Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Overnight at the Marin Islands

I finally managed to get the whole family (i.e. including the Chief Executive) to do an overnighter on our little boat. The scene was the Marin Islands just offshore from San Rafael.



Little Helper #1 frolicking with Little Cat Too


The Marin Islands are one of my favourite hang-out spots, as the Northern side of the main island is very calm in the strong south-west prevailing winds in The Bay. However, only a Wharram or similar very shallow-draft vessel can enjoy this spot, as it almost dries at low tide. The Marin Islands are a state park and bird sanctuary, and so must be enjoyed only from the water (no landing). Link



Getting ready for dinner

After a good feed we settled down for the night. The weather on The Bay was not good with winds gusting to 30 knots from the SW. In our little corner, however, it was cosy and dead calm.


Well sheltered from the prevailing SW winds.

It was a big tide, so had to get up "early" (8.30AM), to move out 100 yards so as not to get stuck over the low. Made no difference though, as we couldn't be bothered moving until the afternoon when it was time to go home.


Sunset calm looking towards San Rafael

The sun shade makes all of the difference, and is just a polythene tarp thrown over the gaff with the boat hook lashed to it. I might make a "proper" one out of sunbrella when I get around to it.

Slow start for the day for Little Helper #2



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Slogging It To Windward

The arrival of the Summer weather leads to thoughts of the open sea. An overnighter to Drakes Bay was in order. On the way out, we slogged into the typical NW flow coming down the coast with a steady 15-18 knots of wind and a short 3' chop, all coming in a line directly upwind to our destination. These are not ideal conditions for the little Wharram and the 35 NM straight-line journey took more than 13 hours of tacking into the chop.



Motor-sailing out into the wind.


We motor-sailed with the tide from San Quentin Bay to Tennessee Pt before shutting the motor off. Little Cat tacked out into open water where the chop wasn't so bad, and we were doing 50-55 degree tacks (turning through 100-110 degrees).

Once into Drakes Bay (which is 9 NM wide at the entrance) the chop was worse, the tide was running out as we are going in, and the wind was gusting over 20 knots. Now we were doing 65 degree tacks to windward (turning through 130 degrees) - ouch!

Excuses for the poor tacking performance: the bottom is covered in growth and barnacles (the otherwise great Bottomkote NT has given up the ghost after 2.5 years); I got tired and was sitting in the cabin reading my book while the autopilot did the work; the sails were trimmed with plenty of camber to punch through the chop, and I got distracted by the Grey Whales that broached right next to the boat (20 ft away!).



Sail track NW to Drakes Bay. Some of the track was not recorded.


The straight-line distance from Tennessee Pt (where we started sailing) is about 23 NM and took a little over 10 hours, giving an actual VMG of ~2.25 knots. These are fairly sobering figures, but good to know when I'm planning open water journeys into the wind.


The entrance to Drakes Estero

The wind was whistling over 20 knots in my usual anchoring spot along the SW shore of the bay, so we ran back under the easternmost point of the Pt Reyes headlands under the painted cliffs next to Chimney Rock. It was still very windy as the wind bent around the point, but still better than in the bay.

Anchorage under the painted cliffs and Chimney Rock at the eastern end of Pt Reyes Peninsula
This is a very beautiful spot with sea lions frolicking, harbor porpoises and sea birds. I checked the spot for rocks with both my hard chart and Navionics, and there were no rocks marked (big mistake).

Dinner - eat your heart out Uncle Chris

Ever since my brother refused to come on a similar trip last year because of my habit of carrying only dried food, I had upped my game with bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and beer. I turned in early very tired.


Still windy next morning - note rock to left

Next morning the wind was still up and I prepared to leave rather than hang around because of a forecast open water wind warning. It was low tide and there were two rocks next to the anchor rode that were well covered when I anchored at high tide (you can see the furthest one in the picture above). If the wind had not been so strong, the boat would have swung onto these rocks when the tide turned! There was also a line of rocks about 100 yards behind the boat that would have collected it if the anchor had let go. Neither of my charts had showed these rocks - surprising given that there is usually at least a vague sprinkling of dots on charts in areas that are not well surveyed. The charts showed this spot as clear and suggests that one should not rely on charts in remote settings!

I was away by 8.30 AM and the wind slowly built to a 20 knot following sea. I was still tired and passed up on a fast spinnaker run to let the boat run on autopilot under the white sails. Compared to The Slog To Windward, the downhill run home went quickly and I was anchored up by 3.00 PM. This trip 94 nautical miles.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Stick in the Mud

A great 10-mile spinnaker run from Pt San Quentin to Gallinas Creek ended ignobly stuck in the mud on a dropping tide.




