Endless, vast, immense, intimidating. Her sheer power to control everything in her path, however she is equally calming and soothing in sound. I think it is safe to say that I have a love- hate relationship with the great magnificent ocean. How to embrace the calm she gives but fear the power and loss of control she takes? Oh and the large rolling walls called waves! I’ve seen Poseidon, the Perfect Storm, the Guardian. Topping my ocean experience off with a fear for my life sail in San Francisco has really halted boating excursions in the big blue.
All this Love for the beauty and peace of the ocean or so I am told about the peace part, has led me to want to try to conquer a little bit of the fear part that she has a hold of me.The where, how, and who could handle this challenge is the main question to be asked.
The answer came in charming form-Welcome to Marina Del Rey, California and Old Plank Sailing Adventures.
Sure it’s possible to skip over the adorably quaint but rapidly growing Marina Del Rey for Santa Monica or Malibu beaches. If you choose to try the “new” I promise you will not regret shifting out of the predictable beach city vibe, and discovering a locals driven beach community. Marina del Rey is full of flavor and unlimited adventure only 20 minutes out of Los Angeles.
It is quite an easy task to become a fan of the Marina, just take a seat on the docks of Mariners Village and watch what unfolds. Prepare to be entertained watching “birds” dive bomb in the water for their lunch, and the adorable sea-lion pop up to say hello late into the evening. Don’t forget to send a friendly wave to the paddle borders and kayakers taking in the day on their journey out of the marina into the great unknown.
After your relaxing sit and observe “therapy session”, take a nice long stroll along with the stunning yachts and cruisers making their way out to the ocean. Take advantage of the blissful jogging strand along beach side mansions. They have such a calming energy about them, like they know this is the best kept corner in Southern California-The marina meets the Pacific the perfectly scripted meet cute.
You can choose to continue your walk out to the jetty along the pier or hang a right and set up camp on an untouched beach, a stone’s throw away from the in demand Venice beach! Hard decisions ahead, lucky for you there are many days in the year, and sunny Southern California has the weather to support them all.
When a connection is made with a place, a desire is born to branch out and discover what other enchantments it has to offer. The curiosity bug has led me to the picturesque company of Old Plank Sailing Adventures-
Who are they?
“Old plank is a boutique luxury sailing charter and aquatic expedition company with gourmet 5 star cuisine.” Founded by captain and Chef Matthew Mancini.
“Supported by a crew of lifelong waterman, we live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.”- as stated on their website.
Planning by the tides they do!
From the start of planning your sail, communication with Matthew is extremely smooth and easy either via text or email. Old plank offers many exciting sailing adventures, but the one I would recommend for a smaller group, a romantic sunset sail for two.
“ If the tides are in your favor.” The day we had planned our sail the tides were not!
Matthew reached out the morning of our sail with a wonderfully polite message “Hi I wanted to get your thoughts and options as how we can have the best sailing adventure possible.” He sent over the link of a “small craft advisory” and myself not knowing even an inkling about sailing, he continued “That means they are having heavy winds at 30 mph and seas up to 7- 8ft high with the swell.” After google image photos of “swells” decision made.
“He really wanted us to have a memorable adventure but this type of weather may be a bit extreme for us.”
I promptly agreed! He immediately worked with us to reschedule later in the week, as our romantic sunset sail only had a one week window with my out-of-town partner in crime.
Captain– The person in command of the ship.
To share a true love and passion for what he does, not settling to gift the best sail connection for his guests, is Captain Mancini. The ability to immediately instill trust and set the bar very high for any one who will dare to follow, goes very far in my book of travel.
What they do?
“We take our guests out into a safe sailing environment on the Santa Monica bay or beyond. Where they will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the joy of sailing, the rhythm of the ocean and unique pairings of gourmet wines in the sweet briny air.” as stated on their website.
After your booking is scheduled you will receive a text or email with all your information needed, including type of booking and “ALL THAT JAZZ” that comes along with it. The romantic sunset sail includes a sample of his gourmet hor d’oeuvre’s and a bottle of rose wine. Oozes romance doesn’t it! What you will get, goes above and beyond more.
Your welcome message will also include a “quirky” and light reminder of the boat rules and where to find answers to specific questions on their website.
My favorite part of the welcome letter is the perfectly written section of “What NOT to wear” when sailing. I wont give it all away… but here is a little taste.
