When do you get too old for this stuff?

I have never been offshore on a sailboat and have been violently ill the last few times I went offshore on a power boat. But still it is important to try new things. So I casually put the bug in Mark Green’s ear that a quick trip to the Farallon Islands and back (the back being the important part!) was something worth organizing. The first attempt at organizing the trip over New Year’s weekend fizzled for lack of crew. As late as noon on Friday there had been no update on the trip and I wrote it off my list.

So on Saturday, I’m tending bar for the Forty Niners stunning defeat of New Orleans without a care in the world bemoaning the fact that Sunday would be another day of playing boat mechanic. Imagine my surprise when Mark Green and Allan Orr stopped by to catch the game. My question “Well I guess the trip is canceled? I haven’t heard anything official.” and their response of “Didn’t you get the email?” left me feeling more than a little queezy. So the trip was on! In fact Mark, Alan and two of their closest friends were sailing up to Schoonmaker Point Marina from which they intended to depart at 6:30 AM for a quick jaunt out to the Farallon Islands, a circumnavigation of said islands then back to the land. Seeing that, at least in my mind, that I started this entire train of thought I was committed to go. Now time for some serious planning. Gary Edwards and Lee Stevens were at the bar and flat out told me that I was crazy for joining the crazies leaving the Golden Gate anytime in the month of January. Remarks like: “You do know that they had the Mavericks organizing meeting last week?” ( Maverick’s being the winter surf contest off Half Moon Bay with 50 foot reported waves. ) followed by “Forecasted Seas of 8 foot swells with an additional 7 feet of wind driven chop. Winds building to 30 knots in the afternoon.” Well, I was less than confident and seriously undergeared for this first attempt at offshore sailing.

The first part of the voyage was ferrying Sweet Grapes up to Schoonmaker Point Marina here is Mark’s writeup:

“After watching the 49er’s Alex and Vernon show on Saturday, Mark Green, Alan Orr and Mark Ramsbey set off at 5:45PM on Sweet Grapes sailing up to Sausalito (Schoonmaker Point Marina) riding a strong ebb and moderate winds north, with only about 30 minutes of motoring through the light patches. An absolutely beautiful evening for a sail – flat water and steady winds for most of the trip. We arrived at the marina and were in our slip by 8:45. We were met at the marina by Alan’s wife Jude and her friend Jan who lives in Sausalito. The gals were bearing burgers and fries from a local Mexican joint (actually quite tasty – or we were just VERY hungry). Washed it all down with a cold adult beerverage while we chatted about Jan’s adventures to foreign lands (I lost count of how many) to perform plastic surgery in 3rd world countries. We were crashed out shortly after 10pm anticipating the 5:30 wakeup call.

Up and to the showers by 5:45 (ugghh!) with the rest of the crew to arrive before our scheduled 6:30 departure time. The ebb at the Golden Gate bridge starts at 5:44am and peaks at 3.77 kts at 8:40am, so we plan to ride the strong currents out. Slack is at 12:34 with the max flood of 2.52 kts at 3:17pm. With a little luck we should be back in Sausalito well before the ebb starts at 6:25pm, and hopefully already on our way south back to San Mateo.”

While the Marks and Alan were sailing I was picking up a new supply of Bonine, anti-motion sickness medicine for those of you who never had to take the stuff. The warning on the package ” do not take with alchohol, do not operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of this drug….” Well, if I was going out the Gate there no way was I not going to take this stuff!

As an aside: I can tell you that driving while under the infleunce of Bonine is much worse than trying to drive after a couple of drinks at the bar. In the future it will be avoided at all costs. Pick a designated driver, really, seriously!

Somehow, I managed to both set an alarm for 4:30 AM and to make it to Schoonmaker Point at about 6:00. The whole crew arrives, myself Jim Manishin, Russ Reed, Glenn Kesselman and the other two Marks: Bettis and Canton ( to go with Mark Green and Mark Ramsbey ). After sorting out parking arrangements (gee, it would be nice NOT to have any cars towed while we are on the water) we leave the dock at 6:45 and motor out towards the bridge.

