Thursday, December 11, 2008


When I arrived at the marina around 8 am, a strong northerly wind was already blowing. I checked the tide table and here's what I saw about today's tide levels and currents:

A moderate flood current at the gate until 11 am followed by an ebb current that would eventually build to almost 6 knots around 2:30 pm. The tidal swing would be almost 9 feet. With the full moon coming, it was tempting to wait until around 1:30 to head out, but we would have had to stay out until 7 pm to let the marina fill in to a sufficient depth to avoid dragging the keel in the mud. I decided instead to head out soon for a morning sail and try to sail to the gate and back, ast least, before the strong ebb current would begin.

We left port at 9:30 am, and you can see that the tide was very high with just a couple of feet of the marina seawall showing. As usual, some cormorants were roosing on the top of the seawall.

We put out full canvas while heading out into the central bay to the north and then tacked to the west to head for the gate. The flags on the end of pier 39 were fluttering moderately in the northwesterly breeze as we approached at about 9:40 am.

We were sailing directly toward the gate on starboard tack close reach-- a bit off the max close-hauled sail trim, sailing against the light and declining flood current in somewhat varying wind velocities. Eventually, we saw these sea kayakers cross our path, heading northward.

Skies were not as clear as they were on Tuesday, so our spectacular bridge was in a bit of haze as we approached around midspan in a breeze of about 10-12 knots. Skies over the north half of the gate and the Marin Headlands were clear.

Skies over the south half of the gate were partly cloudy.

As always, once outside the gate, we enjoyed our views of our magnificent bridge and the rugged cliffs of the headlands just outside the north tower.. it was now about 10:10 am, so we had sailed to the gate in about a half hour. To cover that distance of about 3.5 miles in 30 minutes means we were doing about 6 knots average over the bottom-- GREAT FUN SAILING! We were probably doing only 4-5 knots initially until the breeze picked up at around Fort Mason, and then later 7-8 knots in the stronger winds for the second half of the trip. The tide was probably mostly slack during this let of our trip.

... as well as our views of all of the headlands further to the west where some high clouds were approaching.

We sailed out a short ways and then came about and headed back inside, sailing now on port tack close reach for a while as the wind was northeasterly. A Red and White ferry with few people aboard steamed out the gate and then turned around and headed for Alcatraz.

Eventually, we fell off to a beam-to-broad reach as the wind shifted into the northwest again further inside the bay. We were about a mile inside the gate when this large PILOT boat blasted past us, heading out to the pilot station outside the gate.

Way off in the north, a tug was pulling a large petroleum barge with a tub excort and a long tow line.

The barge was marked as a double hull barge-- making it less likely to cause a spill if its struck by a boat or strikes some object like a bridge abutment. In the stern of the barge, it sort of looks like there may be living units for crew, which seems strange.

We had good 10+ northwesterly wind until we reached a point opposite the Fort Mason piers and then the breeze softened to just a few knots and we were just ghosting along as we passed Alcatraz.

A Blue and Gold ferry with quite a load of tourists passed to starboard, heading for the gate.

Another Blue and Gold ferry that came from Tiburon and Angel Island crossed in front of us, seemingly empty of passngers.

Further ahead, the two Alcatraz tourist ferries were crossing paths. The returning one with no passengers and the leaving one with a moderate complement of people on board.

Way in the west, Sausalito and Mt. Tam were locked in the morning haze.

We were now just ghosting eastward in a current that was mostly slack, fortunately, or we would have had to turn on the engine and begin motoring. The CABERNET SAUVIGNON HORNBLOWER charter boat steamed past us with a few people on deck.

We patiently crawled our way toward home port, expecting that might be it for our outing as there were only a few knots of breeze fluttering the flags on the end of pier 39. It was now 11:10 am, so it took us about an hour to return from the gate, giving us an average speed of around 3 knots. We were probably doing 7-8 knots for the first 1.5 miles and then less than 2 knots the rest of the way, and some ebb current was now building along the cityfront.

As we sailed past the end of pier 35, we could feel the northeasterly breeze starting to freshen in this area of the bay, so we headed for the D-E span of the Bay Bridge on port tack beam reach.

We eventually passed this Islander sailboat that was hove-to and just riding the ebb current to the west.

I had earlier watched as CASABLANCA, this Islander hove-to, as she sailed out of the south bay and headed toward Treasure Island and then tacked toward us. I wondered why she was moving so slowly toward us in the good winds there, and her hove-to condition explained that.

The city was locked in haze as we sailed eastward toward the Bay Bridge in freshening winds that eventually were blowing 10-15 knots.

As we approached the D-E span of the Bay Bridge, we could see in the distance ahead of us a couple of sailboats heading our way.

We were sailing downwind with a following sea that required constant attention to the steering to maintain course. The Bay Bridge was enjoying thin sunshine as we approached.

The dark-hulled sailboat from the east approached first-- sailing closer on the breeze than the other boat-- and so probably going to pass port to port...

...while the other would be passing starboard to starboard.

We actually sailed under the Bay Bridge to the east of the Echo tower, and soon thereafter, GYPSY [as we later found out her name to be] approached to pass us....

LOOKING GOOD!!!!!!! as she did, and eventually she sailed between the shore of YBI and the Echo tower of the bridge.

The city, framed by the D-E span was still locked in haze. It was now about 12:05 pm, so it had taken us almost an hour to sail from pier 39 to this point near Yerba Buena Island against the waxing ebb current, avaraging less than 3 knots of speed over the bottom for this trip secment, though we were surely doing at least 5 knots relative to water most of the time.

That other sailboat, a Catalina, passed to starboard, heading for the D-E span.

The lighthouse on the southeast point of YBI was gleaming in the morning sunshine.

We fell off to DDW to reef the jib for our return trip, just in case the wind built in velocity, and then we came about and sailed under the Bay Bridge between the Echo tower and the shore of YBI, Those two sailboats that passed us were now on the central bay, GYPSY having fallen off the wind to sail on broad reach toward the A-B span of the Bay Bridge, while the Catalina had fallen off to sail northward.

We were blasting toward home port on close reach starboard tack when GYPSY passed in front of us, and we were starting to take some spray from the wind waves from time to time.

GYPSY continued southward as we continued toward home port, sailing fast over the water and even faster over the bottom with waxing ebb current assist.

We sailed into the area between piers 33 and 35 to douse sails. It was now 12:22 pm, so we made the trip from the Bay Bridge in about 15 minutes to cover the distance that took us close to an hour to cover earlier. WHEW!
WE WERE REALLY FLYING OVER THE BOTTOM!!!! probably doing 10-12 knots!!!

I furled the jib and then headed up into the wind to drop the main and then flake it and tie it up, before motoring around pier 35 and into the marina. I eased ANTICIPATION into her slip-- coasting in low and letting her drift into the slip with the current as we entered, before shifting into reverse to bring her to a stop. The northerly wind was moderate here, so I didn't worry about it backing her out of the slip and I did my usual routine of tying up the bow lines first, then the starboard stern line, followed by re-connecting the shore power cord and then tying up the port stern line, putting on the spring ling amidship and then flipping the power switch on the dock box. Sail and helm covers went on and we were ready to go below for downloading the photos and having a snack, followed by lunch and then a nap. Ah............ the good life on permanent vacation!!!!

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