Monday, June 05, 2006

Drake's Bay weekend...

Our Encinal Yacht Club just finished its first cruise outside the Golden Gate in several years, a weekend cruise to Drake’s Bay, 25 nautical miles up the coast, for which Deborah and I were the cruise leaders. We tried it with a friend last October, got fogged in, and ended up going up through San Pablo Bay to Vallejo. But this time we were really hopeful that pea-soup fog would hold off, and it did indeed! It was a gorgeous weekend, and the only fog we saw was a light misting on Sunday morning at Drake’s Bay.

Because we haven’t got radar and our experience with fog on the last attempt, we got a ride with friends John and Gail on their Nordic 44, Music. It’s a solidly built Bob Perry designed performance cruiser, and Deborah fell in love with it immediately. Music is heavier (as well as bigger) than our Cal 39-2 Spindrift, but she’s actually faster (a PHRF of 98 compared to Spindrift’s 108), and she performed beautifully. What a treat!

We had six boats from EYC (Music, Perfect, Honukai, Nova, No Worries, and Destiny) plus three guest boats (Avalon from the Oakland YC, Any Day Now, and Bimm), and our trip up coincided with the YRA-OYRA Drake's Bay Race, which had about twenty boats participating.

In order to get a good start out the gate, we arranged to spend the night at Horseshoe Cove, home to the Presidio Yacht Club, Coast Guard Station Golden Gate, and historic Fort Baker, which is now part of the National Park Service. Fort Baker was initially designated as a military reservation in the 1850s by President Millard Fillmore (made famous by historian Richard White as the man for whom the Millard Fillmore fallacy is named). Its permanent buildings and landscape, which were not completed until just about 100 years ago, represent some of the nation’s finest turn-of-the-century military architecture and are maintained by the National Park Service today.

Gail, Deborah, and I took Music across the bay Friday afternoon – John’s work schedule meant that he had to meet us there. We buddy boated with Mike Pernitzke on Nova, who brought along George Bean from the club and another buddy, Zax. As we went the fog that at first appeared to be surrounding the Golden Gate and flowing well into the Bay dissipated, and we had a nice trip along the city front, arriving at Horseshoe Cove about 17:00.

The Presidio Yacht Club is a “morale, welfare and recreation” organization sponsored by the 60th Services Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, membership open to all active duty and reserve military forces, retired military, NPS employees and other federal employees, and auxiliary members of the Coast Guard. The PYC Port Captain Henry Gordon was there with John to meet us and guide Music into a good slip. Nova took the only spot on the club’s tiny guest dock, and Any Day Now, found a good end tie.

After I checked on Nova at the guest dock (they all looked very happy in the guy's boat), we all went up to the club house for a bar menu of the best burgers any of us had had in a long time. The PYC has got to have one of the most incredible spots on the bay, particularly if you hit it when there’s no fog, as we did.

And, if it's foggy and chilly, you can sit in comfortable easy chairs before a wall of windows and watch the fog creep about the harbor and the Golden Gate Bridge. The fact that none of us had ever been there was stunning, and you can guarantee we’ll be going back.

Midway through our repast, Mike Sheck on No Worries and Rob and Carol Woltring on Perfect called on the radio, announcing that they were on their way in. Henry and I went down, put No Worries in a slip, found Perfect a suitable end tie, and these sailors joined us in the clubhouse.

Sunrise chased away the fog, and we began our cruise up to Drake’s Bay. We were the last boat to leave Horseshoe Cove at about 09:30; some of the others had gotten a really early start in order to fish for salmon, which Rob and Carol had said were really biting.

We caught the ebb out the gate and out to Point Bonita Lighthouse, and turned north up through Bonita channel, the safe route between the Four Fathoms Bank (known as the Potato Patch) and the shoreline. The sea was really quite flat and we actually motored along over part of the bank until the swell started picking up a bit. When the wind filled in we were treated with a magnificent sail up the coast to Drake’s Bay.

We arrived on the south end of the bay about the same time as Nova, who really looked great out there, and No Worries (who also looked good but was out of camera range). We also got there just as Recidivist, the third or fourth place boat in the race, arrived. Although she beat us to the finish line and anchorage, John, who's done lots of racing in the bay area, brought Music in ahead of Nova and No Worries.

Carol and Rob were already anchored in the bay, and we dropped the hook just ahead of them. Soon all our boats were safely there, the last to arrive being Honukai, a Catalina 30 single-handed by Roland Jones. We’d planned to have a get together on Perfect, but with 15-20 knot winds in the anchorage it was all we could do to keep our barbecue lighted. By the time we finished with dinner, we all agreed to stay put and enjoy our own boats. That is, except for Randy Cohn and Jim Martin on Any Day Now, who came over to Music with their board game “Sequence.”

A lovely sunrise Sunday morning gave way to creeping misty fog, but visibility never dropped below a couple of thousand meters. We arose to scrambled eggs and fruit, and once fed watched our little fleet, one by one, follow the racers out. We were about the sixth boat to leave, and enjoyed a slow downwind sail for the first few miles until the wind filled in and picked us up.

We reached the Golden Gate around 15:00, and swung into Horseshoe Cove to drop John off. At low tide, it was a bit of a trick, and we almost got stuck in the mud. But we managed, and then sailed back across the bay to homeport in Alameda.

An incredible trip, with the best imaginable conditions, it’s whetted all our appetites for other offshore cruises.

Photo album


Blogger Zen said...

Sounds like a good time for all, the pictures are great! Excellent shots of the Gate!

10:28 PM  
Blogger Tillerman said...

Wow. Almost good enough to tempt me to take up cruising as well as racing.

"When you pass through, no one can pin you down, no one can call you back...."

1:38 PM  

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