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Old 12-10-2015, 19:01   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: San Francisco
Boat: J/30
Posts: 24
Fleet Week San Francisco!

This past week[end] was Fleet Week in SF - the highlight of which is a Blue Angels airshow! Actually three shows - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. The show is held over the bay along the cityfront, between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. It's a hectic time to be on the water - hundreds of boats surround the "air box" exclusion zone for front-row seats to the show, from dinghies to several-hundred-foot ships.

I decided to brave the chaos on Sunday and took a bunch of friends out to watch the show on the water. It ended up being one of the craziest and most awesome days of sailing I've had thus far, mostly because of the fog:

The early morning fog never burned off, and instead built up all morning. We left the dock just before noon and sailed out into it. We crossed to Angel Island and turned upwind, and gradually found ourselves enveloped in complete fog, with visibility under 1/4 mile with a steady 15 knots of breeze. It was surreal. We fired up the radar on my plotter, and my friend Bryan called out radar contacts and AIS targets as we navigated our way back towards the city. The radar performed beautifully. My gimbal mount kept it level to the horizon as we heeled, and we could even see the smaller sailboats all around us clearly on radar. Not once were we surprised by something coming out of the fog ahead of us.

Once along the eastern cityfront, we passed close by the beautiful Lady Washington on her way out to watch the show. Pretty soon we were dropping our sails and joining the rotation of vessels drifting up and down the edge of the air box, navigating in close quarters while staring at the sky. We were almost hit once - another sailboat under power (before we dropped sail) was heading straight into our path, the occupants busy gazing in the other direction. 5 short blasts from my air horn got their attention pretty quick!

By afternoon the fog had lifted enough for the show to run, and it was thrilling. Several times the jets flew directly overheat, with what seemed like only a few dozen feet of clearance above the masts.

The fog drifted back in over the fleet of watching vessels, and towards the end obscured the planes during their actual maneuvers, so the only time we could really see them was when they were flying overhead on their way to or from their maneuvers.

Then it was over, and a few hundred vessels in a few square miles of bay all turned for port at once. Most were headed back to South Beach, Oakland, or Alameda.

We had to cross the stream on our way back to Pier 39, with a few close calls (mostly involving much faster power boats that seemed not to mind flying through a field of other vessels). A few stressful minutes later and we were safely tied up back at our dock, after a day on the water I will never forget.
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