Wednesday October 1st. Flag Etiquette.

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 1st, 2014

I have a bone to pick with my American sailor friends.

It is very rare in Europe to encounter incorrect display of the ensign, courtesy flags, burgee and private pennants. But it is far too common here in the North West.

I estimate that at least 10% of the sail boats display the ensign improperly. I am guilty of the most common offense, not lowering the ensign at sunset and when I leave the boat. As soon as I can find the right flag staff I will correct this. In Holland, as an example, in some traditional maritime communities, the locals will rip the ensign off a visitors boat if it is displayed after dark. The next most seen offense is displaying the ensign from the wrong location, most common from the starboard spreader halyard, which is strictly reserved for the club burgee, quarantine flag, courtesy flag and owners private pennant. The port side of the spreader halyard is only to be used for a courtesy flag of the nationality of a foreign visitor aboard. Too often recent visiting sailors to Canadian waters will continue to fly the courtesy flag after leaving Canada.

These pictures were taken recently from my moorage.

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Monday September 29. Flashback 1962 Vietnam.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 29th, 2014

I started reading the book that Charlie Johnson brought to my attention  and discovered that what I reported in my forelast blog about the death of Richard Ellis needs a correction. His death was not an accident he was shot by VC fire while dropping a load of South Vietnamese soldiers into the first battle at Ap Bac in October 1962. Our company damaged a number of our twin rotor H-21 “Shawnee” helicopters in that first Ap Bac battle.  Knight blames Colonel John Paul Vann for the losses and casualties suffered. Neil Sheehan paints a very different picture of Colonel Vann, in his book “A bright shining lie”, for which he won a Pulitzer price.  Sheehan did not come to Vietnam until 1963 and by then Knight and practically my entire company had already rotated back to the U.S. I could have returned also by November 1962 for my one year Vietnam stint but elected to serve out my two year draft in Vietnam. I was still in Vietnam when the first big battle of the Vietnam war was fought, again in Ap Bac. This was one of the first times the VC did not hit and run. They stood their ground and again Colonel Vann took charge. We lost three Americans, five helicopters and the Vietnamese army lost from 80 to 100 men in that infamous battle. The press listened to colonel Vann because he was very critical of the US and Vietnamese handling of the counter insurgency. And Sheehan probably had little or no access in 1963 to people like Knight to hear what they thought of this man. It is also highly unlikely that  Knight writes: “We in the 57 th also knew Vann in 1962 and we were significantly less impressed with him than were the reporters. There were several reasons for this. He was a small blond man with a high pitched, grating, petulantly demanding voice who, in spite of his slight appearance, was an over-confident, hyper-acting, and arrogant individual. He had a very high opinion of himself. He let us know that he had a superior understanding of the war; that his tactical expertise was perfect and that he could fly a helicopter better than any of us. …” and he goes on explaining the problems they always had with Vann. This battle took place in the first week of January 1963. My service ended January 21st. Everyone in the company had been up in a helicopter at one time but I hardly ever set foot out of my supply cubicle. So, I was granted a ride over the Tan Son Nhut airport. What stays etched in my vision is the bright yellow sand holes of fresh dug graves for the casualties of the Ap Bac battle. Douce and a half trucks were bringing the coffins in.

It rained most of the day but I got to take a break to the Tides Tavern to meet Erik Larsen who with his father in 1973 sailed the “Groote Beer” from Newport Beach to San Francisco for Stuart Anderson, the new owner. Erik was 19 at the time. Erik owns a boat yard in Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon Island. He showed me his 40 foot W.R.Cedar planked 1962 power boat with which he came to the Tides.


Sunday September 28. St. Nicholas Centennial and Croatian PM visit to Gig Harbor

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 28th, 2014

“Dobro Yutro” and “Kakosi” all around me, my last name on my name tag raised a few Croatian eye brows. It could have been from my mother’s side….  Four purse seiners, flying the Hrvatska flag were parked at the city dock. The city distributed small Croatian flags and a choral group in traditional garb sang Dalmatian songs and their national anthem. Besides the prime minister Zoran Milanovic, the Croatian ambassador to the USA also joined the visit. I would have liked to stay longer but I needed to rehearse for the 11 a.m. mass choir.

This was the big day that I had planned for the last few years to come back for from where ever I might be. It was supposed to have taken place around Easter but was postponed. And this way the service combined the installation of our new priest, father Mark Guzman by the Archbishop, James Peter Sartain, at the same time. It was a beautiful service with standing room only attendance. Afterwards I attended the catered lunch in the Parish hall. At both events I was able to re-acquaint with old friends. I am very fortunate to live in this unique town.

