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Old 05-09-2008, 12:24   #1
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Offshore Advice

Hi. I'm new to the forums.

My finance and I sail about twice a week in the San Francisco Bay on our Catalina 27 for the last two years and love it (obsessed really). We've enjoyed learning all there is too know about sailing and have been getting excited about heading out the Gate and into some blue water (HMB, Light Ship, Farallon Islands, Drakes Bay, etc) . Our boat's previous owner strengthened the her for the his solo trip to Mexico and back, so we're confident she can handle the ocean (we sail her in the bay in upwards of 38 knots- not pleasant, but she handles it fine). Not to be overly confident but I'd say our skills are above average for having only sailed for 2 years...

Anyway, we're taking our first overnight trip to Half Moon Bay after our marriage in a couple weeks and wanted to get some advice. We have a raft, 2 gps, 2 vhfs (one floating handheld), charting software, and a newly tuned 8hp outboard (motors approx. 6 knots). Would there be anything you wouldn't forget for a short ocean trip like this?

Any help is appreciated! We're so happy to have sailing in our lives and plan on sailing around the world when we have the time and $$. Below are a few photos from some of our time on the Bay.







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Old 05-09-2008, 12:51   #2
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The Catalina 27 has a grossly unbalanced rudder with a huge amount of the rudder blade well behind the shaft axis. Before going further afield than Halfmoon Bay, you may want to change this. She has the right transom angle for an outboard rudder on a substantial skeg, which would drasticaly simplify your self steering and inside steering - autohelm options.
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Old 05-09-2008, 13:18   #3
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Thanks for the info...Yeah, I think most of the out the Gate sailing is going to be coastal/ 1 day sort of trips (maybe LA and back). We definitely want to upgrade to a more solid "blue water" boat years down the line when we're ready for serious ocean crossings and have the money.
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Old 05-09-2008, 13:40   #4
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Have fun and enjoy the trip.
You might want to add some jack stays and have harness clips to attach yourselves when on deck, plus the conventional night stuff like adding a floating self actuating lamp to that yellow life ring on your pushpit, and either cheaper self actuating or more expensive strobes to your own inflatable devices.
We've never left LED headlamps behind since we found you can get cheap units from local gas stations - very useful and minimal damage to night vision.
A few flasks of hot coffee, maybe a half bottle of port to sip and some choocolate to nibble in those twilight hours - yup - enjoy the trip and have fun.
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Old 05-09-2008, 14:19   #5
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I'd add paper charts, even if you just print them out from the software, or just get large-scale ones, because computers know just when to fail. And for open water, a man-overboard pole. Even if that's just a 10' stick of bamboo or PVC with a the rest home made, because it is awfully easy to loose sight of a person at sea when there is any wave action.

Also remember to file a float plan with someone reliable. IF they have to report you overdue, your local USCG station will gladly tell you how to set up the paperwork in advance, i.e. including a description of the boat (white hull, white sail, white deck? size?) and the other "gee, I never thought to ask" stuff. You can pre-fill it all and just give your friends an envelope, tell them "If we don't call you by...Call this number and open the envelope."

It looks like you are wearing Type3 PFDs. Those are comfortable and inexpensive--but not good enough offshore. Again, it comes back to wave action and spray in the water, they will not get your face out of it, and if you have hit your head they will not float you face up. Offshore, some cheap ugly Type1 PFDs, or the more expensive inflatables, are a much better way to go.

If you can jump in the water (ever a pool) with your PFD on, you may be surprised at the big difference that a better PFD can make.
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Old 05-09-2008, 14:49   #6
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As long as you leave reasonable early in the morning and the weather is remotely cooperating, you should be anchored or in a slip in HMB (or anchored in Drakes) well before dark, though obviously always be prepared for the unexpected. We’ve made that trip several times and it’s usually pretty easy. The main thing to watch out for is to time going out or into the Gate so you’re not fighting the current. Don’t necessarily assume you can ride an ebb tide out since that can cause nasty standing waves across the bar. Riding a flood in is usually OK but be careful since you can get weird eddies. But since you sail the Bay you’re already well aware of what the tide and currents can do. Also stay inside, or just outside the shipping channel and stay well away from the Potato Patch or the South Channel, big waves can spring up without much warning.

