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Santa Cruz to SF


Single-Handing North (July 24-25, 2002)

GATITA spent a few weeks in Santa Cruz with some nice sails in Monterey Bay. There were Tuesday evening beer-can races, sailing around the Boardwalk and the wharf and trips to Monterey with friends. We were even lucky enough to see whales.

I thought this will be a good opportunity to do a single-handed trip back to San Francisco.

With the right weather window opening up - I started off Santa Cruz Wednesday (July 24th)  morning a few minutes after Six. It was already light and a few fishing boats were still trickling out of the harbor.


Leaving Santa Cruz

Sunrise off Santa Cruz

(click on any picture to enlarge)

The seas were flat - and the wind was about 7 knots from the NW. I started due West and then turned North. The sky was a dazzling blue - bunch of otters and sea lions were playing around. Couple of dolphins led the boat. It was a good start.

Well, the blue skies lasted for another three hours - and then the fog closed in. It was thick - visibility was 1/4 mile at the very best - and may be about 100 feet up. The wind picked up so I put in a reef on the main. It was still on the nose - so the motor was on. "Ray", my autopilot, was doing a great job. The throttle lock kept slipping - so I tied a line around it. Now I was truly hands free.

'Ray' the Raymarine autopilot driving

Ghost boat in distance

Other than a few birds and two other boats that ghosted in and out off the visibility limit - it was a quiet and nice ride in solitude. Decided to sound off the fog horn a couple of time when the fog closed in tighter. Scared the birds off...

The fog finally cleared up around Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay. It's been nine hours. Got a good slip, nice showers and a great fish dinner.

Pillar point harbor

Gatita in half moon bay

The trip North was short and in sight of Hwy 1 and the towns North. After I dodged the fifth crab trap it felt Devi's slide was getting a bit too close.  The hand-held GPS was pointing me towards a bunch of condos in Pacifica (the old laptop with the GPS sw on the nav table had crashed this morning). Depth was ok - but it did not feel right.

I fell off towards open waters and ducked below to kick the laptop. After much cursing - the laptop gurgled up. In the meantime I checked the raw GPS data with the paper chart. Sure enough - both the paper chart and the laptop showed I was more than 1 mile inland and off course. I corrected the course and came back to check the handheld. Turns out I had punched the last GPS mark wrong - and it was trying to take me 3 miles inside the Golden Gate instead of outside. Oh well - that's why you do cross checks.

Devil's slide - off Hwy 1

Devil's Slide

Golden Gate entrance

South bar, Golden gate

Now it was time to get ready for the bumps over the entrance bar of San Francisco. These 24 to 35 feet deep crescent-shaped shoals guard the entrance to the Golden Gate. The Pacific swells, coming from a depth of thousands of feet, tend to pile up and break over the North and South bars. On a typical day of NW swells, the South bar is less choppy than the North bar (the Potato Patch shoals). My handheld GPS was showing the known shipwrecks littered all over this entrance!

The reports were benign enough - so I decided to cut across the South bar. I had timed the arrival for maximum flood current at Golden Gate.

It was blowing 15 knots off the NW - and the bar was reasonably gentle. There were five or so deck-wetters. The short wind-blown waves line up to lift the bow of the boat successively - and then you hit a gap - and the boat slams down, all 11 tons, flat and hard.

One of them sounded and felt like the keel saw some air :-)

The flood pushed me in at 10+ knots over ground down the Golden Gate. The skies were blue again - it was sunny. Boats were racing in the waterfront with their spinnakers up. There was an old gaff-rigged schooner sliding by. Birds circling and screaming over the sport-fishing boat "The Happy Hooker" off the Alcatraz. Small planes gliding over the bay on City tour. And there they were - the three beautiful bridges.

Another lovely day in the San Francisco bay. Time to take off the foulies and have the cold diet pepsi I was saving for this part of the trip.

Under the Golden Gate bridge

Nice speed over ground - thanks to the flood tide

Leaving the Bay bridge behind

The City skyline

The flood helped all the way to the Estuary. And I docked in my slip in Alameda just after 2 pm. Overall - six hours on the water. And a lovely, uneventful, thoroughly enjoyable trip.

Just the way I like it!

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This site was last updated 03/30/05