PM and Ambassador

PM and Ambassador


Archbishop Left with Fr.Guzman

Archbishop Left with Fr.Guzman



Saturday Evening Post. Reconnect with Vietnam 1961-1963

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 27th, 2014

E-mails have been flying back and forth today from here to Texas with Charlie Johnson. He found me on my blog. He was with us when we left Fort Lewis in October 1961 for an unknown destination with the 57th and 98th Army Transportation companies.  Six weeks or so later we arrived in Saigon after a 24 day crossing on the 2nd WW aircraft carrier USNS “Core”. We were the very first full company units to be sent to Vietnam. I had always assumed that I would someday make the Guinness  records for being the only Army soldier to come back from Vietnam as a private, after having been busted four times back from PFC. But Charlie has done better than that. He might not have been a model soldier but he has an outstanding memory, names, places, events. Because I shared an apartment with my wife in town and worked as a clerk in the parts supply with just sergeant Carl, I had little contact with the rest of the troops and I apparently missed some good stories that Charlie is filling me in on.

Charlie brought to my attention that one of the pilots and CO’s wrote a book about our deployment: FIRST IN VIETNAM: AN EXERCISE IN EXCESS OF 30 DAYS The U.S. Army 57th … – Colonel Emmett F. Knight – Google Books One of the best books, in my opnion, written about the Vietnam conflict was “A bright shining lie” from Neil Sheehan. Part of the book is the biography of Colonel John Paul Vann. Charlie remembered (see updates/corrections) in Mnday’s blog) when we said farewell to Richard Ellis a crew chief who was killed in a crash of a H-21 helicopter. On the 24 day crossing I had befriended Ellis. He was 3 years older than me and the majority of my rank was a lot younger since I had been drafted at age 24. He had a serious relationship with a Vietnamese lady and it was an emotional moment when his casket was transferred to the C-120 cargo plane. It remains etched in my memory.

Here is a story Charlie tells of an evening in Saigon: One night Calson and I had a few beers.We rode our motor cycles to the Phoenix bar to finish of the night.The CIA guy was there,( ITT man) Then advisors and Special Forces and some from the 57th. They was real quite,We was singing. One Captain who had connections with intel calls me over.He says see  that big cooley over at that table? He is a high ranking VC .I said I will get him to join us for a beer.I brought an extra beer over and set on the table. He got up and hit me so I hit back and went out in the street he was hollering for a crowd,About 30 showed up fast.A riot began.   Jeeps with advisors came quickly.The Captian took me up stairs to a balcony.I stepped off o a roof.It caved in. I was hanging on a bamboo pole rafter.By then about 50 Viets were at the door.The jeep was soldiers with sub machineguns,They held back the crowds,Told us to get on the motorcycles and head back to the airport. I didn’t know that the VC was so hard to reach. We could have all been pals.Oh.I quit beer about fifteen years back. I am somewhat a Christian now.  I always thought we went too Vietnam with the wrong attitude.They could have taught us more than we could teach them.  We were brainwashed . We feard a communist police state like present North Korea.Look at them now.Western culture around Saigon.

I have to get my beauty sleep. The small choir at church drafted me for the 11 o’clock service. It is the official celebration of the first centennial of the Saint Nicholas church. The Bishop will be co-celebrating. We rehearsed last Wednesday evening and I am singing with just one (thank God, good) tenor. And have to be for another rehearsal before the service. And I do not want to miss attending the visit of the Croatian Prime Minister, Milanovic who will be here at 9 a.m. The Croatian community here, mostly fishermen and boat builders, were the largest nationality represented in the church’s founders.

Last week Thursday evening in the harbor race, three T-birds.

Last week Thursday evening in the harbor race, three T-birds.




Weekend Sept 13 and 14. The “Jack and Jill” sailboat race.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 15th, 2014

Twenty seven years ago, in 1987 I suggested to the Gig Harbor Yacht Club that they should have a Jack and Jill race. They gave me their blessing if I would organize it. We opened it to club and non club members. For the benefit of my readers beyond our border: Jack and Jill is an old nursery rhyme.

Jack and Jill went up the hill To fetch a pail of water.Jack fell down and broke his crown, And Jill came tumbling after. 

