C’mon, it’s not all bad!
Here’s another chapter from Captain Craig’s offshore journal. Okay, okay, a few folks might have been a little spooked by my article on scariest moments outside the gate. Remember, these are only ten stories from over a hundred trips outside the gate. All those trips that went exceeding well are perhaps a lot less exciting but, as I said in my last article, wonderful times can be had if you are well prepared, watch the weather forecast, can handle the idea of solving problems if and when they arise and don’t get complacent. Really these are good rules to follow inside or outside the gate.
So, what about the good stories? As I said, these are usually less exciting. I do know that it was the good memories from my first trip to Hawaii that made me want to do it again. I call this selective amnesia. I remembered the beautiful sunsets, the moon lit nights with fabulous stars, cruising at 8 to 10 knots with a spinnaker and perfecting my downwind driving during the day so that it was a no brainer at night. The celebration at the half way point and the exhilaration of sighting land were really fun too. So, those fond memories outweighed the “challenges” that we also faced racing to Kaneohe Bay.
Selective amnesia seems to work well regarding my trips out the gate too.
When doing the Half Moon Bay to Drakes Bay loop, I have to admit that going south has been more fun and relaxing. A nice broad reach on the ocean makes for some fun steering and the legs are long enough for everyone to have a “trick at the wheel”. If you haven’t heard that phrase before, look it up. That’s a good ‘ole nautical phrase. I’ve learned that when making the “loop” you’re usually better off going to Half Moon Bay, then Drakes Bay and then home. If you haven’t taken Tradewinds Advanced Coastal Cruising Class (ACC) yet, your instructor will discuss why this is the case.
Visiting the rough and tumble fishing boat port at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay is always fun. We usually have a great meal at the Ketch Joanne, Barbara’s Fish Trap or Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. Have you tried a Big Break Ale, Matt? (edit: Of course I have! I LOVE HMB Brewing…) A short walk into the quaint little town of Princeton By The Sea, is fun also.
Going north has its moments also. There are several options for going north on the California coast. Keep in mind that the prevailing winds are from, guess what?, right where you want to go. Your options are motoring, motor sailing or a lot of tacking. For me, it has been a fun challenge to maximize tacking efficiency. But this requires a fair amount of planning, patience and perseverance. Did I mention motor sailing? Hopefully, you all caught that. Once again, in ACC class you’re going to learn that motor sailing, when done properly, can be a very important component when going north on our coast. And, please be mindful that Tradewinds policy is no motor sailing inside the Bay.
If you motor out to the Farallones from Half Moon Bay early in the morning when the winds are light, you’ve set yourself up for a beautiful reach into Drakes Bay in the afternoon with plenty of light left over anchoring and firing up the BBQ. Drakes Bay can be quite idyllic. It is well protected from NW swells even though it can be quite windy. The landscape is spectacular with its white cliffs and colorful rock formations and sparse enough to imagine what it must have been like when Sir Francis Drake careened his “Golden Hinde” there in 1579.
Rounding the Farallones gives one a great sense of accomplishment but, if you’re expecting a beautiful island with palm trees, you may be a little disappointed. After all, they are just big treeless rocks on the edge of the continental shelf. Still, it’s fun sighting the islands, rounding them with a wide margin and saying you’ve done it.
Remember those sunsets and starry nights I mentioned earlier? I’ve had my share of those, right here on our little coast. Sea life is abundant also: whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, harbor seals, flying fish, pelicans, frigatebirds, shearwaters, scoters, gulls, huge jelly fish, etc., etc. I always bring my field guides!
I’m not a fisherman. Sailboats and fishing lines don’t seem to pair together very well unless you’re going to sail in a straight line for a good while. We caught a lot of fish going to Hawaii and I know there is good fishing on our coast too. Just ask Elvis. Elvis runs a fishing charter boat and hangs out at Tradewinds from time to time.
Surf’s up! Coming back into the gate on a run with a following sea and flood tide can be a real kick. I can remember surfing a Catalina 38 with speeds up to 18 knots. Of course this was with a Spinnaker and a Blooper and the timing was well planned. Do they still make Bloopers Angie? (edit: Kinda…. but they are horribly out of style…)
This was tricky work but great fun. You can do the same with just the main and jib, wing and wing. You’ll have the skills at the ACC level to control the boat in following seas, being mindful to avoid the jibe. Enjoy the ride!
Hopefully, these comments will inspire some interest in sailing the Gulf of the Farallones!
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