The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where the Hell are all the Atlantic Seals?

Until this year, all my boating was done on the west coast in California.  Out there we have seals and huge sea lions.  So, for the past 11½ months we have been waiting to see “Atlantic seals”.  Apparently there is no such thing.  And believe me, that is another plus for east coast boating!  Maybe it’s God’s way of a trade-off:  We get sea lions out west, they get alligators out here.  Who knows?
When our boat was on the rivers up near Sacramento, we would only see an occasional sea lion, usually sitting on a buoy marking the channel.  It was kind of fun, and the kids especially thought it was cool.  Later we moved the boat to the San Francisco Bay, and ultimately to Southern California, where the seals were more than an isolated sighting, they became a nuisance.
For example, in San Francisco, they actually took over an entire dock at Pier 39, one of the city’s premier facilities.  San Francisco, being what it is, abandoned this perfectly good dock so as not to upset the sea lion population (and the PETA folks, no doubt).  We saw the same kind of thing in Monterey and Morro Bay, when we took our boat down to Southern California a few years ago.  It was seals run amuck!
Now alligators are no picnic, and I am not sure I would trade them for seals if I could.  However, I really think seals do more damage than alligators.  At least back here (in some states) they hunt alligators…in California we protect the sea lions.  I’m not sure who we are protecting them from or who is supposed to protect us and our boats from them.  The fishermen also hate them because they attack the salmon on the fisherman’s line and destroy it before they can reel it to the boat.
The worst problem I have personally witnessed was in Newport Harbor.  There, the boat owners have had to resort to all kinds of methods to try and keep the huge sea lions (some males weigh as much as 850 pounds!) off of their boats.  They get pretty creative.  Nevertheless, the damage these monsters do is tremendous.  Here are a couple of photos of the creative ways boat owners use to try to keep the sea lions from destroying their boats or swim steps in Newport Beach Harbor:

This sailboater used PVC creatively constructed to ward them off his sailboat

This power boater tied chairs and buckets on his swimstep

Once, on a return trip from Santa Catalina Island, we moored in Newport near our friends John and Linda on Poseidon.  During our cocktail hour dinghy cruise around the harbor with them, we were hit several times by motion activated rain-bird sprinklers that were placed on the docks near the sterns of several yachts.  This was yet one more creative method to ward off the sea lions!
Below is a video showing what can happen when a bunch of these mammoths find their way on to your boat!

One night after our dinghy ride around the harbor, we had dinner aboard Poseidon.  Linda is a great cook, and John is a fantastic bartender and host, so Carrie and I left Poseidon to return to Testa Dura feeling full…and also feeling no pain.  I am not sure if that is the night the Admiral went in the drink while stepping from the dinghy to the swim step on Testa Dura or not...but I digress.  Forgetting about the seal problem, we left the dinghy in the water tied off alongside the big boat and were asleep as soon as we hit our pillows.
In the middle of the night, we were rudely awakened by a very loud barking, very close to our boat.  Damn!  Was that a sea lion on my swim step?  Worse yet had one crawled into my dinghy which I so carelessly left tied alongside?  I stumbled through the boat and cautiously entered the cockpit.  I sneaked over and tentatively peered over the top of the transom, and seeing nothing, turned to the port side expecting the sea lion to be lounging in my dinghy.  But the dinghy was empty.  Whew!  The barker must have just been just passing by…
Relief flowing over me, I turned to return to the safety of the salon, when up from the swim step stood the largest sea lion I had ever seen.  We were maybe three feet apart and face to face.  I'm not sure who was more frightened.  He barked loudly, and simultaneously, I screamed like girl in a B horror movie!  The next thing Carrie heard was a huge splash.  She yelled, “Are you OK?”
So, next time one of you east coast boaters sees a picture of a “cute” seal or sea lion.  Just remember…alligators might be no picnic…but they rarely board your boat and sink it!


  1. I have really enjoyed your blog - it is the only one I have gone back and read from the begriming.

    You’re not just an electrician, you’re a writer too.

    When you close the loop in a few days I hope you don’t put Once Around up for sale, but that you continue to visit and boat on the Atlantic coast.

    The crew of M/V Full Step is looking forward to meeting you on the waterways.

    DeFever 40
    Palm Coast FL.

  2. We complain about the geese and the ducks in the Great Lakes. My husband calls them flying dogs because they poop all over the place. Usually spring is the worst; then they get used to people being in the marina and they don't climb on the swim platforms as much. I would NOT want your problem.