“Love a women in stilettos but when my vessel is keeled over sailing, it gives me anxiety and not to mention they are not the best swimming shoes.” He continues on in entertaining detail, that all he shares he has learned from experience. Promptly followed with a lovely section on “what TO wear.”
Following your very detailed directions sent over via text by the captain, parking is a breeze in your designated area near the docks. Marina Del Rey has been working on a major revamp of its docking area and this section was in tip-top form.
Captain Matthew will meet you exactly where he says he will and on time- Always a fan of early is on time and on time is late.
Meeting the Captain-
When guests first meet Captain Matthew they will be so pleasantly surprised by the calm energy he gives off. Nothing pretentious or overbearing about his greeting. The beautiful feeling you have just met a long-lost friend who will take you on an evening adventure. Such a strong sense of security and safety- which “I stated was very important for me to not freak out on the boat.”
After boarding “ Prima Stella” get nice and cozy on one of the side seating areas. Blankets are offered as Captain goes over safety information of the boat and your sail. His transition skills are effortless from Captain Matthew to Chef Matthew- “Can I offer you guys wine while I get some hor d’oeuvres ready?”
Yes Please, this was going to be just lovely!
Chef Matthew brings out a beautiful bottle of Chilean Rose, one of his favorites.
As you sit on the cozy new home you are in for the next few hours, looking around the marina you can’t help but feel the magic you have been missing of this boat life. The feeling of being transported to a whole new world, which conveniently is not far from your current one:)
Quickly- Getting Lost– in your surroundings watching a few sea lions that have taken claim of a dock, listening to their interesting and loud language. Tip: take a deep breath and embrace this moment of venturing out to something new and adventurous.
Chef has a wonderful music playlist going as he so comfortably below deck whips up a divine snack! Exuding energy that he is right where he wants to be. A sign of a good chef in close quarters is the ability to keep light conversation going, having fun, while sifting and placing ingredients in layers with ease.
Before you have noticed any time has passed an adorable tray is presented for you. A colorfully layered hor d’oeuvre. Crumbly cheese, a balsamic glaze topped with sprouts and a few secret ingredients.
Movie scene is set- Romantic sunset sail for two- ACTION!
Captain now back at the helm, which is next to your seating area, really creates a togetherness vibe. New friends enjoying what the wondrous ocean lays out for the evening.
Matthew does a beautiful dance of feeling out his guests with light conversation, instilling a comfort of freedom on this sail. Politely pointing out guests are welcome to head to the front of the boat for more “personal” time. However, I recommend staying all bundled up and enjoying some wonderful conversation about coastal facts beyond and wine.
What is their mission?
“Our mission is to bring the mediterranean lifestyle to southern California’s Ideal year round climate. We aspire to help our guest to truly relax and experience the self-healing that can occur when we slow down enough to catch up with our own selves.”- as stated on their website.
Without the Santa Monica coastline in clear view to the right, it would be easy to believe that you were in the Mediterranean and living the dream of their lifestyle on the water!
All the day stresses float away far behind you as if you sent them over board without a life vest. What an experience falling into such a sense of peace and breathing in new air- Ocean air- the briny air as captain says.
The soft sounds of waves splashing up against the boat working in unison with the subtle rise and lower motion of the ocean. Close your eyes and listen to the wind catch the top sail so perfectly as if they were truly made to coincide.
Sit back and take in the beautiful connection happening with the “beast”of the ocean and realizing she is actually a “beauty”– just needed to create a trust and send her love.
In a smooth swift, barefooted movement, Captain Matthew seamlessly juggles the tasks at hand to turn the boat around. Now being put in a tie with the setting sun, not realizing you are holding your breath in awe.
To get the opportunity to see the sun set on the water at a level eye’s view is “electrifying” as your little arm hairs stand straight up from the charge! Try and watch until the end, it is as if you really can feel her go under the sea to swap out duty with the moon.
As you start your sail back to the beloved marina, Captain Matthew shares some exciting information about what else his fleet offers and an impressive partnership with Omega Blue!
What they offer?
“Luxurious 45 foot catamarans for group trips to Catalina, to intimate sunset and moonlight sails for you and a partner on board Vintage mono hull sailing yachts! An array of luxury sailing and charter experiences. All of which are private, professionally crewed and come paired with gourmet d’oeuvres of a 5 course fine dining option prepared in front of you by Cuoco Mancini.”
Weeklong island adventures with a personal chef, massage therapist, island tour guide, and a variety of water toys. Jet skis, kayaks and paddle boards are on that long list.
