that seafarers are aware of the hazards of working on a vessel and can respond appropriately in an emergency.

Now, on a very sad note, Teresa McIntosh died of cancer last month at 69 years old.  Boaters and boat brokers know Teresa as the Newport Boat Show and Lido Yacht Expo co-producer with her husband, Duncan McIntosh, who is a city harbor commissioner.

The husband-wife publishing team owns The Log newspaper, Sea magazine, Boating World, and Fishrap that covers the boating world especially on the West Coast.  She will be missed by many and the boat show’s office will not be the same without her smiling face.

A celebration of her life will be held Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. at the Balboa Pavilion.  The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in memory of Teresa Ybarra McIntosh to the City of Hope, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010.

Tip of the week is now is the time to cruise the Channel Islands off our coast, and did you know that there are eight Channel Islands?  The same number of islands as in lower Newport Harbor.  Most Southern California boaters are familiar only with Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands. This is because Catalina is the only island with the shore-side amenities such as restaurants and fuel docks in Avalon and the Isthmus. As a matter of fact, in 1958, the Four Preps, with the song “Twenty-six Miles Across the Sea,” helped make Catalina a household name.

The other seven islands are basically devoid of civilization and crowds. They are: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, San Nicholas, Santa Barbara and San Clemente. Two of the islands, San Nicholas and San Clemente, are used exclusively by the military, but just off San Clemente is a hot spot for fishing. The smallest island in the chain is Santa Barbara, and I recommend cruisers bypass this island used primarily by fishermen.

The islands are beautiful, with a number of coves for anchoring, and you can go ashore for a picnic or hiking. Some say this area is the best in California for watching blue or humpback whales any time of year. Additionally, the gray whales pass by regularly during their migration season. On one voyage, I thought I had spotted an orca – I routinely see orcas swimming around the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest.

I would recommend cruising to the islands in the morning hours before the afternoon’s prevailing winds start to blow, kicking up the seas. So, keep in mind that the whitecaps will be building, if you are planning to return to the mainland later in the day. Always keep an eye on the weather, especially this time of year, for storms from the north. And any time of the year, you should watch for Santa Ana winds.

On the backside or westerly side of Catalina Island, you will find that the swells will be coming directly from Point Conception on most occasions.  So, look at the Point to see the swell pattern, direction, and the size.  This will give you a good indication of what to expect if you venture out past the island, and always remember to check the sea and weather conditions before you leave the dock.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific.  Join Chandler Bell, Craig Carpenter, and me as we talk about “all things boating.”  You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at or

Until next week, Safe Voyages!

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