Sunday, August 30, 2009

Santa Cruz

Today we awoke to fog for the first time in about a week. But it burned off after a few hours and we were in the sun again. We had quite a romp today, with winds gusting to nearly 30 knots, and seas up to 10 feet high. We reefed down and held on tight. We must be getting used to this, because I was able to go below and do school work on the computer during my off watches.

On watch, it was odd to see land off to our right for the first time -- its the Monterey peninsula, where we'll be in a few days.

When we got to the bay at Santa Cruz, the conditions were quite mellow, which is a good thing, because the small boat harbor was packed, and we had to anchor off the beach. Another milestone today -- my first swim of the trip. The water's only 60, but that's a lot warmer than its been.

Out of the Gate

We decided to make our move, pretty much on schedule, after a full week in the Bay. It has been great, and we could easily spend more time here, but we feel ready to see something new. In contrast to our arrival, the weather is absolutely clear, and it was glorious to pass under the sunlit Golden Gate bridge. We tacked out through the Gate itself, only to see the wind die as we neared Point Bonita. So we decided to follow some other local sailboats that had passed us, on their way over the San Francisco Bar and on out to the Farallons. Most non-sailors don't know that the Bay has its own Bar, just like the Columbia and other rivers, and just as treacherous in bad conditions. Today the swells are only about 8 feet, and the wind is calm, so we had an easy passage.

On our way out, we were passed by an inbound ship, the Golden Bear, which is the training vessel for the California Maritime Academy. My dad graduated from CMA, and we had gone to one of his reunions about 6 years ago and taken a tour of the Bear, so it was very nice to see this reminder of my now departed dad.

We also saw the San Francisco Pilot boat, which waits out here about 10 miles offshore for inbound ships. The pilots guide the ships in and out of the harbor.

We never saw the Farallons. The wind started getting higher, and we decided it would be a long day if we continued out. So we changed course for Half Moon Bay, 20 miles down the peninsula, where we hoped to anchor for the night. On the way, the wind grew stronger, and the swells grew larger, so near the end of the day we were surfing along under a double-reefed mainsail.
Half Moon proved to be a calm anchorage, and we went to bed early after a full day at sea.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sittin' on a dock in the Bay

Watchin' the tide roll away... from our latest temporary home at the San Francisco Marina, across from the St. Francis Yacht Club. Another uncharacteristically warm and calm day, which started at 5 AM with me still grading term papers.

We bicycled over to Little Italy for a late breakfast, then found our way through the Financial District to the Asian Art Museum, where we saw the "Lords of the Samurai" exhibit. This was its only showing in the US, and it was pretty interesting. All drawn from the collection of one important family, the Hosokawas from Higo in southern Japan. Ever since reading Shogun a few decades ago, I have been fascinated by Samurai culture, and this exhibit only strengthened that attraction.

We emerged from the air-conditioned museum into the heat, and pedaled back toward Chinatown. For a large city, San Francisco has a very good set of marked bike routes, generous bike lanes (considering the age of the roads) and sharrows to help alert cars to be more generous with space. In Chinatown, we stocked up on very cheap produce. The prices here are less than half of what you pay in a supermarket. One example -- a whole fresh pineapple cost $1.29.

We're just about ready to move along to the south, but we will see what the weather looks like before heading out of the Gate. Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day. Its nice to not be on a tight schedule!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Baghdad by the Bay

We really fell under San Francisco's spell today. The sun was out, the wind was in the high teens instead of the low 20s, the temperature was in the 70s, and we had a great sail right past Alcatraz, under the Bay Bridge, and then back out to the San Francisco Marina where we are spending the next few nights. After dinner, we rode our bikes along the waterfront toward the Golden Gate. The entire coastline is accessible to the public, and there is provision for every type of recreation -- biking, hiking, picnicking, swimming, sailing, sailboarding, kiteboarding, fishing, etc. etc.

On our way back to the boat, we stopped to enjoy a marvelous sunset.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Angel Island

Today we made the painful decision to leave Sausalito, after 4 wonderful days here. We could definitely spend more time here, but we want to see other places in the Bay before we head south. So we made a very short hop over to Angel Island, across Raccoon Strait from Tiburon. It is a State Park that preserves a small scrap of natural landscape in the middle of a vast metropolitan area. For most of the time since Euro-American settlement it was used by the military for various purposes, and only became a park 40-some years ago. Now you can take a ferry or your own boat to get there, and once there you can hike, bike, camp, or take a tram tour. We don't normally do tours, but several locals told us this one was well worth it, so we ponied up for tickets and hopped on the tram. There was an audio tape augmented by periodic stops in which the driver gets out and explains something in more detail. There were buildings dating back to the Civil War, a WWII-era fort, gun emplacements, a Nike missile base, a Coast Guard installation, and a number of camping and picnic grounds.