Already for the first race about 20 boats turned out.  My boat went on the hard in 1993 and did not get back in the water till 2004, while I tried, in vain, to turn my business setbacks around. But the J&J tradition survived. This weekend it was organized by long time members Jaime and Joan Storkman. We had a smaller turnout than usual, just 9 sailboats, in part due to the fact that the Sea Hawks were playing on Sunday afternoon. The weather was glorious and warm. The 10 mile course was from Gig Harbor to Des Moines. And back on Sunday. My oldest daughter Lisa was my Jill. The last time she sailed with me was exactly 10 years ago in Gig Harbor. But she still has her helmsperson touch. We had every imaginable wind condition, light, nothing at all, and the last 3 miles we had a good 15 knots close hauled with gusts to just over 20 knots. We should have reduced sail but there was really no time for it and I found out how much this boat takes with a full main and 150% genoa. We finished third.  Lisa had prior commitments for Sunday. She stayed for the potluck dinner on the dock and Seth, my 34 year old son, also arrived before dinner fro Portland. He slept on the boat and sailed the return portion on Sunday with me.  Since it was Sunday Jack hiked up the hill (I did not break my crown and Jill did not come tumbling after), to attend 6.30 a.m. mass at St. Philomena church. A stiff 18 block hike. It was still dark on the way up. This was a Spanish service. The winds on Sunday were lighter yet and because of the football game the decision was made to finish about 3 miles short of Gig Harbor. We worked ourselves to first place and held this for quite a while but just in the last few minutes the two Thunderbrds caught up to us and we ended up finishing in second place. Not bad for a having to sail with all my belongings on board that most homeowners keep at home.

It was a very special weekend for me and so glad I had Lisa and Seth to share this experience. It was the first time on this boat for both of them. They got to meet the great company I keep here with my sailing friends.

The fuel flow problems came back once again. We could not start the engine after the race. Terry and Janet James on “Spirit” towed us into the Des Moines Marina. It happened again right before the start on Sunday. And after we finished I had to bleed the system a couple more times. We moored the boat in its slip without the use of the engine. Seth is smart (brains skipped a generation….) he figured that the air may be coming in through the original mechanical fuel pump. This was confirmed by a diesel mechanic this morning who happened to be working on a neighbor’s boat. So, I went into Tacoma and had a banjo fitting made up to lead the electrical fuel pump directly to the ignition instead of through the old (defunct) mechanical pump. Keep our fingers crossed.

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill

Going Fast taken by Lisa

Going Fast taken by Lisa




Monday September 8, back in Gig Harbor.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 9th, 2014

I hiked up on the steep chairs to “uptown” to attend the 8.15 a.m. mass at Our Lady Star of the Seas. Very appropriate. I have been to a number of them in my travels, in Georgetown, Bermuda, in the Chesapeake Bay on Solomons Island in Maryland. The Latin version Stella Maris is a popular boat name.

Stella Maris above the altar

Stella Maris above the altar

Father John Topel wit on left Deacon Bill Swanson

Father John Topel wit on left Deacon Bill Swanson

The couple behind me Vincent and Mary Anne gave me a ride back to the Wooden Boat Show. I shook hands with well known world sailor Larry Pardey and ran into Jim Whittaker the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest. I had met him once before in Port Townsend. He is also an avid blue water sailor. He is 88 but he still walks faster than most people run. I used to see his twin brother Lou on occasions since his wife and my (last) ex wife are long time friends. I also managed to meet up with Jim Ferris popularly known as “Kiwi”. I had met Jim in 1980. He responded to an ad I had placed for race crew. He had just delivered a large schooner built in New Zealand. He got into wooden boat building in Port Townsend and started with a Mighty Might portable sawmill and now owns one of the largest hardwood distribution businesses in the North West.  I left Port Townsend at noon and had a favorable flood current most of the way. Sailed a good part of it. The wind came and went, as is power for the course in the N.W. summers here. I anchored for the night at Blake Island and got back into Gig Harbor in the afternoon. I discovered half way through Colvos passage that my exhaust was steaming and just a trickle of water was coming through. The first thing I did was to clean the seagrass from the intake filter. But that did not do the trick. So, it had to be a broken impeller. There are not many places to anchor in Colvos Passage and the current was swift. I tried motor sailing against the wind and throttle the ;power back. Then the wind died. I slowly made my way to an anchorage. Taking the impeller out is a major operation. The flywheel has to come off. There was nothing wrong with the impeller. I attached a hose to the inlet valve and blew hard and it did break open. I thought. Still just a trickle more water. I was only two miles form the marina. I slowly made it to my berth. I then used the pump to blow up the inflatable and that finally did the trick. Obviously a better tool than my lungs. Another trick learned. I hope that Robert Redford reads my blogs, for his sequel to “All is Lost”. Shoot!, I should have asked Larry Pardey what he thinks of the movie, he was used as an expert on the subject by the producer…..

