Time to start exploring! After making it under the Golden Gate Bridge we went to Sausalito. It looked like a nice town but there was no time to explore. We washed the boat, refilled fuel and water, did laundry, and went out to eat (woohoo!)! We found a really nice Indian fusion restaurant. The owner was really proud of his place and made dinner fun. He asked what kinds of protein we wanted and he prepared a fantastic round of dishes. So memorable!
Next we anchored at Aquatic Park. Right in the middle of downtown San Francisco, steps away from Fisherman’s Wharf, directly across from Ghirardelli Square is a place to anchor for $10 a night. Fantastic! Once in the anchorage, no engines are allowed because there are so many swimmers, so everyone had to row their dinghy ashore to access all of the shops and restaurants. It was fun to watch the different ways people got to shore: single handing, the classic one rower and several passengers cheering; buddy rowing (where two sit side by side with one oar each); electric motor (is that cheating?). We wanted to buy fresh fish to cook for dinner and we went down the piers and around the alleys but all the fish places were closed, eventually we bought rockfish from Safeway. We stopped for an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Club and strolled through Ghirardelli Square to round out our visit to San Francisco, then we walked back to the beach to collect the crew.
The next day we had fun raising the big pink sail, our spinnaker! Wow is that pink! We made our way up the bay to Brisbane which is 10 min from the airport for our crew, Ed and Jaqi, to catch their flights home. What a great trip, wonderful trusting people, great attitudes, pitching in at every turn, gybe, and tack- thanks so much for helping us sail our girl to San Francisco!
From the South Bay we cruised north to Richmond to meet some Coho friends. We were able to sail about half of the way, and the wind built as we approached our destination. We had great difficulty furling the staysail again, which has been a particular point of frustration because it is supposed to be our heavier wind sail. How can we trust using it in heavy winds if we can’t furl it when the winds get too strong? It is a very expensive frustration. Grrrr… We worked our way through the channels to Richmond and found that our slip was on the outside with the 20 knot wind at our stern as we came into the dock. Luckily our friends all came out to help grab lines so we didn’t have to try to secure all the lines ourselves. James and Tanya on Stella J, Jenny and Mac on Maya, and Mark and Karen on Chaos were all there, along with the crew on Delfin as well. We wandered down to the local brewpub and had a few beers on their outside patio. It was really enjoyable to catch up with everyone about their trips down the coast, the wildlife seen, the difficulties encountered, the fact that Chaos smoked us after leaving at the same time… Lots of laughter helped us set aside the frustrations with the sail and docking in the high wind. Unfortunately the wind waves smacking Sacagawea in the stern all night did not lead to good sleep and we were up early to depart before it re-intensified.
Next on our agenda was our abbreviated trip up the Sacramento River Delta. Apparently this is not a popular undertaking. Information, charts, and guide books are hard to find. We pieced together an itinerary through websites and Google searches. First stop was a charming little town, Benecia, near the confluence of the San Joaquin River and Sacramento River. The marina is just 3 blocks from a nice walkable downtown. We ate Burmese for lunch and Safeway was less than half of a mile up the street for a few provisions.
We left Benecia and headed for Horseshoe Bend up the Sacramento River. We went under several bridges but all were tall enough to get under, passed the “ghost ship” fleet in Suisun Bay, wondered if the couple of sea lions we saw were lost or just following the King Salmon run, and managed to avoid being struck by the kite surfers zipping around in the 20-knot wind. Any concerns about depth relaxed as the bottom stayed reliably deeper than our keel. Horseshoe Bend is just upstream from where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers join together and empty into the saltwater of the Bay, and it began to feel like a river delta with waterways forming curving offshoots and re-entering the main channel miles downstream. The water was warm enough to swim at about 73 degrees and it was fresh water!
Our third day loomed a little stressful. We would have to ask bridges to open for us to get through. I called the first bridge, the Rio Vista Bridge, and asked how to go about our adventure. The super-nice guy spent a full 5 minutes explaining the whole thing and reminding us to make sure our radio volume was turned up so we could hear the bridge answer. All bridges can be contacted on channel 9 and they will open for us when asked. Wow! No reservation, no schedule, no need to bring chocolate chip cookies. Nice! Every single one of the bridge operators were so nice! I looked forward to each bridge hailing. There were four. We passed under the final bridge and anchored in a large offshoot of the river called Steamboat Slough. Trees lined the banks, the water flowed at a gentle pace and still changed with the tide even though we were only 20 miles from downtown Sacramento, crazy! We needed to put out bow and stern anchors to keep us from swinging up river and down river with the current. We relaxed in the hammock in the warm sunshine, jumped into the fresh clear water, and found a winery across the bank with tastings on Tuesday! We stayed two nights.
