I'm looking for a bit of advice and perhaps encouragement on sailing in summer conditions on the SF bay. Back in December I bought an old Ranger 23 (short rig) and have been getting out on her about twice a month. I am brand new to sailing and this is my first boat. No lessons but I've been out with folks a few times prior to buying my own boat. I have avoided going out in any kind of small craft advisory and with one exception have managed to avoid winds much over 10-12kts as it's been fairly light winds over the winter.
Last weekend (Sunday) the forecast was 9-12 kts and I was sailing S of the Bay bridge and we had little to no wind. As we crossed under the bridge heading north near the city the wind started building and I looked out ahead and thought "damn, that's a lot of whitecaps, and gee the water sure looks crazy". Then we were in it. Waves from every direction, strong winds, and stronger gusts. I was suddenly way out of my comfort zone. We took some spray over the nose a couple of times and we may have momentarily hit 30 deg of heel. The boat seemed to take it all in stride. It never really tried to round up. I was tense and kept on for a few minutes before tacking back towards the bridge and heading back to calmer water and home. Looking later at the recorded wind graphs online gusts may have been hitting 30.
1st lesson for me is that it's time for decent sailing shoes. Sliding across the deck wasn't cool.
I'm trying to get a sense... is this what sumer conditions are likely to be on the bay? This weekend is calling for winds 15-25 and I'd really like to go sailing but I'm not 100% sure of my own abilities. We have a single reef in the main we can take advantage of with a single line system that I have yet to even try out.
How much wind is "too much stay home" wind for my little boat? Does small craft advisory always mean stay home? How often will these conditions happen over the summer?
What's your advice for a newbie sailor on the SF Bay in the summer?
Funny thing I was talking to my neighbour at our marina in the estuary (which marina are you in?) chatting about the nasty conditions in the south bay last weekend! Usually south of the bay bridge the winds are lighter then gradually build as you head north reaching a peak in the slot. Last weekend, however, they were just as strong in the south bay.
The weather forecast is not very good at the detail of wind strengths. However, they invariably get the big picture right. Two GOOD indicators of wind strength to check are the height of the marine layer over the peninsula hills (higher, and spilling over the hills means strong winds) and the temperature difference between the bay area and central valley. The more the DIFFERENCE the greater the wind. Last weekend it was cool in the bay and warm inland.
I think my key advice would be to have a sail plan that works when the winds are strong, and be able to use it routinely, second nature. Practice reefing and un-reefing. When it's blowing 35 is a bad time to find out that the reefing line is too short or something.
You didn't say if you're sailing alone, but if you are being able to heave-to is really useful, especially to put a reef in or just have a snack
Finally, a dependable engine is worth it's weight in gold.