sunrise over Glacier Peaks

sunrise over Glacier Peaks

sunset over Olympics

sunset over Olympics

Moon rise over Seattle

Moon rise over Seattle



Saturday September 6. Roche Harbor and Port Townsend

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 7th, 2014

First thing, Friday morning, after brewing my coffee in my once cupper espresso pot, I pulled the crab trap. See below picture. Six Dungenes crabs, 3 females and one male just under 6 1/4 inch limit. But the two remaining males made a delicious meal. DSC_0039 I hiked up to the San Juan Islands Yacht Club to check and see if my name was still on the Shaw Island Classic trophy. This is a race held every year at the end of the summer. You can choose which way to circle the island, clock or counter clock wise. The island lays just north of Friday Harbor. I tried it in 1979, the last year I sailed my Ranger 29, “Gemini”. My second wife to be Laura came along and Mike St. John Smith (who I saw last Tuesday in Vancouver) and Brian a friend of Mike. I studied the current charts the night before and decided to round the island clockwise. But it was obvious that I had not done my homework because every one, but a handful of boats, went counter clockwise. But I was too far into it to change my directions. When we finally made it back to Friday Harbor, we did not see any other boats so I figured the rest of the fleet was already done and had put their boats back in their stalls. But as it turned out they were to arrive a few hours later and I won that race. That is the only sailboat race where I have ever had a bullet. Robert Horsley was the one to bring me the news. He had won the previous year’s race in a Santa Cruz 27, the name of his boat “Poisson Soluble” is misspelled on the trophy.DSC_0048

I sailed around the north tip of San Juan Island to get to Roche Harbor. The 165 foot yacht that the Clarks work on was anchored in the bay and I anchored nearby. It is a different world. I had been on a similar yacht “The Casino Royal” in  Fort Lauderdale that Greg skippered in 2009. This yacht was built by Christensen in Vancouver, Washington. everything shines. The decor is very modern but also very warm and attractive. Gorgeous woodwork, American Black Walnut, Maple and teak floors, decks. Marlys worked for me for nine years in Gig Harbor. Afterwards we went to dinner at the old hotel in Roche Harbor to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, in the exact same location where they got married. The Decorator Carol from Portland and Christian the broker, who sold this boat to the St. Louis owners, joined us at dinner. We drank the traditional “Fluffy Duck” drinks the hotel serves. (Vodka, rum, orange juice and fresh cream. Finished with whipped cream and a cherry).

Bride Marlys left with Carol and the "Fluffy Ducks"

Bride Marlys left with Carol and the “Fluffy Ducks”

I left at 6.30 a.m. to get the benefit of the ebb on the way into the Strait of San Juan de Fuca and later was flushed on the flood through Admirality Inlet. Sailed some and motored most of the way, little wind but gorgeous hot summer weather. I anchored right off the board walk in Port Townsend. It is the annual Wooden Boat Festival. It has become a regular combination country fair, Disneyland and Maritime fest. Quite a difference from 1980 when brand new “Fleetwood (I)” was shown off here. I met up with Tom Jackson the senior editor for Wooden Boat magazine. He has worked with me on a few articles that WB published I submitted on traditional Dutch sailing vessels. I plan to attend mass here in the morning and then make another visit to the show and arrive back in Gig Harbor on Monday.DSC_0077




Thursday September 4 Friday Harbor. That Angel is still perched on my shoulder.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 5th, 2014

But first in chronological order. I met Mike St. John-Smith on Granville Island on Tuesday for lunch. We have been friends since he started crewing on “Gemini” in 1978, he was then living in La Conner, where I kept the boat. He bought the third NAJA that I had imported and sailed for about ten years in British Columbia as “Soul Fisher”.  It poured all day. There is not one single leak in this boat. I could not say that for the old “Fleetwood”. Later in the evening I met Martha Verazain and Al Loewen long time business friends. We had much to catch up on. Few businesses have changed as much as the wood products industry in the 10 years that I last worked in it. I got an early start on Wednesday and made it to Jones Island by 6.30 p.m. This island is just a short distance from Friday Harbor. I had some good sailing once I was in Strait of Georgia. I very much enjoyed my visit to Vancouver. The scenery, the world class architecture, the Asian Influence, being able to listen to the French language stations, etc. Yesterday and today turned out to be fabulous sunny and warm but the nights have become quite a bit cooler.