Time to journey back to San Francisco Bay and get ready to head further south. We planned to stay in Sausalito again to provision, launder sheets, towels, and clothes, wash the boat etc. We returned with time to spare and found Angel Island! There are paired mooring balls color coded and in rows more or less. The idea is to pick up one ball for the stern of the boat and a second like-color ball for the bow. Two of our fellow Coho Rally friends gave us some excellent advice about the mooring balls in advance (thanks Nojan and Rachel!). We had heard of people trying 10 or more times to get both balls and sometimes giving up entirely. We nailed it! First try! The man on the boat next to us even commented “that was about the smoothest mooring I’ve seen here.” I was so pleased with ourselves. I cut the motor and pictured a beer in my hand when Bill asked what the depth was. Oh jeeze! In my celebratory fog I had forgotten to look. Turned back on the instruments and yikes! 0.6 feet under the keel. The tide was going to go out another 2 feet overnight. We would be sunk in 18 inches of mud if we stayed here. We had chosen an outer mooring thinking that would be deeper. If we could just find one a foot deeper, but how? We definitely were not going to drive the big boat around seeing if we touch ground. So, we used our recently removed shaft seal as a weight and tied it to a string to make a lead line! We used the dinghy to paddle around and we did find a slightly deeper mooring the one closest to shore, go figure! By the time we got back from sounding the mooring field, there was only 0.3 feet of water under us. The tide would be coming in over the next 6 hours before running out again overnight. We decided to let the tide come in to lift Sacagawea up a bit before moving. We went for a beautiful hike to the highest point on the island, Mt. Livermore, at 788 feet with 360 degree views of San Francisco Bay. We had a rare warm, sunny, no fog afternoon which led to beautiful views in every direction.
When we returned, someone else had gotten our balls! Bill took the lead line back out and ended up talking to THOSE people. Turns out they are super wonderful and had local knowledge about the ball depths. They recommended grabbing the balls just to their left. We did and got the extra 12 inches of depth we needed (nailed the mooring again but I don’t want to double brag). We made new friends with Andy and Tess and it turns out they have similar interests and have done many of the same adventures we have done in the past: climbed Rainier and Kilimanjaro, sailed Tahiti and the Virgin Islands among other fun trips. After getting together for a couple of days and talking, they are interested in helping us on our multi day sails needed to get from San Diego to Baja Mexico. Yay! We saw deer and a coyote on the island, got another blog post done, and also had an adventure in our dinghy. We ran over to welcome the last Coho boat to make it to the Bay at their temporary slip in Sausalito. The trip over at ebb tide was quick and uneventful, using Navionics on our tablet as a mobile chartplotter. After hugs and a celebratory lunch we headed back to the island, three miles away. Raccoon Strait is well known for it’s strong tidal currents and it did not disappoint- standing waves for almost a mile. Bill did an excellent job of timing his speed to surf with the waves, but it was still a bit of a splashy ride to get across the Strait. We were very happy to get in safe to Sacagawea. We love our dinghy Pomp with his 20 hp Mercury outboard!!!
We all left Angel Island on the second morning for the short sail over to Sausalito (their home port) and parted ways there. We met up with Ola and Maciek from Que Vendra, our Coho friends, to check out the Bay Model, made by the Army Corps of Engineers to simulate tidal and river flows in the entire Bay and Delta area. The scale model covers over an acre-and-a-half! Wow, very cool, and the historical exhibits were great too. Afterward we leapt into boat chores to prep for leaving down the coast, but wrapped up in time to welcome an old friend who lives in the City aboard for a visit. What a great evening of catching up! She showed up with her daughter and a great bottle of wine and Kristin wound up throwing together dinner for us all on the fly. We never did get to the grocery store that night, but we were happy to do it in the morning and just go with the midday tidal slack instead of the early morning one- Half Moon Bay isn’t that far anyway! LOL Tomorrow we start our exploration of the California Coast!