The idea was to find a quiet spot to anchor and soak up the coast views and sunshine North of China Camp. The spin run was against the new outgoing tide, but still averaged over 5 knots boat speed in 10 knots of westerly breeze with gusts to 15.

Note storm sail sunshade, pillow and book


A spot just inside the entrance to Gallinas Creek looked enticing, but I went on the wrong side of the little channel. Little Cat was firmly stuck with no further options except to break out the book, lunch and a beer.

Great view south to China Camp

It was shortly after high tide, so it was a five-hour wait lying under my storm sail sun shade on the front net reading my book, or looking through the net at the mud critters - how I suffered!

Skid marks

In the afternoon the wind picked up until is was averaging 20-25 knots over the deck on my little wind meter, and I had to move into the "cabin" for some respite. Luckily it was really warm so no hardship. The tide floated us off at 6.30 PM and it goes without saying that the strong north westerly that would have blown us home in no time, died entirely, and then veered around to a strong south-westerly (right on the nose heading back).

Note to self: best to explore the China Camp/Gallinas coast on a rising tide.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Gunkholing The Petaluma

With all the work on the house, I have been averaging one sail a month - that is just wrong! Spring Break presented an opportunity for an overnight, which I took. I've wanted to gunkhole the Petulaluma river for sometime and this was my opportunity. I loaded up on food and water and headed out. When my brother visited last year, I was shocked that he refused to come with me overnight because of my basic dried-food provisioning, and other lack of comforts - mind you he prefers to sail monohulls (?). So I thought I would try out a more dignified menu and packed the chilly with bacon and eggs and beers no less.


It was an almost windless day, which made for a mirror glass sea, but wasn't good for sailing. So it was several hours with the Tohatsu chugging away until the wind filled in after the San Pablo Strait. We were with the tide so made around 5 knots even with the motor ticking over on slowish. Hoisted the symmetric spinnaker off China Camp and got a couple of miles under sail before the wind died again.

Anchored up for the night in Schultz Slough

By the time I passed Black Point at the entrance to the Petaluma River, the wind filled in from the West, right on the nose, so motor sailed up the river with the mainsail drawing. Little Cat is an efficient motor sailor to windward and we averaged 5 knots up the river, even though we were heading into the new ebb tide.


Schultz Slough

I had no interest in seeing the Petaluma turning basin - I have seen it from the road - and instead wanted to do some exploring up some sloughs. After we had passed the last of the marsh park areas, we came across Schultz slough which looked big enough to take the boat.


Dinner

I thought that we might be able to get all the way up the slough where it loops back beside Neils Island, but the tide was going out and we ran aground before we could make it all the way.

Slough sunset

We backed up (literally, the slough was only a bit wider than the boat) to where there was a bit of water under the keel and settled in for the night. The boat could only just turn around in its own length in the slough, so there were a  few bumps and scapes in the night as it gently banged one bank and then the other as the tide turned during the night - there are very few +20' boats that you could do this sort of gunkholing in without major issues with getting stuck in a narrow slough.




video
Watching the anchor line dipping into the outgoing tide at sunset

I had hoped to have a lazy lie-in (which is my usual fashion) and a slow breakfast while taking in the marsh wildlife in the morning, but the tide was ebbing and I had to make way by 7AM to catch the tide out to San Pablo Bay.




The river was beautiful in the morning light, and mirror calm.



video
Morning stillness



Ghosting down the Petaluma

About halfway down the river, a 15 knot breeze came up astern and I shut the engine off and ghosted all the way out into San Pablo Bay. Once clear of the Petaluma channel, I hoisted the assymetric and got a couple of miles of reach/running at about 5 knots until the wind died entirely. Little Cat just made the San Pablo Strait as the tide was changing to the ebb and then headed across to the Marin Islands for lunch. I cooked up some food, read my book and went to sleep on the trampoline, before heading home in the afternoon. 50 nautical miles this trip.




Friday, April 1, 2016

Should Have Listened To Boatsmith

When I made a new front net back in 2013, I expected to get at least 5 years out of it. To my shock and horror, after only 3 years a short rip appeared on the front of the net.

Ripped under the grommet
I was mainly peed off at myself for a number of reasons - I had left the net quite loose out of laziness, which added to point loading - and because Boatsmith had messaged me to double up the number of grommet holes to spread the loads more, or the net wouldn't last. David (Boatsmith) is very generous with his time and advice on the WB & F website, but its only any good if someone is listening, right?

OK. So after all of that work there was no way I was going to throw away the net and start again. The condition of the dacron netting still seemed good, and I think that the rip was from an excessive point loading and not because the material was failing in general.

Red helping to hold the net down

So the sewing machine came out and I added a new layer each side of the PVC Shelter Rite material and sewed it full length along the front of the net (and over the rip).


