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Marine Surveying

1976 - 1977

Before there were professional associations for marine surveyors, I opened an office in San Francisco to provide valuation, risk, and casualty surveys - primarially to local insurance underwriters. I had 17,000 miles of sailing under my keel, had built boats for a living, was a working member of the American Boat & Yacht Council's Electrical Standards Committee, and held a tonnage Captain's license from the Coast Guard.

Those credentials were sufficient to establish me among my employers and bring in a reasonably steady flow of word-of-mouth marine surveying work in the Bay Area, consisting mostly of mucking about in the bilges of power and sailboats less than 60 feet overall and filing reports. It was a period when fiberglass construction had overhauled classic wooden boat building in popularity, but there were still many classic wooden boats needing inspection, and an ice pick and small Nuplaflex hammer for "echo sounding" soft spots were my primary tools.

I worked out of my apartment on the corner of Francisco and Midway Streets on Telegraph Hill. It was a good deal, as my generous attorney, landlord, and friend, Bruce Lilienthal, traded rent for work over two years, and I custom built not only the apartment I shared with DKS, but Bruce's rosewood-paneled law offices and library in that same building.

It was during these years that I first discovered the downside of overnight air travel from Caifornia to the east coast [see "The Redeye"]. A call came in from a boat owner in Miami. Could I survey a 72-ft. wooden ketch berthed at Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale? He wanted to clean her up and enter the charter service in the Caribbean, and needed an insurance survey. He would pay the airfare and expenses, but would I mind saving him a few dollars by flying night coach? Sure, no problem I said, looking forward to a visit with Dagmar and Bob in nearby Pompano Beach.

After boarding the plane at midnight, the eastward flight is four to five hours of catnapping. At the end of the flight, you discover that the dozing night you have spent is actually three hours short. A bright-eyed owner picked me up at the Miami airport in the early morning sunlight, and we made our way up a commuter-filled I95. Already I was sagging. At the marina I carried my hand-made wooden case of probes and tools down to the dock, met the owner's wife, and suggested I'd better get started as it was a pretty big boat. I grabbed my picks and flashlights and notepad and headed into the already warm forepeak. Lying on my back on a mish-mash of sailbags and anchor line, with only a foot jutting out the hatch, in a minute I passed uncontrollably from awake to asleep, sound asleep, too, nestled into the familiar sound of lapping water and the smell of sea mud. Late in the morning came a gentle tug on my sock and a query, "We were just hoping you are all-right."


Downbound from Vancouver
Winter 1977