Monday, September 27, 2010

San Francisco, Week One: Sausalito

After a good night’s sleep, we inflated the dinghy, dropped it in the water and headed over to the Sausalito Yacht Club (SYC) to see if we could use our reciprocal privileges to gain access to their facilities. We were given a very friendly reception and were allowed to securely park our dinghy, use their moorings and showers, at no cost, and their restaurant/bar - which is exclusive to their members.

Sausalito Yacht Club

Evening at the Sausalito Yacht Club - Golden Gate Bridge in the background

Reciprocal privileges are a wonderful thing. If you belong to a club you can often get these rights. Lucky for us, we are lifetime members of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, as a result of our time in Hong Kong when we lived aboard Caperata, our Brewer 44 sailboat. The RHKYC is internationally recognized and many of the clubs we would be allowed to use would be very classy, indeed. As we are cruising rather casually (For example, I have one all-purpose dress in my 8 inch closet), not all of them would be suitable and we, definitely, would not be appropriate. We are hugely respectful of those clubs who will give us the privilege of using their facilities and very grateful as well.

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club insignia

Our first day at the SYC was a Sunday, so we had the opportunity to meet several members there for brunch. Two couples were outstandingly welcoming, helpful and friendly. One of them, expatriate Canadians, gave us a great deal of information about Sausalito – where to go, what to see and do. The other couple were just as nice, and even gave us free tickets to the famous Sausalito Art Festival happening that weekend.

Centre Stage at the Sausalito Art Festival

Everyone we met was very supportive of our adventure, and wanted to know everything about the trip down and what we would do next. We felt a little like celebrities and it dawned on us, that we had joined the ranks of recognized “cruisers”.

Looking at the SYC from Ka'sala - ferry to San Francisco in the background, yachts on moorings in front of the club.

Sausalito is a gorgeous town, draped across the Marin Headlands like a garland. All along the shoreline are shops, delicatessens, restaurants (many Italian) and inns. Rising up the hill connected by staircases and winding roads are houses, cottages and mansions overlooking Richardson Bay. From Ka’sala, at night, the lights from these homes sparkle like stars. By day, you can see the lush gardens, leafy trees and flowering bushes that surround them. Behind the headland, the perpetual fog tries to push its way down to the Bay. On our first evening, looking at the fog as it threatened to spill over, I was reminded of the “Black Smoke” in the TV series “Lost”, as it writhed and roiled. Pretty spectacular to say the least! Unfortunately, as the days passed by, we were to learn that the Headlands did not always contain the fog and, by morning, we would be engulfed in its windy chill until at least lunchtime.

Sausalito is like a garland draped on the Marin Headlands

One of the things we didn't enjoy about Sausalito was our anchorage. Although it is a shallow bay and anchoring is easy and secure, there seems to be an endless swell from ships, ferries and boats passing in the larger Bay, combined with waves from the winds that pick up regularly after lunch and blow upwards of 25 knots by dinnertime. This causes Ka’sala to roll endlessly and “sail” on her anchor which causes the boat to heave back and forth. This motion, combined with the fierce tides and wind makes it very uncomfortable. On our first day at anchor, I was just coming up from the cockpit sail locker, when an unannounced wake rocked the boat and slammed the lid on my right thumb. OUCH! I was quite a sight when Doug found me, half in and half out, tears streaming down my face, thumb sliced open and bruised, blood all over the place. Luckily we have a fabulous first aid kit and Doug was able to clean me up and put me back together pretty quickly. I sure looked silly walking around with a bandaged thumb in the air for the next week. Other sailors told me to thank my lucky stars I hadn’t joined the cruisers' dubious "lost digits” club!

Ka'sala at anchor in Richardson Bay, Sausalito, Belevedere in the background

We spent a week at anchor in Sausalito exploring the town and hanging out, reading books, working on the boat and catching up with the blog and our correspondence with friends. One day we went to the Bay Model, a scientific tool, created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of a working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta System. ( This model is about an acre in size and was used by city planners to see the effect of urbanization on the whole water system. The scope is astonishing and we feel privileged to not only have seen this model, but also to have sailed the actual areas to observe for ourselves.

Bay Model

We also saw a presentation about the Liberty ships. Did you know that between 1941 & 1945 the Americans built 2,751 supply ships of 135 meters in length to aid the British as part of the lend/lease agreement? Sausalito was one of the shipyards that produced them. In its heyday, one ship was built and launched in less than a month!

Liberty Ship: SS Jeremiah O'Brien

Many of the workers were women – you’ve heard of Rosie the Riveter? The next week we saw one of the two remaining Liberty ships, SS Jeremiah O’Brien, on display at the Hyde Pier and were just awed at its size. I couldn’t help but wonder what our labour force could produce, in this day and age, if we were as motivated as the Liberty ship workers were.

Rosie the Riveter

We met another cruising couple from Canada – Ellen and Ian aboard Kasasa ( and saw their friends, Veronica and Dennis aboard Vida Nova. They left very soon after we met to continue their journey to San Diego where they were leaving their yachts to return to Canada to tie up loose ends before coming back to continue the cruise to Mexico in early November. They were the only Canadian cruisers we met that week.

Looking toward San Francisco from Richardson Bay, Vida Nova in the foreground.

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