Captain can take you on a “genuine California adventure” in the pristine and undeveloped Chanel Islands including Santa Catalina Island. 37 nautical miles from the port in Marina del Rey. There you can fish, snorkel and lobster dive. Many other outdoor activities like kayaking or mountain biking are also available.” as stated on their website.
“ The Lobster Adventure on Captains Dinghy”
Take off right after sunset truly embracing the moonlight and guidance of the stars. Captain will teach you how to bait and drop traps to catch the A Pacific Lobsters, Dungeness and soft shell crabs, as they are nocturnal- this is prime time!
Bonus: what ever you catch you take home!
A fan Favorite- Hoist the Movie Skipper- Where your favorite movie or show is projected on the main sail! Snuggle up on the Deck in the perfect backdrop for movie night!
For the speed demons and adventurers out there they also offer “Seadoo PWC Excursions” On the new 2017 seadoo personal watercraft.The fastest on the market taking you to Santa Monica and back in under 2 hours.
Who is Captain Mancini?
Captain and Chef Matthew Mancini is quite the experienced sailor. Growing up on the lakes of Ohio, but longing for the open sea. He made the move to Los Angeles and has worked in the television and film business. To add to the vast level of sailing skills on his resume, he tapped into his Italian roots and sailed from Napoli, Italy down the Amalfi Coast to Salerno, popping in the “Mediterranean towns” ending on the Island of Capri.
Licensed USCG Captain, carrying a USCG Merchant 50 ton Masters credential and is endorsed for coastwise charter.
Given the opportunity to spend 10 years working in some of the best fine dining experiences in Los Angeles. He truly radiates his love of cooking and more importantly the gift of sharing. Respectfully pulling out stops from his Italian heritage and from notable chef’s he has learned from along the way.
Ask him what celebrity and chef taught him his trade in the sushi department!
Which leads to the the end of the sail and a splendid surprise!
Captain Matthew works closely with Omega Blue Partner and neighbor, James Arthur.
James is creator and co-founder of Omega Blue. He supplies Chef Mancini with the absolutely divine Baja Kanpachi fish. His company also works closely with many other celebrity and renowned chefs around Los Angeles and resorts in Mexico.
What is Omega Blue?
Mercy free sustainable seafood from his Fishery in La Pas Mexico.
They pride themselves as pioneers of Farm to table ocean raised fish using innovative open-ocean aquaculture under the brands Omega Blue in the USA and Omega Azul in Mexico.
Their fish are grown from eggs in the pristine waters of the Sea of Cortez near La Pas, Baja California. They are then shipped to Los Angeles via refrigerated truck or air cargo. Much more to come on these Pioneers on a later article.-as stated on their website.
Final Stretch- Dinner time
As you enter back into the Marina there is a quiet shift from the rolling waters outside. Slowly gliding back into the docks, lights start to come on from homes and apartments along the water. Seems as if they are lighting our path back home.
Sounds a bit mushy but we feel transformed and are now one with the ocean!
As long as we are on the sail boat with our glorious Captain of course.
The Grand Finale came once parked, when Matthew surprised us with some of the Baja Kanpachi fish he had on board. Back in the kitchen he went as we bundled back up in the nook. The marina comes to life in a different form at night, hearing distant conversations of boat owners calling it a night, house boats sharing dinner scents and music. What a serene world the water holds!
First course comes out in minutes. Literally minutes!! Chef’s skills from his sushi days were in full form and did not disappoint. With a friendly hand from below deck he delivers us a raw Kanpachi – delicately topped with olive oil, a little sea salt and dill!
Second course is another sashimi dish with olive oil and red pepper flakes.
The buttery texture and simple flavors compliment the fish exceptionally! The perfect consistency and flavor of the the fish is mind-blowing. Immediately you will be swept into the magic of Omega Blue’s solution to clean and healthy fish!
Our 3rd and Final Course
Grill on high and olive oil drizzled, voila- a grilled Filet is on our plates. Perfectly seared with an impeccable crisp on both sides, while leaving the middle raw and tender.
As impressive as the Kanpachi was raw, you will be hooked on the seared. Scrambling like a student at the “Institute of Culinary Education, New York City”, to pick chef’s brain on flavors of simplicity- he quickly reminds me of the quality of the fish. He noted that this was his last day to eat this batch, adding to the amazement of the lack there of “fishy” flavor.
An end made for Kings and Queens.
As a sail was started into the unknown, it has ended with delightful memories far past any set expectations. New Friends you will have, Captain Mancini and the BIG BLUE.