Baba BarAnn Around the Pacific


Chapter 3 - San Francisco

The Bay Area

Golden Gate LogoAt $22 per night, Schoonmaker Point Marina was rather pricey in 1989. We tolerated this exorbitant figure since dock space was very hard to find. Due to the concurrence of Labor Day weekend and the Sausalito Arts Fair, this was their biggest weekend of the year. Our slip was near, Blondie's, a Santa Cruz 70 that's a famous offshore racer. We had a restaurant meal, Candace did laundry, about 1/2 mile from the boat, and I did some shopping. I arranged for the rigging work to be done, which would free us from our roller "fouling" system. We took a bus downtown and saw the big city. We walked down to pier 39, strolled around, and then took a bus back to Sausalito.

Alex and I went to the Arts Festival one day and enjoyed a very good slide guitar player named Roy Rogers (not the cowboy). The weather was typically foggy every morning, really nice during the day, blowing like stink, 30-40 knots, during the late afternoon, then real nice from 1800 on. I took Alex to the airport on Sunday afternoon to fly back to Seattle and his sophomore year in high school. For the first time since he was born I would not be seeing him for more than a few weeks. This time we both knew it wasn't going to be until December 27 that we'd meet again. Candace and I thoroughly enjoyed him every moment of the trip and it was very sad to see him leave. Sunday we anchored out in Sausalito Bay. I talked with a French couple who had been cruising for several years on their 28 foot boat. They had come from the West, via Japan and Canada, and were heading south to Mexico. Their boat seemed as small to me as 23 Skiddoo, my former sailboat - a San Juan 23, but they obviously loved it. In fact, it seems that just about everyone loves their boat, regardless of size, value, or the amount of gear on board. I guess that's not too surprising.

Shopped at West Marine, arranged to have some nice jib bags made for the headsail and staysail, called MCCA to have our mail forwarded, General Delivery, to the Sausalito Post Office, and spent some time with the Scanmar people, Hans and Mike, who make the Monitor wind vane. Boy what great service they give. They came out to our boat and inspected our installation job. Noticing a minor problem, the next day Mike came out and spent an hour or two improving its performance, all at no extra cost. All these places were within a short walk from the dock in Sausalito.

Thursday we motored across the bay to the SF Municipal Marina since we were going to a friend's home for dinner that night. Of course it was blowing like crazy, and we ended up wending our way through a massive International 14 sailboat race. It was truly an international regatta with many nations represented, and there were perhaps 100 of them out there, in their trapezes, getting overpowered, and dumping. We tried to go far around them as best as we could, but still had to dodge a dozen or so on the fringes of the fleet.

Candace of S.F. Bay
Candace on SF Bay s

The Municipal Marina shares the same breakwater with the St. Francis Yacht Club. We were just looking for a place to tie up temporarily, while arranging moorage. The only spot large enough had the wind blowing us away from the dock. Candace jumped off with the stern and bow lines, while I tried to control the boat. The wind really started to grab the boat, and Candace was just about at the end of her line, literally. I jumped (it seemed 8 feet) off the boat and ran over to lend a hand. We stopped Baba BarAnn just inches before she would have smashed into a gigantic racing boat, Mongoose, on the opposite finger pier. God what a close call! We were both quite shaken. Then some wimp from the St. Francis YC told us politely to get the Hell off their dock.

There are about 8 or 10 transient slips at the Municipal Marina. One long, 71 foot dock, already had a 29 foot boat at it. It was the last spot available, and seemed just right for our 40 footer. When we got there, the story was quite different. His 29 feet, plus a 7 foot bowsprit and 2 foot poop deck, along with our 40 feet, 4 foot bowsprit, and 2 foot wind vane amounted to 84 feet. A 13 foot overhand! We both kept quiet, and no one complained. I think it would have been another story on a weekend. We shared our dock with a Canadian boat that had just arrived from Vancouver. Like everyone else we were meeting, they were heading south to Mexico. The two Alaskan boats I'd seen in Pt. Angeles, a Valiant 40 and a Tayana 37, had arrived in Sausalito, as well as one from Olympia. The Class of '89 was definitely closing ranks.

