Wednesday, April 23, 2008


After saturday's experience with nasty afternoon winds, we were not inclined to go out on sunday when the winds piped up to at least 25 knots in the afternoon. Tuesday morning, a light breeze was blowing in the morning, so we decided to head out for a morning sail.

When we left port around 10:30 am, the southwesterly wind was blowing at well under 10 knots....

.. and the waxing flood current was pushing the scow schooner, ALMA, eastward as she tried to sail westward-- the breeze not strong enough to enable her to stem the current.

As we headed out into the bay and sailed toward the west on the light southwesterly breeze, being pushed northward by the currnet, the ALMA was still drifting with the current on the sparkling bay waters.

We were making some progress to the west against the flood current when we encountered the wake of this inbound freighter, so tacked to ride the wake rather than bang into it and soon we were pushed by the current to a point just a short ways west of where we started. Needless to say, we were, along with ALMA, hoping for a freshening breeze.

After the freighter wake passed, we tacked to the west again and made some progress westward as the breeze freshened a bit, but spotted this large pilot boat headed our way and were happy to see that she was veering off to pass to port so we could ride over her large wake and not have to buck it or tack again.

We were sailing in quite warm sunshine, but we could see that a dark layer of cloud was slowly moving eastward from the ocean. A storm was moving our way and expected to hit later that afternoon or evening.

As we continued to ghost to the west, this tug and barge-- probably carrying a petroleum product-- hence the tug escort-- were headed our way, probably planning to turn northward after passing Alcatraz, but we were well out of their way when they did so.

The breeze shifted more into the WSW as we sailed along so we ended up approaching the eastern shore of Alcatraz Island, noticing a patch of colorful spring flowers on the island.

As we approached the shore of the island, we noticed that the Alcatraz ferry was approaching, so we tacked to the south to make sure that they didn't try to pass us to port on their way to the landing dock on the island. As we sailed southward toward the city, we spotted many tourists enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatur on the island.\,a nd probably some of them were taking a photo of the lone sailboat looking good on San Francisco Bay!

With a freshening WSW breeze, we were now making good headway sailing toward the Ft. Mason piers, the flood still pushing us eastward as we sailed, and we scared up a flock of cormorannts as we sailed along.

To the west of us, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency ship, the BOLD, earlier seen as heading west, was now heading back east.

\ With a breeze now in the range of 8-10 knots, we were having a blast sailing full canvas, heeled over nicely, and beating against the current which was lighter along the shore of the city, eventually passing the Golden Gate Yacht Club building and still enjoying some sunshine.

Further out on the bay, a large center-cockpit motorsailor was motorsailing toward the gate right in the teeth of the strongest flood current. Had I been skippering, I would have hugged the cityfront to stay in lighter currents.

The St. Francis Yacht Club building and the Palace of Fine Arts behind were in hazy sunshine as we passed, still beating along the shore against the current, but the breeze had shifted back into the southwst wo we were now able to sail directly toward the gate.

A cute little harbor seal poked his head out of the water and stared at us as we passed.

As we approached the gate, the breeze began to soften and we were starting to wonder if we would be able to shoot the gate against the stronger current there when we spotted outside the gate the first pelican we've seen this year. I hope they will soon be back in force, as they add much interest to our spring-fall outings.

With a softening breeze and its shift more westerly, we were just creeping toward the gate for many many minutes, getting pushed more toward midspan of the bridge when finally a few freshening puffs gave us enough headway to shoot the gate against the stronger current near midspan as a couple of tourist ferries joined us out there.

We just sailed out a short distance, and then came about and headed back inside, riding now the flood current and probably moving eastward twice as fast over the bottom as our speed over the sea due to the light breeze and less efficient point of sail: a broad reach.

As we ghosted eastward, we saw a number of flocks of cormorants, like these, beating their wings strenuously just to fly a a foot or two off the surface of the sea.

South of Harding Rock, a sand dredge was operating.

As the dark cloud moved over the bay and began obscurring the afternoon sun, we noticed that Mt. Tam was barely visible and the top hidden in cloud.

The BOLD was now heading west again, and we passed her port to port. I was slightly tempted to hail the bridge on my portable VHF to ask about their mission here, but thought better of it. Perhaps I'll see if there is anything on the internet about this boat and her mission here on S.F Bay. You can check out her general mission at

As we ghosted toward home port with flood assist, and happy to have it rather than having to fight against an ebb, we spotted the BOLD heading back eastward again.

The city was bathed in cloudy bright light as we sailed between pier 45 and pier 39.

The breeze fluttering the flags on the end of pier 39 was at most a few knots.

We pulled in the jib as we sailed past the pier, and looking back, noticed that ADVENTURE CAT, our old pal, was heaidng out for their first afternoon sail, raising her main just outside the west marina. [We heard that ADVENTURE CAT 2 blew out their main in the nasty winds on Saturday.]

A Coast Guard fast boat was steaming toward the entrance to the west marina at about this same time.

We sailed past the marin seawall and then headed into the wind to drop the main, ready for landing and then motor into the marina, very pleased to have spent over 3 hours out there looking great with full canvas flying!

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