Our next trip to HMB is in October for the Pumpkin Festival, but we’ll probably do an overnight to Drakes later this month.
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Old 05-09-2008, 14:55   #7
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Also ditto on the pfd's. It doesn't look from the pictures that yours have a harness to attach a tether.
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Old 05-09-2008, 16:05   #8
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I'd add to the foregoing suggestions the purchase and use of a Davis Echo Master or other Radar Reflector as I see none in the photo of the yacht; and, the addition of jack-lines and the use of harnesses, particularly as you're exiting the Gate as surprise waves are not uncommon or unforgiving and Catalina 27's will roll down very easily. It would also be wise to monitor the San Francisco Vessel Traffic Center (VHF 12, 13, 14) to see what's coming your way and contact them to let them know you're in the pattern between the Gate and the sea bouy and then again when you've cleared (just call "San Francisco Traffic" on one of the forgoing channels. Stay to the edges of the Channel to avoid traffic but remember that wakes from commercial vessels can add a lot to the waves under the Gate; and, there can be very nasty back eddies near the edges of the Channel particularly near tower bases and Potato Patch.

Once you're past the sea bouy, stary inside the traffic lanes and it's all down hill!

Cheers,

s/v HyLyte!
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Old 05-09-2008, 16:09   #9
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Definitely check the current state of ocean swells and the predictions before you go. Don't go if the swells are up. Lots of people have died just outside the Gate from large breaking swells. Stay inside the bar channel and get over to the side for large commercial traffic. If you don't have radar, then don't think about going if there is going to be fog. You can reach commercial traffic better on ch 13 than you can on ch 16. Check in with VTS ch 14 if things get nasty to let them know you are there and consider turning back. Be safe.

Get to know VTS and how they work. http://www.uscg.mil/d11/vtssf/

VTS speaks their own abbreviated language that you will need to understand in order to understand the location and status of commercial vessels and which pilots are on which ships. They could end up being a big help.

I concur with what the others have said about jack lines, PFD's, MOB poles/throwable device/strobe, paper charts, a backup handheld VHF, a cell phone, a backup GPS and perhaps even an EPIRB.

An alternative place to go might be Drakes Bay or Bodega Bay. You might even try Tomales Bay if the entrance is safe. Or try out those places sometime in the future. When you get more experience head off to Santa Cruz.

Have fun!
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Old 05-09-2008, 16:18   #10
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if you attach a tether ,attach it to the top of the shoulder so, if you are dragged , your bow wave won't drown you before you get hauled back aboard. That happened in the Farallons race several years back.
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Old 05-09-2008, 16:20   #11
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A good looking woman makes the journey much better and it looks like you have that covered.

Make sure you leave on a good weather day so the your girl will keep liking to sail, otherwise she may realise she likes the land better.
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Old 05-09-2008, 20:23   #12
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haha. No worries on her not liking sailing. Sometimes I think she likes it more than me...

Thank you all for the great advice and tips! I spend a lot of time online looking for information but learned more here on the forum than trying to find info on my own. Thanks.

Getting to know VTS is a great idea. We've got that pretty well covered. We spend an average of at least one night per week on the boat BBQing and playing cards and always spend a good amount of time listening to channel 12/14/ and 16. So much fun learning the outgoing and incoming boat info- speed/ eta/ direction and the like. We also enjoy and use channel 14 inside the bay to figure out if that tanker is going to ancourage 9 or up to Richmond and stuff like that. really helps not getting in thier way for sure.

I have another question... I was thinking we'd head out the shipping lane till we reached the last bouy and then turn south staying out of the south channel which, I've read, is never good to use. Has anyone ever gone south using the "south channel"?

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Old 05-09-2008, 20:29   #13
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Oh and thanks for the radar deflector info. I forgot about that... For our wedding we've asked for gift certificates to West Marine which will help pay for new gear like vests, radios and the like.
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Old 05-09-2008, 20:44   #14
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Bagels. Go well with the coffee.
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Old 05-09-2008, 21:49   #15
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When racing down to HMB we used to have to round the first buoy. Make sure that you bring some dramaine. It acan get worse out on the ocean than in the Bay and being sick all the way to HMB would be pretty awful. Bring a couple of thermoses of something warm and have a drink and a dance at the bar next to the bait shop. Can't remember the name. Lots of good seafood resturants there. HMB is a fun place to go. Good luck with it. Oh yeah stay a bit further offshore around Montara or the wind will die out at the infamous Montara Hole.
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