Then Friday it was back to Sausalito to pick up our mail and jib bags. We were both tired with the hubbub of the city, the cold and the wind of San Francisco, and the inevitable expenses. Everyone said, head to "the Delta." So we did.

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Dawdling on the Delta

East of San Francisco you can either head south, to Oakland, Alameda, Candlestick Park, etc., or you can head north to San Pablo Bay and much further east. The Sacramento River to Sacramento, and San Joaquin River to Stockton, form a delta with dozens of sloughs, levees, cuts, and generally shallow water. Everyone said "don't worry about grounding, it's soft mud, and everyone does it in the delta." The first night we anchored about 300 yards offshore. Nevertheless, the shallow water alarm started beeping at 10 feet. Even though we draw 6 feet, we reset the alarm for 8 feet before settling back to sleep. Hell, we still had two feet under the keel. Around Puget Sound we would typically sail in 500+ foot depths and anchor in 30-40 feet, so this seemed quite novel to us. The weather was warmer in the Delta, and we enjoyed relaxing. Then the next day, Sunday, we had a great sail to Benicia, pulled into the marina there and had a nice restaurant meal. We met a few more boats that gave us tips on cruising in the delta.

On Monday it was motor upstream all day, often with only 3 or 4 feet under the keel! We "anchored" in Potato Slough. Well, it wasn't anchoring in the normal style, but "when in Rome . . . " We dropped a stern anchor and then eased forward, straight into the weeds until stopping in the mud, tied a bow line around a willow tree, and then backed off. I got in the dinghy and tied another bow line and set another stern line. Thus ensconced, we felt comfortable, with boats just a few feet away on either side of us. Yes, the weather finally got hot, to the upper 80's the next day. On Wednesday we headed further north. Backing out of our "anchorage," thunk, we got stuck in the mud. After 30 minutes or so, a power boat (2 foot draft) helped pull us back out, and we were on our way. Perhaps 30 minutes later, the depth went from 30 to 6 feet, or maybe even 5 feet, and we were really buried, as I was doing about 5 knots at the time. (Whenever you see 20+ feet on the depth sounder in the delta there's a tendency to put the pedal to the metal.) At least the tide, all 4-5 feet of it, was coming in. In the dinghy, I took soundings all around the boat, coming up with 5-6 feet everywhere, except directly behind us where it was 5.5 to 7 feet. About 2 hours later, waiting for the tide to rise, a sailboat motored by and asked if he could help. We tossed a line over and were pulled off. He invited me over to his boat to partake of some local knowledge and look at his charts. So I rowed over in the dinghy, while Candace motored Baba BarAnn around in the deepest water she could find. Not much later, his engine stopped and we discovered OUR dinghy's painter wrapped around HIS prop. Damn!

He donned a bathing suit and mask and jumped overboard. Luckily it only took about 10 minutes to cut the painter free. I cringed a little, since that painter was just two days old. (The former painter on our dinghy had been "trimmed" by our outboard). I really felt bad about screwing up this guy's day. As he said, "I should've known . . . No good deed will go unpunished!" It was really hot, and we were a little gun shy about heading up some more shallow sloughs for the day, so we turned around and headed back to another nearby anchorage. Same anchoring technique except we did it quite well. Drop your Danforth stern hook while you come in, coast up slowly to a tree, lasso it and tie off the bow line, then pull back on the stern anchor. Perfect. We spent a few days there, swimming, reading, and just kickin' back.