The Shelter Rite is hard to sew with my 50 year old sewing machine because the presser foot slips on the smooth PVC. In the end I gave up trying to get the machine to "grip" the fabric and just shoved it through trying to keep the stitches even. As usual with my sewing it looks pretty erratic, but I think it is strong. I even added an extra row of stitches along the net side, though the benefits are probably more psychological.



I ordered in a new pile of brass grommets from Sailrite and doubled up on  the number of grommets. Then it was back on the boat and looking good.

Niiiice and tight! Favorite spot for lying in the sun.


Lastly, I took the time to get the net nice and tight. I use 1/8 dyneema and this requires quite a bit of fiddling around to get right. But it is soooo much better tight. Now when I step on the tramp, I can feel that the weight is much more evenly spread over the net, and it is much more comfortable to lie on (very important). If the net now makes it past 5 years, I'll be happy.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

What Color Is Your Parachute?

Mine is a yellowie-orange West Marine "Offshore" jacket with 35lbs buoyancy and manual inflation. It has double "D" rings on the belt that I snap onto a dyneema leash when it gets rough out in the ocean.



I love the sea, but it also frightens me and I want a good shot at survival if "something bad" happens. Given that I usually sail alone, "something bad" in order of likelihood would be 1) getting hit by a fast ferry or other traffic on The Bay 2) falling overboard 3) the boat getting turned over or broken up in nasty conditions in the Gulf of the Farallones.

I looked around for a manual inflater, because lots of people seem to get caught in rigging when their boats turn over. There have been several cases of people trapped under boats after their jackets autoinflated. Of course, if you are knocked unconscious when you go in, its all over with a manual inflater but therein lies some of the risk.



I've had this one for two or three years and found a little hole while testing it the other day. I'm pretty sure it was a manufacturing fault as it doesn't look like it was otherwise damaged. The instructions say to "replace the bladder if there is any wear and tear", but what is better - a repaired and tested bladder, or a new one that may have another manufacturer defect? I repaired it with a small "shelter rite" pvc patch and HH-66 vinyl cement, and also a small crease next to it that looked like it could become a hole. I inflated the jacket and watched it for several days to see if there was a loss in pressure with no problems. I notice that potential wear spots on the bladder seem to form along fold creases, so I'm going to store the jacket open and semi-inflated in future (not folded).

PLB, strobe, whistle and backup oral inflater


On the front of the jacket I have my 5 watt hand held VHF. It is my first line of defense and I keep it charged up so that it will work when needed. The last line of defense is a McMurdo PLB in the pocket of the vest. If I'm in the water and can't raise anyone on the VHF, then the PLB will be turned on. Also inside the vest is a manual strobe light and a whistle.

Nothing can guarantee your survival at sea when thing go bad. But my "parachute" will give me a good shot at it if that moment comes. Just have to remember to put it on - right?

Update: the glue didn't work well on the urethane (?) bladder, so I cleaned it off and used Dacron sticky sail repair fabric. This is working well, but I would like something more permanent and will try the ShelterRite with silicon glue next.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gallinas Creek

After reading Maurice Griffith's "Magic of the "Swatchways", I came over all romantic about cruising the sloughs and creeks of SF Bay. First on my new list was Gallinas Creek in San Rafael, Marin, the entrance of which is beyond China Camp in San Pablo Bay.

Leaving from Corte Madera Creek in light winds, I popped the asymmetric spinnaker and had a great run all of the way past China Camp. The average outbound speed was over 5 knots, which is great given that the true wind never got above 10 knots, and reinforces my notion that a spinnaker is an essential sail on the short-rigged Wharrams.





I forgot my camera, and lost my phone, so couldn't take any pictures. The pictures here are from the web.
 
http://images.summitpost.org/original/870384.jpg
Rat Rock, China Camp (summitpost.org)

Once past China Camp, the marsh parkland opens up with views of the many creeks, marsh birds and landlocked islands.

Marsh coast with Jakes Island and duck blind (Cole's Trail Tales).

The entrance to Gallinas Creek is shallow and marked with stakes for about a mile. I imagine that not many monohulls with keels would venture in here, but for a cat or other multihull it is no problem. The entrance is broad and will be added to my list of great spots to overnight - it is sheltered from the West, South and North, and shelter could be sort up the creek in an Easterly.

The first mile of the Creek is very pretty and a relaxing place to hang out on the hook (CM Clow)

Unfortunately, I didn't have that much time to hang around and had to get back to my mooring spot before the tide was too low. Its further than it looks on the chart and was over 20 NM there and back. Loved the coast between China Camp and the creek, and will definitely be back.

South Fork, Gallinas Creek (County of Marin)