Now the story about my guardian angel. Since it is just a short distance to Friday Harbor I did not bother to put both sails up, just the main, but when the wind died I ran the engine as well. There was a strong flood current and I was being set towards a reef, then the engine stuttered and quit. My main worry was not to be driven onto the reef. I brought the light Genova on deck, hanked it on and now I was able to have better control. I quickly bled the fuel line, but that turned out not to be the problem.Fortunately there was enough wind to sail into the bay where the port of Friday Harbor is located. I sailed into a small bay next to it.It was relatively deep and how was I going to set the anchor? I had never done this yet under sail. When you are with two on board one can steer while the other backs the main against the wind to be able to reverse the boat. It did not seem to work till at last the boat came to a stop just a few feet from another anchored boat. I tried bleeding the fuel line again but there was no air in it. Then when I took the fuel line off the out side of the fuel pump there was no fuel coming out. Then when I started the pump there was no movement at all. This is the new pump that I installed just before leaving Gig Harbor.  Fortunately I still had the first pump on board because I had started to question if that had been the problem after all. Bingo! It worked. Before I had the pump hooked up I had to quickly put the hatch back in and get the anchor up and the sail raised because my anchor was dragging. Chinese fire drill. This time I was able to set the anchor by sailing sideways under the genoa away from the anchor. Without wind and the strong flood current I might have had an emergency again. If Robert Redford could just have had the company that I am privileged with not “All would be lost” for him.

I am planning to be with Marlys and Greg Clark tomorrow to help them celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in Roche Harbor, where they were married. And leave Saturday morning for Port Townsend. Back late Sunday or more likely Monday in Gig Harbor.


After sunset

After sunset

Jones Island

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Tuesday September 2nd. Granville Island

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 2nd, 2014

It is a typical N.W. late summer day, showers and dark skies. Good day to be drinking lates and cha while meeting long time friends in the Granville Public Market. Tomorrow I am promised some sunshine and a decent N.W. wind to sail down direction Roche Harbor. I met Paul de Leeuw here yesterday and just said good bye to Michael St. John-Smith. This evening I will see Al and Martha, friendships from my lumber business days up here.

I am anchored between the Granville and Cambie street bridge on the south side of Falls Creek, close to Granville Island. Lots of activity here, on the water, the boardwalk and the Market. The picture below of the cold beer is appropriate because the public schools have not opened yet. The teachers are still on a strike that commenced before the summer vacations.

Latitude-38 has another article in the September issue that just came out. Be sure to pick up your free copy or go to the following link:

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Sunday August 31 Bowen Island and Vancouver

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 1st, 2014

On my walk through one of the many parks on Bowen island to 10.30 mass I came upon this Red Crested Woodpecker. It is hard to get the head sharp because this bird pecks at a ferocious rate of speed. Very nice small church, the priest comes from the mainland with the ferry. They wanted to keep me here because of my (loud) singing, I like this invitation much better than the one at Easter 2007 on St. Helena Island. Napoleon would have preferred Bowen Island as well. Particularly if he’d been able to take a ferry to Vancouver.

Dana Barton stopped by at noon and we talked for two hours. A very nice and interesting person. He had been a teacher in Eastern Oregon and when Donovan (my son in law) was 3 years old he moved to an island near the Northern end of Vancouver Island, taught school there and bought an abandoned 24 acre farm and farmed part time and lived off the land. When Donovan left home he and his second wife sailed on a Rawson 30 to Mexico and spent three years, mostly near La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. He also operated a purse seiner for a couple years in this area. His wife decided to go back to school and get a masters degree in psychology and Dana in turn spent five years to get his license as a naturopathic medical doctor. He has an office at his home on Bowen Island, and in Vancouver. He brought me produce from his large garden at his home on Bowen Island. So my daughter Rose Marie did well in choosing her second father in law. I have a new friend.

I am moored under the Oak Street Bridge at the False Creek YC. I came in after the office closed, but when I saw the rate, $60 per day, I choked. So, I plan to anchor out to morrow. I’ll be seeing Paul de Leeuw in the morning on Granville Island. I had a very pleasant sail here.

A Salmon Ladder

A Salmon Ladder

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