Ocean Sailing 02/12/22

I sailed with my friend Robert yesterday. We had an excellent adventure out into the Pacific Ocean. I will recount it here.

Weather was predicted to be in the low 70s Fahrenheit. Wind was predicted to be from the north east at 12 to 15 kn with gusts to 25 kn.

We met at the boat at 9 AM. Slack tide before an ebb tide was predicted to be 0915. we were underway by 0930. The wind was calm and the sea was nearly flat.

Sausalito waterfront on Richardson Bay as we were departing.

Winds in the ocean were predicted to be stronger than in the bay. The swell was to be only 3 feet. Thus, the mighty Pacific was our destination. With a NE wind and the start of the ebbtide, we knew that we could get out the gate with a little trouble. The ebb certainly wouldn’t be countering the usual northwesterly winds that we typically see in the summer. Of course, we predicted that we might have a little difficulty coming back in at peak ebb current beating up wind. More on that later.

Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. The winter morning shadows of the bridge on the Marin Headland rocks is always a delight. Note the calm sea state just 30 min or so past slack tide. It’s the best time to go out of the gate.

As we began to traverse to Golden Gate channel we were able to detect about a 7 kn wind. We continue to motor, rather than to put up the sails, because we weren’t entirely sure of what winds to expect ahead and, especially, since it was morning.

Point Diablo on the north side of the Golden Gate channel. I once had a navigator on a class boat plot a course that would’ve let us straight onto the rocks! There is a foghorn of sorts at this station that, if it’s not sounding, you can activate from your boat radio.

We decided to venture up the Bonita Channel, to the Northwest, along the coast for a sightseeing expedition. The Marin headlands are beautiful and I never tire of this excursion. It’s a right turn after passing Point Bonita.

Point Bonita and the Bonita Channel.
Point Bonita Light. I will tell you, from experience, that seeing the specks of flashing light from this lighthouse in the middle of the night upon returning after a sail in the ocean at night is one of the most reassuring vision events ever! It’s also a good point for a radar fix.
Rodeo Beach from the Bonita Channel. The white-capped rock on the right is Bird Island. The white stuff is bird poo.
Tennessee Valley beach from Bonita Channel.
Muir Beach from the Bonita Channel.

As we were coursing through the Bonita Channel, we were delighted to see that the wind speed had increased. The wind was predicted to be 12 to 15 kn but we saw a steady wind of about 20 kn with gusts to 25 and 30 kn. What we were experiencing, in effect, was a situation where the offshore wind speed was picking up as it was coursing down the coastal mountain range from inland as it found its way to the sea. In Northern California, we call these Diablo winds. In Southern California they are known as the Santa Ana winds. They are usually warm having been warmed by land they have passed over. Because of their acceleration downhill, they can hit the water and challenge unsuspecting skippers of sailboats. Along the coast of California, these winds probably can wreak the most havoc in November and December just south of Point Conception.

We were really excited to have good winds in the ocean and decided to cut our passage up the Bonita Channel short. We turned out to sea about a half mile or so north west of R2. Once we got to the point of the crosshairs on the chart below, we turned the boat into the wind and hauled out the sails. We sailed across the Fourfathom bank with delight.

During the summer, with the wind from the northwest, and the swell from the northwest and another from the west, one usually would stay out of the Fourfathom bank or potato patch. This is because the sea is not as deep in this area and as the waves come across they become bigger due to the shoaling effect. In fact, they actually crest over this area more often than not. It would be preposterous to attempt a beam reach across this area under such conditions. Our beam to broad reach, however, continued unthreatened by the sea state. The swell was only about 3 feet and the period was about 15 to 18 seconds. In fact, we turned more towards the west and headed out to sea on a broad reach.

Somewhere over the far reaches of the potato patch looking back to Point Bonita and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

We crossed the shipping lane for the Golden Gate at a right angle entering between G5 and G7 and then turned to the southwest under sail taking advantage of the winds. It was spectacular. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed sailing in the ocean as much as I did during this journey. The only difficult part of the sail was that we had to periodically alter course to dodge a line of crab pot buoys.

Our sail took us to beyond the far left lower corner of this chart some 15 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.
It’s often said that San Francisco Bay was not discovered sooner than it actually was because most mariners sailed right on by not recognizing the great inland waters of the bay. One can see, from this image about 8 miles out, why that would be the case. It’s a fairly nondescript looking coast line. If you are able to zoom in on this photograph you will see the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ocean view from 15 miles off shore.

Due to time constraints, we elected to turn back 15 miles out. Most of our trek was close hauled on a favorable tack. The ebb current was affecting and slowing our return and, along with the ocean current passing along the coast, our speed over ground was only half of our boat speed. After about four nautical miles, we decided to take down the sails and turn on the engine to benefit from “iron wind.” Iron wind, of course, being a tongue in cheek term for the engine.

Leaving the ocean and entering the Golden Gate channel.

Our return was hastened by engine power. We traversed the channel, then the bay, and docked in Sausalito in time for Robert to make his appointment. In all, it was a tremendous outing. We enjoyed the sailing but we also enjoyed our conversation, friendship, relative isolation and the majestic views.

We also enjoyed spending some time experimenting with sail trim to maximize sail performance. As usual, Skiron performed admirably. I enjoy being on the vessel as much as I do sailing her.

2 thoughts on “Ocean Sailing 02/12/22

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