Sunday, August 24, 2008

2008_Aug. - Short sail up the coast with Stu

(I urge you to click on any of the images to enlarge it and see the details.)

The plan was to get a good start and see how far we could get in two days without rushing, and without subjecting ourselves to a hammering in the ocean.

The day started actually working on "Harvey" the RV to fix some wiring serving the battery charger. Since Stu has every possible electrical tool on board Aquavite, we took Harvey to the dock and shuttled back and forth between boat and RV to get the repairs completed.

That chore out of the way, we checked all the through hulls, rigged the boat for the expected 20-30 knots of wind and slowly motored out of the Oakland estuary towards the bay.

Once we crossed under the Oakland Bay Bridge, the wind picked up as expected, and the fog began to creep in over the Marin hills and through the gate. Now the wind had us,and we simply balanced the sails with the rudder, set our course for Horseshoe cove, and sat back to enjoy the ride.

Upon reaching "Hurricane Gulch" - the narrow strip of water in the lee of the Marin Headlands, we furled the jib and doused the main to motor in to this pocket harbor in Marin County just inside the Golden Gate bridge. We've used this place as a staging point for sails out to the ocean many times - usually we are the only ones anchored here - across from the delapidated Presideo Yacht club, its deteriorating docks, and the Coast Guard station . Recently, there have been significant renovations on land here - updating the civil war era dormatories to an upscale Inn - but otherwise - the waterfront appear unchanged for as long as I have been passing through.

Anchor is off the bottom mud by 9:45 am and we are underway, sailing out the gate through a long deep swell. As if on que, a pod of dolphins swims by on the port side. We notice a whole fleet of boats heading out the gate at the same time - the shorthanded race to the Farallons. We fall in behind the last boat and watch the scenery.

As we leave the bridge behind, the wind dies down a bit, and the swell lengthens. Its a comfortable ride and we are glad to be free (if onyl temporarily) by the land boundries of the bay. As the day progresses, the weather to sea looks less and less compelling, so we head north in the narrow channel between the 4 fathon bank and the coast. Suddenly I hear a rumbling sound - never heard on board before. The engine is off, so I know its not bearings, or prop shaft related. I peer into the rigging to see if anything has come loose - All looks fine. Stu climbs the companion steps and we think together for 30 seconds before it dawns on us - that was an Anchor chain sound.

Up until now we had been riding the swells powerfully, with many a wave washing over the bow of the boat sluicing the entire front of the craft up to the dodger with salt spray and wash. One of these waves, or a series of them had loosed the knot holding the anchor to the bow sprit, and the anchor had left fly toward the bottom - some 50 feet down.

As luck would have it, a tangle in the anchor rode - that part of the anchoring system that is rope, not chain stopped the entire line from unreeling and scrolling overboard. But, it seemed as if we had at least 60 feet of line out. Somehow we were still sailing. The anchor had not hit bottom. We slowed the boat and heaved to. Then I went forward to assist Stu at the anchor locker. Stu thought perhaps we were indeed "anchored" in a patch of very bumpy water just off Point Bonita. Surreal upon reflection.

I sat down on the bow, anchored my feet against the stantions, and with the best body mechanics I could muster, began the long and arduous job of hauling in the anchor. Indeed upon a few hard tugs, it seemed like we were not actually dug into the bottom, but simply dragging the long chain and anchor like a heavy fishing line. Pull by pull the reluctant anchor came closer to the boat. I kept looking up at the rocks off point Bonita, concerned we might drift that way, but Stu was keeping a careful eye out, and the current plus wind were driving us parallel to, and not up upon the rocky point. Pull - by pull the line came in. I stopped often to brace the line against a bow cleat to catch my breath. What seemed like forever, transpired in just a few minutes actually. Before I knew it, there was wet chain in my hand and I knew we had only 30 more feet to go. With one more mighty effort, the anchor was back aboard where it belonged, and Stu came forward with a very stout rope of sufficent length to tie a bombproof set of knots to hold it in place for the reaminder of our journey. Phew!!

That chore complete, we fell off, jibed the boat and were back on our merry way. No worse for the wear, but having learned an important lesson about the quality of knots needed to hold that anchor down when regularly a-wash with ovean swells.

We came across a harbor seal, with large fish in jaws, shaking it wildly to kill it. Hovering attentively just above the melee of the thrashing seal, we spot a fleet of gulls, hoping to grab the fish spoils left behind from the seal's hard fishing effort. In a flash, the seal, and his lunch were gone and the gulls flew off in seach something more promsing.

Once north of the potatoe patch, we turn back to complete our loop. The wind had dropped even further, and the swell had reduced over the shallow bank, so we sailed south again right over the sholl, keeping a careful eye out for any sneaker waves approaching from the northwest. In the swells place was a far reaching body of water covered with dancing waves. I have a pictue of that below. The water almost popped as the white caps disipated randomly. There was not perceptable swell, but a reguklar field of 2-3 foot tent shaped waves that appeared, then disappered without moving any way but up and down. Aquavite muscled her way through the slop like a mighty snow plow - shoving the wavelettes aside and we worked our way homeward. We passed by the sea bouy marking the coastal channel and turned towards the gate. Note in the picture the relative SIZE of the bouy compared to another boat, about our size passing by.

Once back in the gate, the ventury effect between The City and the headlands accelerated the wind and our boat speed picked up to over 7 knots. We flew eastward towards home on a building flood tide and were rewarded with woderful views of the City Front, and a smattering of weekend sailors in well trimmed boats.

As we sailed east, the temperature rose and we peeled off layers. Foul weather gear, sweaters, long sleve shirts, finally down to a tee shirt. At one point Stu ducked below and came up in shorts - a wide grin on his face. This is indeed why we continue to go out to sea in small boats.

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