Bare Boat Charter course notes, August 26-28, 2011

Submitted by Tradewinds member Brad Call

On day one I met my instructor, Steve Damm, and fellow student, Ed Rose at the office.  Ed is from Colorado and he normally sails on mountain lakes in Catalina 22 sized boats.  He came out a few days early to practice sailing with Steve Damm on SF Bay.  The third student dropped out of the class so it was just the three of us.  We hauled our gear over to “Santorini” (Beneteau 323) and discussed our activities for the day.  The plan was to review topics from the textbook but to spend most of the time practicing anchoring, docking, and man-overboard drills.  The Beneteau’s are beautiful sailboats but very shallow draft, which makes them susceptible to the wind at slow speeds.  Steve spent a lot of time with us reviewing the engine components, electrical systems, and thru-hulls.  Next we got out on the water to practice anchoring within the marina.  We began with a single anchor off the bow, which was review for both of us.  The next anchor technique was the bow and stern.  This exercise was followed by two anchors off the bow (45 degrees apart) and lastly the Mediterranean Mooring.  By this time the winds were around 15 knots, which added a certain challenge to a successful anchoring attempt.  After stowing away the anchors, we ventured out into Potrero Channel to perform man-overboard drills.  We practiced the figure eight and quick stop methods.  The quick stop method is not advisable unless the crew reacts quickly and is proficient at performing a jibe (turning away from the wind).  This concluded day one and we sailed the boat back to the marina to clean her up.  We took this opportunity to see our boat for the next two days, “Lucy,” a Beneteau 34.  It was a long day of hauling anchors up and down, and I was exhausted.

Day 2

We gathered bright and early and hauled all of our gear and food down to the boat.  Once again we spent considerable time checking the boat over and getting to know the systems.  Lucy is equipped with an electric windlass for the anchor – quite a luxury for us.  In addition it has both a GPS chart plotter and autopilot.  Steve reviewed the engine cooling and fuel systems.  We stowed all of the food into the galley area and learned how to operate the stove and propane valves and solenoid switch.   Steve also showed us how to establish a course on the chart.  We practiced this often over the next two days.  Soon we were on our way out into Potrero Channel and over to Ayala Cove on Angel Island.  We practiced tying-up to a mooring ball and then had lunch.  Steve showed us how to use the “happy hooker” to thread a rope through the mooring ball bracket using a modified sheet bend knot.  Then it was into Raccoon Strait, past Peninsula Point and over to Sausalito.  The sun was out by then and the area looked very beautiful.  I had told Steve that I had never been out past the Golden Gate Bridge so he had me steer towards the bridge, but time was short so we stayed within the Bay.  There was a tremendous amount of activity in this area which I have always informally referred to as “the Slot”.  Everything from large tankers to racing sailboats were present.  We proceeded south and sailed along the SF waterfront.  Steve pointed out places were we might want to visit in the future.  A good place to anchor for lunch is Aquatic Park near the former Fort Mason.  Next we sailed by the Pier 39 area, where it costs approximately $1/foot to tie up for dinner.  Fortunately the Sea Lions are not as prolific in this marina as they were years ago.  The City of SF has established a free docking area (up to 3 hours) at what is called Pier 1.5.  We continued south along the waterfront to the South Beach Harbor, docking and a pump-out is available at the north end.  To the south of South Beach Yacht Club is the anchorage next to AT&T Park, called McCovey Cove, where the SF Giants play.  We next set course for Clipper Cove at Treasure Island and arrived there about 5:00 pm, but not before watching several large container ships leave the Oakland deepwater harbor.  We set a bow anchor with a mushroom anchor affixed to the rode to provide more holding power.  It did not drag while we were there.  Then it was time to fix dinner.  I was assigned the main course and I prepared spaghetti with pork sausage in pasta sauce.  Steve had brought several packages of vegetables and I warmed them up in the spaghetti water before it came to a boil.  The dinner was a big hit.  We spent the rest of the evening discussing topics from our textbook and practicing more navigation and fuel range exercises.  The anchorage slowly filled with other overnighters, to a total of about 8 by 10:00 pm when we went to bed.  I slept in the aft cabin, Steve in the V berth, and Ed was on a saloon settee.  The anchorage was relatively quite at night with no significant wind or waves.

Day 3

We got up about 7:00 am.  The weather was overcast and warm with a little wind.  Ed brought a lot of food for his assigned breakfast.  This included French toast, fruit, bacon, and muffins.  It was a hearty breakfast for the hungry crew.  We departed Clipper Cove about 9:00 and motored up the east side of Treasure Island and then set a course northwestward to Sausalito.  Along the way we saw several of the 3-½ foot long brown dolphins that Steve identified as Harbor Dolphins.  Sea Lions were also to be seen.  We heard on the radio that swimmers had departed from Point Bonita and were heading for Aquatic Park.  As we crossed through the slot we encountered another sail boat race with the same class boats (Farr 40’s etc) that we had seen the previous day.  One of them had a stingray emblem on the side.  We threaded our way between them to reach Sausalito (Richardson Bay).  By this time the sun was coming out and it was a glorious day.  Steve had us motor up the Sausalito channel to near the Bay Model where we turned around.  We saw a very large sailboat (approximately 200 feet long) from Canada that was very beautiful.  It even had an elevator-like crows nest on the fore mast.  A Russian performance sailboat with a hammer and sickle on the red hull was anchored towards the entrance of the channel.  Steve showed us a good anchorage near Cone Rock.  We continued over to Belvedere Cove and we anchored to the south end.  I established our position with several compass measurements and then we had our lunch.  After lunch, Ed and I raised anchor and motored up Raccoon Strait towards Richmond.  About this time we noticed a strange noise, which sounded vaguely like a slipping fan belt, coming from the aft end of the boat.  Steve spent considerable time establishing that the motor was not overheating.  There was not much wind at this time, but we attempted to sail back to Richmond with the motor off.  Steve tested us while we drifted in the current waiting for some wind.  Eventually we restarted the motor and sailed to the Potrero Channel entrance.  The motor was turned off again and we sailed back to the marina.  Last but not least we used the engine to go to the pump-out and back to the slip.  The boat was cleaned and secured by 5:30 pm and our adventure was complete.  It was a fantastic experience.

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