The next day, Friday, we decided to head off in another direction in the delta. We made a perfect getaway from the anchorage. Drop the bow line, back up gradually to the Danforth, maintaining tension on the rode so as to avoid tangling the prop, raise the anchor, after swishing it just the right amount of times to clean the mud off, and then head off in the right direction. Twenty feet later . . . thunk, stuck in the mud! It was a nice gentle tap, but we couldn't back off. Worst of all, it was two hours before low tide, so we had to wait probably four or more hours for our freedom, in the hot sun, right under the sterns of a dozen other self righteous skippers. Damn. I went down below to sulk and read, while Candace used the opportunity to clean the topsides. A short while later, some strangers, Ernie and Lynne, motored by and asked if we'd like to try and be pulled out. What the heck. After attaching a line between sterns, he went forward, while I went in reverse. In two seconds, we heard the worse crunching noise and my motor stalled out. Understand that this was the first time, EVER, that the motor has stalled. I wasn't having any more towing after that incident. Like Alabama sang, we're gonna wait until the tide rises again. Another hour later, Ernie and Lynne returned to the anchorage. They said, "Throw out an anchor and come on over for a drink while you're waiting." What the heck! We dinghied over, had a beer, and got to know them a little better. They, and another couple, Don and Lin, are in their early fifties and from Los Altos. At about the predicted time, the tide had risen enough and we noticed that our boat had moved. So it was quickly back to the boat and on the road again. We'd even drifted into nice, deep water . . . 22 feet.

Start the engine, raise the anchor, put it in gear, CLUNK. Damn! "Candace, quick drop the anchor, I'm going to see what's going on." Rapidly I donned my swimsuit, flippers, and mask, and then jumped overboard. Diving under to inspect the prop, I couldn't believe my eyes. Our propeller is in an aperture between the full keel and the rudder. Well, pulled through the aperture was the stock of a gigantic Danforth anchor. The flukes of this monster were on the starboard side, and the stock was protruding out the port side. Tightly wound around the drive shaft was a one-half inch polypropylene line, about six feet long.

Ernie Landes
Ernie Landes

Since poly line floats, it reached up to my prop, wound around the shaft, and pulled the anchor up and around the propeller, causing the motor to stall. Damn! We're really in a pickle this time. I tried to cut the line, but couldn't get very far. My asthma has really shortened the time I can stay below, to perhaps only 15 seconds. After eight dives I wasn't getting anywhere, except pooped. Just about then, Ernie & Don dinghy over to find out what's wrong . . . they thought we'd be long gone by now. I said, "You're not going to believe it" . . . Ernie jumped in, borrowed my mask, dove down, came up, and said "I don't believe it." Ernie immediately started making multiple dives, each for almost a minute. He tied a line around the anchor, so we wouldn't lose it, then used wire cutters, knives, and tools of all types. Finally, after at least 30 dives, he freed the anchor and the poly from our prop. Baba BarAnn was as good as new, although the crew was a bit stressed out. Yes, the prop was crinkled just a little bit.

No more dawdlin' on the delta today, so back to the anchorage. We invited the two couples over for cocktails, and presented the Danforth and poly painter to our saviors. The next day, September 16, was rainy, with thunderstorms, so we just stayed put. That was the first rain we'd seen since August 22. On Sunday, once more we headed out to the delta for a new destination. Two hours into this trip, thunk, into the mud again. We were even between green and red buoys at the time! At least I could watch the football games while waiting this one out. Shortly after Joe Montana pulled out a victory for the 49ers, we used a kedge and pulled out of the mud. For the third time in as many tries, we failed to make our delta destination.

We'd had enough. We did a 180 degree turn and headed back out of the delta. All this dirty dancing in the delta mud hadn't hurt our boat any, but it didn't seem like a lot of fun to us. We'd had our warm weather fix, and R&R, and were now recharged to continue the trip.

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Leaving the Bay Area

Sunday night, after slithering out of the Delta, we arrived back at Benicia Marina, which was our parking spot the previous Sunday night. It is a relatively new marina, in a pretty little town that's quite clean. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Monday we hiked 1.5 miles to the Laundromat, Safeway, bank machine, and liquor store. Then we taxied back to the boat with all our goodies. For the past several weeks we had been debating on the future of our brightwork. Should we let it go, try to keep up with it in the tropics, or do something else? That Monday we decided to give varnish another try. For the next six days we masked, sanded, washed, tack clothed, and varnished all the outside teak on the boat. The weather was hot, in the 90's, and sunny, and the work was hard. We consumed about 20 sheets of sanding paper. When the dust had settled, and the varnish had dried, we had three more coats on, and Baba BarAnn looked great. The effort was worth it. Our spirits rose with the shine on the cap rails.

