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Old 05-26-2012
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Re: Advice on SF Bay summer sailing

The currents can be a real pain sometimes. Once, my wife and I sailed on a HUGE afternoon ebb down the estuary, across the bay, under the Bay Bridge, and around the end of the SF peninsula to Gashouse Cove. The winds were 10 to 15 kts max and the afternoon was beautiful. I didn't have a tide book with me (cue scary music), but I figured the ebb had been going on for so long already that it was bound to turn into a flood soon enough. Besides, there was no fog, the city lights were coming on, and it was about to turn into a picture-perfect evening.

We turned around for the run back to Alameda, which should have taken about two and a half hours on a "normal" day, and that's just about when the wind decided to start dying. The ebb was still pretty strong, and even with the wind behind us we (and every other sailboat on the bay) crept back along the SF waterfront. At one point we were pretty much stationary just off of Pier 39, our progress through the water and the tide just about perfectly balanced against one another, for about 45 minutes. One by one all the sailboats fired up the "iron spinnaker" and headed home as it got dark. Unfortunately, my old Victory 21's motor was a British Seagull. I finally caved in, wrestled the Seagull out of the lazaret, and fired her up. By now it was pretty dark, and the ebb had finally tapered off, and the wind was completely gone.

So, there we were, in the middle of one of the busiest ports in the world, without real navigation lights (I know, I know....), with old nasty gas in the Seagull (so it wasn't running all that great), hugging the waterfront until we "zipped" across to Yerba Buena, then hugging the shore of the island, then "zipping" across Outer and Middle Harbors to Alameda Island, then putt-putt-putting up the Estuary. All this while keeping an eye out for ships, wondering if we actually had enough gas to make it, getting cold (we hadn't planned on being out nearly so late), and getting ready to kill the engine if the CG or a sheriff's boat showed up (so we could flash our little flashlight at them and pretend we were legal). Oh, yeah....and the Seagull's muffler kept working itself loose every twenty minutes or so, necessitating stopping the motor and reattaching it to keep ourselves from going deaf in the middle of all this.

And to top everything off (you knew there had to be more, right?) when we got back to Alameda Marina (we actually got a tow from a Good Samaritan the last couple of miles) it was well past midnight, and the tide was so low that I couldn't get the boat up to the hoist dock. The Admiral was definitely NOT amused. She took a nap in the cab of my pickup for a couple of hours while I waited for the tide to come up enough that I could get the boat up to the hoist dock and hoist it back onto its trailer.

Lessons:
ALWAYS bring a tide table and check it before you leave
Always bring extra warm clothes
Always bring extra snacks and drinks
Always keep the motor in good repair
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Oh, and make sure the F$%#@!!! nav lights work!!
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Last edited by SlowButSteady; 05-26-2012 at 06:47 PM.
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