But the most poignant and memorable sight was the Immigration Station, the West Coast equivalent of NY's Ellis Island, where Chinese were detained, quarantined, and interrogated, sometimes for years, before either being admitted to the US or deported back to Asia. There are people still living who were detained here, and their stories (captured on video) were quite sad to hear. This was a place where the American Dream was systematically denied to people based solely on ethnicity. The most unique remnants of this sad era are the anonymously authored poems, carved as Chinese characters into the wooden walls of the detention center, describing the anguish felt by those who lived in hope of a new life, but without any certainty that they would be allowed to enter the US.

Tonight we are anchored in Paradise Cove, on the east side of the Tiburon Peninsula, with a view NE toward San Pablo Bay, and the Napa Valley beyond. The temperature has warmed and the skies are clear, although we can see a thick ribbon of fog winding its way toward the Berkeley hills across the Bay to the southeast.


Tuesday we had a slow morning (I am in the middle of grading a gazillion papers for work) and in the afternoon went bicycling north toward Mill Valley. There is a nice bike path most of the way there, and along the way we visited some of the houseboats that Sausalito is famous for. Some are getting pretty long in the tooth, but it is still a pretty unique community.


On Monday we took a bus into the city and walked through Chinatown. There are two parallel streets, one for tourists and the other (Stockton) for locals. So after we got tired of looking at knick-knacks, we went to where the real action was -- the vegetable and fish markets. Prices were incredibly cheap. Quarts of strawberries that were $2.50 at Safeway were $1 a box. Fresh broccoli, with the stems trimmed off, was 39 cents/lb!

Unfortunately there was no way for us to cart any of this back to the boat, so we just gawked and eventually had lunch at a hole-in-the-wall deli, near the "Wa Li Bakery" and "Ho Kee Market".

After eating we made our way over to Fisherman's Wharf and walked along the waterfront toward the San Francisco Marina to look for some Canadian boaters we had met at Drake's Bay.

Finally we caught the bus back to Sausalito, where we had dinner with our neighbor's mother, who had never been on a sailboat, at least not one that was being lived in.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day sailing and champagne

So yet another posting from 'The Admiral' in one day! After hanging for awhile, to let the fog burn off, the captain and I went on a bike ride to a fabulous cafe for lunch and internet services.
What a glorious, slow time, and then we ran into the SF Opera Company putting on a free performance in Sausalito Park, but it was intermission! Darn. We were actually cookin' in the
sunshine, as we waited for the next sing along, so what did I do? Wo, I suggested that we go for an afternoon sail on the bay. Mr. C's (captain) eyes lit up, even though he does adore opera, so we pedaled back to SC to change out the head sail and ready the ship. Down Richardson Bay we went, and off to Raccoon Strait to view a bit of Angel Island on starboard side. Wow, exhilarating sailing, with Mr. C calling out orders to the Admiral, as we moved through the tidal rips similar to Dodd Narrows in Canada! Oh, I can hear Pavarotti now!
Well, after a couple of hours, we were back at the dock, Mr. C spraying/cleaning, and the Admiral slaving in the galley. The champagne sure helped!

Overcast and blustery weather here in Sausalito, so we will do some chores and hopefully a little bicycling. Had a fun evening at the docks on Irem and Kagan's
Sabre 38. We met Irem in our circuit weights class at OSU, and soon found out they keep their boat in Sausalito, as they use to live in SF. Quite a nice 'condo' on the water for weekends now and then when they are down here for work. I'll get a photo of Aegea later today.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Through the Gate to Sausalito

Had a nice sail yesterday from Bodega Bay back to Drake's Bay, except for a slight (ahem) broach as we rounded Pt. Reyes. Wind went from 4 kts apparent to nearly 30 before I could react. One minute we were surfing down 7' swells, dodging a whale on one wave, and the next thing I knew we had rounded up. Kinda nice to know the boat will self-correct, even if it is a bit nerve-wracking at the moment it happens. We doused the jib, dusted ourselves off, and continued on under mainsail. Never saw apparent wind over 16 again, so it was just a fluke that we got pushed over. Still, a lesson to be learned!

Coming in to Drake's right ahead of us was s/v Verdia, from Vancouver, with Geoff and Fiona aboard. We talked awhile on VHF after both boats had anchored. They had experienced a bit of an epic, with 35 kt winds and big waves, farther offshore than we had been. They were awaiting word from their buddy boat, Mariposa, 60 miles further back. It was a clear evening, with a sky full of stars, except for the dull glow of city lights to our south.