Monday PM we left Benicia and headed to China Camp, in San Pablo Bay. Coming into this very shallow anchorage, I fell into the Monitor wind vane control on the steering wheel and put a deep, painful gouge in my kneecap. Candace bandaged it up nicely, but we were both concerned. Infection, of course, is a great concern. But it would be a significant problem if I were incapacitated for even a few days. Our lifestyle relies on us being physically fit and mobile. For example, because of the accident, we were in no mood to try and find a little deeper anchorage for that night. I calculated that we would have only 1 or 2 feet under the keel, at low tide, assuming we didn't swing. Even thought it's only mud, I don't like the idea of being "on the hard." We didn't ground that night . . . the depth meter showed 7.8 feet at low tide, or almost 2 feet to spare, and my kneecap looked and felt promising.

Next we spent a night at Brickyard Cove Marina, in Richmond, to see some friends on Gray Eagle that we'd met in the Delta. While there, Candace heard another sailor report to the Coast Guard on the VHF that there had just been a suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge! The sailor was really shook up. The Coast Guard asked if the sailor could help the victim, or get him on board. The sailor said there was no hope for the victim.

On Wednesday morning we headed back out, under the Golden Gate Bridge, to resume our passage south. A few miles from the bridge, the fog started to roll in, so I flicked on the radar. Nothing! A blank screen. After the experiences we had entering SF, I had no intention of leaving SF without radar.  Luckily I was able to find and fix the problem within a few minutes. Obviously it was a loose connection to the power supply. So without breaking stride we continued. Unlike our first trip under the bridge, this time, we could see it! We were just as concerned with shipping traffic fore and aft, as with human traffic from above.

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South to Monterey

For the first time in almost a month we were back in the Pacific. The swells weren't large, but we didn't handle them well. Even I felt punk. Luckily our anchorage on Wednesday night, at Half Moon Bay, was nice and calm. Next day we motored the entire way to Santa Cruz, about 50 miles, on the north end of Monterey Bay. We were looking forward to seeing an old college friend, John Aird, who lived in nearby Soquel. Candace had met him and his wife Anne at my 25th Haverford College reunion in June.

Thursday night we went to a nice restaurant with them. On Friday, Anne drove us all around Santa Cruz, so we could do lots of errands. Dinner at their house that night, then Saturday we took them sailing in Monterey Bay. The winds and weather were perfect. That night we BBQed some steaks back at their house. All three of these nights we had anchored off the pier at Capitola. In an attempt to fix the log/speed instruments, I disconnected the main control box and took it into the dealer in Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, it checked out perfectly. That means the problem is in the transducer. I think it's going to be a major pain fishing out the wires to have the transducer replaced/fixed. I'd tried to have this work done in San Francisco, but the dealer there was a real jerk. The Santa Cruz dealer, like the one in Seattle, was very helpful.

Sunday we had a great sail to Monterey. Seeing the historic golf course materialize, as we approached shore, was a moving experience for this former golfer/TV sports fan. Entering the harbor, we passed hundreds of loudly barking sea lions. What a racket! There was no place to anchor inside the breakwater, so we headed to the outside anchorage area. At first it was extremely rolly, and uncomfortable. Then we moved in closer to shore and to some other boats, and used a bow and stern anchor like they had. This was necessary to keep the bow pointed into the swell, while the wind blew from the port beam. It was also a lot quieter outside the harbor, but we could still hear the sea lions barking all night. How could anyone sleep in the inner harbor? We also saw gigantic pelicans and a few otters. Motoring our little 8.6 foot dinghy around these massive, aggressive acting sea lions, was a bit frightening.

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