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Monday, October 4, 2010

10/1/2010 - Benicia to San Leandro

Although it wasn't sunny or particularly warm when we left Benicia at the stroke of 9:00 AM, the weather certainly couldn't be called unpleasant. The sky was completely clouded over but I was pretty sure it would be clearing off later as it had done yesterday. The wind was right on the nose (and here's the picture to prove it):

So, with the wind was right on the nose, or damn close to it, we motored on down the river. We had the tidal current against us at first so we were only doing about 4 knots. A couple hours later, when the tide had turned, we were doing almost 6 knots at the same engine RPMs. It was calm and flat enough that Lulu decided to stay below and clean up the cabin so it'd be looking good for the rendezvous.

It was a fairly uninteresting trip until we rounded Pt. Richmond and actually entered San Francisco Bay. The city skyline was really cool looking.

Of course, at this point we were also exposed to the ocean swells rolling in under the Golden Gate Bridge and things got a little rolly. As we went behind Alcatraz the seas calmed down a bit but as soon as we came out the other side they were back.

I've come to hate these things:

They're twin-hulled high speed ferries that scoot back and forth between various points in the bay(s). They actually go all the way up to Vallejo. According to my AIS, they travel at about 34 knots. And according to my eyes, they seem like they are always aiming right for me unless there's another sailboat closer to aim at. I have a pretty good handle on the rules of the road and I'm pretty sure these don't qualify as being restricted in their maneuverability. So, if I have the right of way I'm SUPPOSED to hold my course and speed so the other guy can figure out how to avoid a collision. But I have to hope he actually can see me and also chooses to interpret the rules the same way that I am. The trouble is, these guys move so fast that avoiding a collision requires one to take action when he's fairly far away since, at 34 knots, he's going to get here pretty darn quickly. Usually I chicken out (or am I using discretion?) and make a course adjustment to make sure we don't come anywhere close to each other. Twice today, the ferry did make the adjustment while well away from our possible meeting point. Mostly though, I don't like sharing the water with the too-fast movers.

San Francisco Bay is one place where I feel like everyone on the water knows what's going on except me. Not that anything bad happened. We never even came close to having anything bad happen. It's just that there's so much going on, it seems like I must be missing something. Probably just my small town paranoia.

As we sailed (and I use that term loosely) under the Bay Bridge, the conditions abated for a bit. But, within a mile or so the wind was back up and the water was bumpy again.

Part of the reason for the bumpiness is that the south Bay is very shallow. As we got close to San Leandro, and just west of the Oakland Airport, the water was only 11-12 feet deep in most places. No taking shortcuts here. We went right to the first channel marker and stayed as close to mid-channel as we could heading in to the San Leandro Marina. I was hand-steering at this point and it was really hard to stay on course. The wind and seas were coming in perpendicular to our route and threw the boat all over the place. Just outside the channel the water was very shallow and, had we gone astray we would surely be aground. Not good. But, with a lot of tiller wrestling we managed to stay in the deep(er) water. Pulled up to the gas dock about 3 minutes too late to get fuel so we just headed over to our slip. There were already 3 or 4 Westsails there and we had plenty of help getting docked and tied up.

Oh yeah, in the interest of keeping you abreast of all of my screw-ups, I have to tell you about our landing at the fuel dock. This should have been a piece of cake and actually it started out seeming like it would be. We pulled up almost parallel to the dock and Lulu jumped off with the bow line and got it cleated off. Usually, at this point, I put the tiller over so the stern swings in, put the engine in neutral and step off with the stern line. But this time, by the time I was ready to step off, the middle of the boat was way too far from the dock for me to just step off. I went back to the cockpit and tried to maneuver the stern over again. Wasn't having much luck so I figured that I could help Lulu manhandle it. I went further forward since the bow was still tied to the dock and actually stepped off at the bowsprit platform. THAT'S how far away from the dock the rest of the boat was. Once on the dock I grabbed the rail and tried to muscle the boat over to the dock but was having absolutely no luck. And it wasn't like we were turning so far that we could just wait for the starboard side to nestle up to the dock. No. It was like there was a current hanging on to the keel that insisted on holding us perpendicular to the dock. I went back aboard and tried a few more times to get the stern over using engine horsepower. No go. I finally tossed Lulu a long line and had her run it around a cleat near where we wanted the stern to be. Then I started heaving on the other end and finally managed to bring the boat alongside. Didn't have to resort to using the winch but I wasn't far from it. When we left the dock, we just tossed the lines off and the current pushed us right off. The rest of the docking was uneventful thanks, mostly, to the Westsailors that gave us a hand.

Next up: Our account of the Northern California Westsail Owners' Rendezvous

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