Today, we set off about 7, anxious to catch the flood tide through the Golden Gate. Mariposa was just coming into Drake's as we were leaving. Although it was overcast, visibility gradually increased from 2 miles to more than 5 miles by the time we neared the Gate. Still nervous from yesterday's broach, we sailed under genoa alone, as wind observations on the weather radio showed 18 kts at the Golden Gate and over 30 at Angel Island. With a 3 kt tide, we were making over 10 knots under the Golden Gate bridge. Yahoo!
Instead of heading straight in to Sausalito, we enjoyed the heady feeling of sailing the Bay for the first time, mixing it up with race fleets, tour boats, and a few ships. We rode the tide in as far as Fisherman's Wharf, then caught the eddy close inshore and tacked back toward the Gate, then reached north across the Bay, out of the fog and into the sun. Even with only the genoa hoisted, we were sailing well over 7 knots and got laid on our ears a few times. With no swell and hardly any wind chop, it was fun and not worrisome.

We'll be here in Sausalito for at least 3 days, enjoying a respite from the dismal fog outside the Gate and seeing a few of the local sights.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bodega Bay

We finally reached Bodega Bay, two days later than we thought we would. We had to double back the way we had come to get here, since we had already sailed south to Drake's Bay yesterday. But we wanted to clean up ourselves, our clothes, and the boat before we entered San Francisco Bay, and I needed to check in on my students -- we haven't had any connection to the Internet since leaving Ft. Bragg on Tuesday.

This is a quiet marina with decent facilities. We enjoyed a nice bike ride to Bodega Head after our chores were done. For dinner, we grilled a tuna fillet that a neighboring boater gave us. Eventually we'll have to learn to catch our own fish!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Today we still faced a southeasterly headwind to reach Bodega Bay. So we decided to sail south to Cordell Bank, a national marine sanctuary noted for its abundant sea life. And we were richly rewarded. We saw approximately 20 humpback whales, mostly in groups of 2 and 3, several pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins, and some black-footed albatrosses. We didn't get any great pictures with our point-and-shoot camera, but the sights and sounds were truly wonderful. With no engine to interfere, we could clearly hear every breath the whales took. We also heard several humpback songs through the hull. The whales' behavior was not extraordinary -- mostly lolling on the surface, waving their pectoral fins in the air, or showing their tail flukes as they dove deep. The dolphins played in front of our bow wave in groups of 2 and 3, and kept us company for 20 minutes or so.

As we left Cordell Bank, we decided to sail to Pt. Reyes instead of Bodega Bay, due to the direction of the wind. Drake's Bay, in the lee of Pt. Reyes, provided our most peaceful anchorage yet. At this point, we are only 25 miles from the Golden Gate. But we're not quite ready to leave the sea for the bay.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Statistically, this is the foggiest month of the year in these parts. So we've been lucky -- mostly. These past few days, we've had a taste of how it feels to live inside a cloud. As Mark Twain famously said: "the coldest winter I ever experienced was summer in San Francisco." New friends Pat and Sid came to see us off the morning we left Noyo River, and could barely make us out through the murk. But as we got out a few miles the fog lifted, and we could see about 5 miles in all directions. We could see the wind blowing -- from the south? We knew about the fog, but we didn't know that the wind ever blew from anywhere but the northwest in the summer. We've had feast or famine when it comes to wind, so we weren't going to let a little headwind stop us from sailing.

Also, we needed to learn to use our new windvane. As we put it through its paces, I came up with a new version of the old Carly Simon song: "You're so vane, you probably think this boat steers without you. You're so vane, I'll bet you think this boat steers without you, don't you, don't you..." etc. We tacked south until we reached Point Arena, at which point the coast changes direction and we thought we might be able to sail a reach. But the wind backed into the southeast so we kept tacking.

At last it was dinner time, and we had to decide whether to keep sailing through the night or find a place to anchor. Some fishermen at Noyo had told me there was a good anchorage at Fish Rock, so we nosed our way in and found a large motor yacht from Seattle already anchored. There was still room, so we dropped our hook nearby and settled in for a peaceful evening.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Still chillin' at Noyo

We've had lots of activities here in Fort Bragg: bicycling, kayaking, disc golf, hikes, scrabble and maybe some thrift stores today. Checking the weather each day, and tomorrow looks like the day we'll head out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mendocino coast

Craig and Kathleen picked us up at the boat and took us south along Highway 1 to a beach near the town of Elk. It was a beautiful day, but the wind got a little too strong, so we headed back to their house for the afternoon and evening. Craig and I had been friends in high school, but out of touch since then until just a few months ago. He and Kathleen are both poets, and Craig is also a singer and songwriter.