Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 6 – San Francisco to Half Moon Bay

Watching the weather and consulting with Silas Crosby we decided to leave San Francisco when the tide ebbed at noon. NOAA charts showed that we would enjoy the back end of a system that would give us North West winds in the 10 – 15 knot range that would peter out by the end of the day. If we waited until Wednesday, they predicted the same amount of wind from the Southeast. Who wants to beat? So we decided to leave a day early.

It was a nice, sunny day and the dolphins were playing in the Bay. As we approached the Golden Gate Bridge the wind picked up and we hoisted our mainsail, but put in a reef when we saw the boats ahead of us heeled right over. In addition, we knew when we made our heading out to sea the wind would be right on our nose. The 2 plus knots of tide flow speedily flushed us out and into the waiting arms of a northwest swell. Life became very interesting very quickly as the water built up against the tidal flow. Doug’s plan was to head out just on the northern edge of the shipping lane, then cross it to head south after we cleared the San Francisco Bar. Good plan. Unfortunately, as we tacked south, the strong ebbing tide conspired with the onshore wind to create a very unpleasant sea. We saw the walls of white capped waters of the Potato Patch and were glad not to have to experience it.

The seas were very rough and the swells built to at least 12 feet – though it’s really hard to tell when you are perched on the top of one and looking down into the trough before the next one rears up. Things didn’t get much better when we realized that the wind wasn’t coming from the expected direction, in fact, it was backing from the west to the south and holding at 15 knots. Okay, so now we are beating in a fairly large sea. Once again we found ourselves in waves greater than the wind, but this time we shook out the reef so that full sails would give us the power we needed in these confused seas. Good call. We were able to make the very best of a very uncomfortable ride.

Over the next four hours we headed into fairly steady 15 – 20 knots, with occasional higher gusts. Ka’sala was heeled right over as we made long tacks beating down the coast. I wasn’t too happy to see our buried rails and standing up in the cockpit. Doug was steadfast at the helm and I could tell by the twitches in his smiles that he was enjoying the challenge. On the positive side, the sun shone, it wasn’t too cold, and the coast line was spectacular. About 6pm we rounded Pillar Point with its distinctive white dome and watched with amazement as the large swells rode in and broke up against the semi-exposed reef that stretches out from the point. Later, we found out that this area is considered one of the primo places for surfers. In fact, every year there is an international competition called the Mavericks, which draws big wave surfers from all around the world. Oh.

Pillar Point, Mavericks Beach to the left

We rounded the buoys marking the reefs and headed for the entrance of the double breakwater of Half Moon Bay. Within minutes we found ourselves in a beautiful, sheltered anchorage with calm water. We dropped the hook in 5 meters and it grabbed tight right away. As we were stowing the sails Silas Crosby also slipped through the mouth of the breakwater. The next stage of our adventure had begun!

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