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Old 03-11-2010, 10:59   #1
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SF Bay and Beyond

Just out of curiousity, how many sailors in the Bay, venture out the "Gates" for the day/weekend for some water sailing">blue water sailing? Or head out the the Farralon Islands as a destination?

Obviously it depends on the weather, your experience and having a capable boat. If you have, was the trip a nice change of pace or too much work?
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Old 03-11-2010, 11:24   #2
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The trip out to the Farallons can be a great day's sailing, or it can be a really bad idea. It all depends on the conditions. We usually head out the Gate in the morning, sail to the South Farallons, cruise around the backside (islands to port), then have a nice ride back to the bridge as the sun is setting.

The wind is usually from the NW, so after clearing Point Bonita if the seas are light we sail up the Bonita Channel towards Bolinas, then make the island on one or two tacks. If the seas are up, we stay in the channel until we are well outside Four Fathom Bank, then tack out to the islands. It's usually a downwind run back to the bridge.

There have been days when we've motored the whole way on the mirror-smooth sea, and days when we've turned around just a few miles offshore because we got tired of the beating we were taking. And, there have been days when we looked at the buoy reports and decided to stay in the bay.

For a longer trip, many people sail up to Drake's Bay and anchor for the night. Bodega Bay has a marina where you can usually find a slip, if that's what you're looking for. It's a one-day sail up to Tomales Bay, and if you are comfortable with the shoals at the entrance you could spend a day (or a week) anchoring off the many coves and beaches. There's some great hiking on Tomales Bay.

Heading south, you've got Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Monterey, all within one day of sailing. Monterey is a good 12-18 hours away.
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Old 03-11-2010, 11:26   #3
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I transit the gate often. It can be a pleasant sail, but it can also be treacherous. Ship traffic can be heavy, the fog sometimes comes in thick and quick, and the tidal currents routinely build in excess of four knots. Swells can be excessive because of the shallowness of the entry, and on a day like yesterday you really don't want to be out there. Winds are not only excessive in the summer months, but can be tricky for those lacking in local knowledge. When racers talk about the South Tower Demon, they are not being superstitious.

The Farralon Islands are not a "destination," at least not in the sense that you can drop the hook for the night. I've raced the Doublehanded Farralons race, and it was one of the most exhausting races of my life. It's not a casual daysail.

If you want a bluewater sail to a destination outside the gate, the two most immediate places to anchor would be Drakes Bay, to the north, and Pillar Point Harbor (Half Moon Bay) to the south. I don't advise making either run without radar.

There are a lot of SF Bay sailors who never poke their bows beyond the Big Orange Scary Thing, otherwise known as the GG Bridge. If there's a light breeze during a strong ebb it's easy to get sucked out and not be able to return against the tide without the help of an auxiliary engine. The main point here is that you don't want to go anywhere near the Big Orange Scary Thing in a sailboat until you've checked the current tables.
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Old 03-11-2010, 12:07   #4
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Originally Posted by Bash
When racers talk about the South Tower Demon, they are not being superstitious.
Here's an example of what Bash means about the South Tower Demon. A series of photos of a boat being rolled and dismasted can be found here: <LINK>


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Old 03-11-2010, 13:42   #5
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I used to sail with Joe Schmidt the owner of Yachtsea. The wind isn't the only reason to stay north of that tower. In fact we sailed on a Yankee 30 the same as Jim Cates used to own. In fact he was sailing in the races but a different division. Crazy small world.
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Old 03-11-2010, 13:43   #6
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WOW! That is quite the cache of pics on this poor fellows lesson. Hind sight is 20/20 but wasn't that a bit of a risky slot to run thru? Or is this a normal line to take...it seems a little shallow with the high surf?
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Old 03-11-2010, 13:47   #7
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bash is right, we arrived on the outside of the gate yesterday morning and saw huge 20-30 breakers EVERYWHERE. We headed out to sea till about 2:30 to let the ebb subside and came in with a lot smoother seas. I think it is all about timing....


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Old 03-11-2010, 14:00   #8
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Originally Posted by houseboy View Post
WOW! That is quite the cache of pics on this poor fellows lesson. Hind sight is 20/20 but wasn't that a bit of a risky slot to run thru? Or is this a normal line to take...it seems a little shallow with the high surf?
Normal line? No. Never. The rule here is that wherever you see kids doing tricks on boogie boards, sailboats should keep away. Besides that, the reason the surf breaks over on that end of the tower is that it's shallow over there.

Actually, what I was talking about, in terms of the South Tower Demon, was what sometimes happens to sailboats on the other (north) side of the south tower. Often, racers coming in to Blackaller Buoy will try to cut the tower too close and then gybe there to fetch the buoy, but there's a tricky wind shift right there that inevitably lays someone over on the rails precisely when they're dipping the spinnaker pole. I had this happen on a boat I was crewing on during the lightbucket race many years ago. Cost the owner a brand-new spinnaker, not to mention the race. His big mistake is that he had a rock star aboard from a local sail loft and chose to listen to the pro rather heed my warning about the demon. I never crewed for him again.
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