Random Thoughts Regarding the Richmond Ferry Service

It’s been a long wait, however, ferry service between the San Francisco Ferry Building and Richmond is scheduled to begin on Thursday, January 10, 2019. We are already hearing a lot of questions on how the ferry service will impact Tradewinds members.

First among my random thoughts is … How far is the walk from the ferry terminal to Tradewinds? It’s 1.4 miles, which means for the average person, the walk will take 20 to 30 minutes, however, a bike ride will only take about 5 to 8 minutes. Which, if the ferry is running isn’t too bad, however, it does bring up another thought.

The schedule

Weekdays to San Francisco

SF Ferry Building
AM Weekdays
6:10 AM6:45 AM
PM Weekdays
5:15 PM5:50

Weekdays to Richmond

SF Ferry Building
AM Weekdays
6:25 AM7:00 AM
PM Weekdays
4:30 PM5:05

https://sanfranciscobayferry.com/richmond-sched . As you can see, at least for now, the ferry will only run weekdays. There will be four trips from Richmond to San Francisco, and only two from San Francisco to Richmond, in the AM. PM is the reverse. Four trips from San Francisco to Richmond, and two back to San Francisco. The net result … if you are sailing on a weekday, you can catch a boat to richmond at 7:55 (arriving at 8:30), and a ride back home at 5:15 or 6:05. But, again, only on a weekday. The ferry will not be running on weekends.

This is both bad news and good news. The bad news we already talked about … no service on the weekends. The good news. You don’t have to worry about the ferry on the weekend. Except that there is a better than average chance the ferry will be left tied to the dock during hours of non operation, making the channel a bit narrower … like 45 to 50 feet narrower … ok, that’s more than a bit.

Rules of the road … is a ferry a “power boat” or a vessel restricted in it’s ability to maneuver. The answers are “maybe” and “maybe”. Generally speaking, while crossing the bay, a ferry is considered a power boat, and will give way to a sailboat. However, when operating in “tight quarters”, such as at the Richmond Ferry Terminal located at Ford Channel and Sante Fe Channel, they become a vessel restricted in it’s ability to maneuver, and they become the stand on vessel to a sailboat. In other words, it’s probably better to avoid that area while the ferry is arriving and/or departing.

Sound signals … Not all ferry captains use sound signals, however, some do. The two most common are a single prolonged blast (4-6 seconds) which means in this case, “leaving the dock”, and three short blasts (about 1 second each), meaning operating astern propulsion (backing up). Don’t be surprised if you hear them together. The captain is just announcing the vessel will be backing away from the dock. A definite clue to stay out of the way.

Propeller wash … This one could prove to be the most interesting. It is almost a certainty the ferry will keep it’s propeller turning in forward, at a pretty good PRM, while sitting at the dock. If you enter that prop wash, your vessel will react. Most likely the ferry will tie up with it’s bow pointed East and it’s stern to the West, causing propeller wash to extend from the dock out into Santa Fe Channel. With that said, just remember, whichever way the stern is directed, will have current flowing that direction.

All in all, I think ferry service to Richmond is a great plan. Fortunately other than the somewhat narrower channel into Marina Bay, there won’t be a huge impact to most Tradewinds members. All of the AM arrivals and departures will be completed before the typical Tradewinds charter or class begins. The afternoons will be a little more challenging weekdays with four times between 5:00 and 7:30 where a ferry will be at or near the terminal.

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1 Response to Random Thoughts Regarding the Richmond Ferry Service

  1. anthony c johnson says:

    Not surprisingly, Don states the correct description of the right-of-way situation between you and a ferry. This is often misunderstood. Remember the other half of the right-of-way rules: the privileged or stand-on boat MUST stand on in a situation where there is a risk of collision. If you are a long way from the ferry it is easy to avoid it. But if a situation arises where you are going to cross under sail in open water, the captain of the ferry, who is professional, EXPECTS you to stand on. He is going much faster and has probably already figured out two or three crossing situations that are ahead of him, of which you are one. You are NOT doing him a favor by changing course in a way that is unexpected and in violation of the Colregs.
    An example would be that you decide to change course to take his stern, which is NOT what the rules require. At the same time, he is changing course to go behind you, which IS what the rules require. You will turn into each other.
    To reiterate, this analysis of the situation is only pertinent when there is a risk of collision. Well in advance, taking his stern is fine.

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