We enjoyed every minute we spent in Eureka, but we knew we couldn’t stay forever. It was time to go. Doug had been carefully watching the weather forecasts and, when he found a 2 day window to San Francisco, we knew we had to act. Weather forecasting in the USA is awesome and, in our experience, very accurate. NOAA (National Office of Atmospheric Administration) particularly has been our friend. On Sept 2, right after breakfast, we headed out of Humboldt Bay for the last leg of our trip to SF.
Unfortunately ,it was as foggy leaving as it was arriving, so we never did see the Bay. Instead, Doug was at the helm and I had my eyes glued to the radar and AIS. Between us we compared what we saw with the chart plotter and, before we knew it, we were heading out into the Bar. We couldn’t see a thing, but Ka’sala immediately started to react to the swell and we knew, in no uncertain terms, we were in the grip of the ocean once more.
Much to our relief, within an hour, we cleared the fog and entered a beautiful, blue, sparkling day. Confused seas, left over from the previous gale, combined with little wind made this day’s passage fairly rocky and rolly. Luckily for me, the Sturgeron continued to do its magic and I was able to enjoy the sunny weather, even if we were motoring. Doug had figured we needed to keep our speed to 5 knots in order to arrive at SF before the next strong weather pattern was upon us. We had the mainsail up for as much stability as we could muster and cruised by Cape Mendocino in fairly benign conditions.
The Lost Coast, Cape Mendocino
The day progressed that way and into the night. When I came on watch at 10 pm I could see the lights of Fort Bragg in the distance, observed an incredible quarter moon rising, then we plunged into the fog again. It was to remain with us until we reached Sausalito two days later.
As I did my night watch, I couldn’t help but remember John Innes, the young man on the Catalina 27 we met in Neah Bay, who had been rescued by the Coast Guard 55 miles off Fort Bragg. I remember sailing in a Catalina 27 in Desolation Sound and couldn’t imagine it at sea in the conditions we had encountered. Innes seemed pretty confident, however, and I thought if he stuck close to shore he would be fine. I was flabbergasted to read in Latitude 38 that he had lost his rudder in heavy conditions that far from shore. I was even more impressed by the Coast Guard youtube video I watched of his rescue. You can read the story and watch it here:
The seas quieted down our second day out, but the fog persisted. The day was routine, but our heads were ringing with the sound of the Yanmar. The noise didn’t seem to make any difference to the dolphins which came to play on our bow. These sleek, black and white creatures have to be the most playful of the marine animals we have seen. As the darkness fell on our second night we heard the unmistakable sound of a large whale broaching and saw the fluke 500 meters away. It seemed the wild life was welcoming us to San Francisco.
I wish I could say I took this picture of dolphins, similar to the ones we saw off Ka'sala's bow
We played hide and seek on the radar for a while with a coast guard vessel doing armed “maneuvers”. Later, Hawksbill seemed to be monitoring the comings and goings of vessels off Point Reyes, and Drakes Bay, our destination. The fog had intensified and the AIS showed Hawksbill moving at .2 knots off a marker buoy we needed to locate the Bay. Doug hailed them to alert them of our presence and, after several calls and an intervention from another sail boat, we discovered they were actually at anchor in the very place we were heading. Hearing the eerie and somewhat reassuring sound of the horn at the Point Reyes lighthouse, we slowly made our way into Drakes Bay at about 1 a.m. Why did we do this? The ferocious currents and the tide entering SF Bay were not conducive to an arrival that foggy night, so we chose a reprieve. A hot meal and a good night’s sleep seemed to be the only way to go before heading into the city.
Next morning we were up at first light – still in dense fog, meaning we never saw the allegedly beautiful Drakes Bay, to follow the coast line to SF. Doug had figured we had a window to beat the tide until about 12 pm. With no wind, we motored along and, as the morning progressed, the fog began to lift and we saw hundreds of boats. It was a Saturday morning and it seemed that every SF fisherman was out. We threaded our way through them all, then navigated around the “potato patch” (so called because 19th century supply boats often lost the fresh produce they were carrying on their decks when they passed through this treacherous body of water- shades of the Port Townsend “washing machine”) to the famous bridge. We had the mainsail up and as soon as we cleared the bridge, the fog lifted, the sun shone and we realized we were in sailboat Mecca. There was enough wind to sail, so we spent the next couple hours touring the waterfront of the city before heading to our anchorage near the Sausalito Yacht Club at Richardson Bay.
Bonito Lighthouse at entrance to San Francisco
Approaching the SF Bridge
First View of San Francisco
First view of Alcatraz
Passing under the SF bridge
Doug's Trophy Shot
Lyneita's Trophy Shot
Turn Left after the bridge: First view of Richardson's Bay, Sausalito
As it happened, we had our first clue that the Bay area was going to be one of the friendliest cities we have ever visited, when we were approaching the bridge. A sailboat was coming toward us and, as they passed, captain and crew waved madly, then hailed us on the VHF. “Are you just arriving?” they asked. When we replied in the affirmative, they welcomed us to their city and made suggestions for comfortable anchorages and places to visit. We just looked at each other and smiled.
Sailboat by the SF Bridge