Mark noted our voyage:

“We cross under the bridge at 7:15am with the winds still in the 6-7 kt range. The winds soon pick up to 10+ kts and we unfurl the 150 and kill the engine. Ahhhhhh! Love the sound of silence! After a short port tack, we come about onto starboard and a course that should allow us to fetch the islands. The wind slowly builds to 14 kts and we change out the 150 for the 110. It’s over 25nm from the bridge to the islands, and we already have 4-5 foot swells with a little chop. It’s overcast and colder then it has been, so everyone is in full foulies and layered up (although several of us will regret clothes choices later). With luck we will make the islands by noon and be headed back for home. It’s one long tack out to the islands and we start rotating helmsman every 45 minutes or so. The wind varies but is steadily building. We can see the islands off in the mist far to the west within an hour of crossing under the bridge.

The swells and chop continue to increase, but are still bearable as the islands slowly become more distinct. The folks on the rail are getting an occasional dowsing, but nothing too extreme. A few of the crew are a bit green around the gills, and one will spend most of the outbound trip in the cabin, apparently having picked up a bug from his kids. I find that keeping your hands warm is important if you want to be able to operate all your clothing fastenings for a natural break – note to self for future trips – when in doubt, go to the full fingered neoprene gloves from the start. 🙂

By noon we are nearly up to the islands, but find we will need a couple of short tacks to get close in. We abandon the plan to circle the islands, as the wind speeds are approaching 20kts and are expected to build to 30kts by late afternoon. We approach within a couple hundred yards of Southeast Farallon, then bear off and head for home at 12:08pm. The wind is soon steadily at 20+kts with swells coming in off our port quarter so we abandon any thoughts of setting the chute. We are steadily in the mid to high 7kt speed through the water and hitting 9+kts as we try to surf the swells. The true wind direction varies from 125-150 degrees port and the helmsmen are working pretty hard (we found this was great exercise for anyone he had gotten a little cold on the way out) so we continue to rotate them out every 20-30 minutes. A contest forms to see who can get the max speed surfing down the swells. The wind is in the lower 20s as we are flying home in fabulous sailing conditions. The overcast is now broken up and it is a beautiful day on the Pacific. Our max surf speed of 10.7 kts holds for about an hour, until we are approaching the bridge. The wind and swells are now nearly dead astern and Alan catches a swell and surfs down it at 10.5…11…11.5 and finally hits over 12kts, blowing away our previous boat speed record as the wind is now steadily 25+ kts with gusts to nearly 30kts.

At 3:23pm we cross back under the bridge, having completed the return leg in 3:15 after taking 4:53 on the way out. By 4pm we are back at Schoonmaker, several of the crew very happy to be back on solid ground. We say goodbye to Russ, Jim, Glenn and the Marks Canton and Bettis. Alan and the Marks Green and Ramsbey cast off just after 4:20 in hopes of riding the last of the flood partway home to Coyote Point.”

And no good sailing story is complete without at least one little disaster:

“As we motor down the Sausalito channel, the engine drops out of gear, so we quickly set the sails and kill the engine. We find that a dock line has fallen onto the drive shaft and caught a vent hose as it wraps the shaft, twisting the wire from the vent hose dozens of times around shaft. Sailing conditions remain outstanding as we cross under the Bay Bridge at 5:45pm, staying east to avoid the wind shadow from the city. Mark G. and Alan spend nearly 2 hours between them under the cockpit untangling the mess. Nothing looks seriously damaged but the shift linkage has enough friction that it won’t operate the transmission. The wind holds in the high teens to low 20s all the way down the bay, and we reach Coyote Point by 7:45 in spite of the building ebb. We have to abandon our first attempt to sail in as we lose too much speed while dropping the main and have to jibe back out. On the second attempt, we carry more speed in under just the partially furled jib, and manage to make it to the fairway and gently coast back down to our slip.”

A word of thanks from Mark Green and Alan Orr:

“Thanks to all the crew the made this trip possible, especially to Jim for inspiring the trip and to Mark Ramsbey who passed on a car ride home from Sausalito Sunday afternoon to help bring Sweet Grapes home. The extra hands were very helpful in bringing her home safely! :)”

To other CPYC sailors, please forward me a write up of your sailing adventures for future blasts!

Send write-ups to regatta@cpyc.com.
Jim Manishin, Regatta Chair

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About Coyote Point Yacht Club

Coyote Point Yacht Club is located at Coyote Point Park in San Mateo, south of the Bay Bridge and north of the San Mateo Bridge. Views of San Francisco and the San Mateo Bridge/Oakland provide a pretty setting for events in the club house and outdoor activities in our backyard. BBQ facilities, showers for men and women, and free ice are available.
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