2010 July – 4th of July on the Bay

JULY 4th 2010 – Fireworks in the Bay

Fireworks in the Bay

Fireworks in the Bay

INDEPENDENCE DAY – and a long weekend – Sat, Sun, and Monday.

There are various sites in San Francisco Bay where you can anchor overnight that will give you an excellent view of the spectacular fireworks displays along the various waterfronts on Sunday night, the 4th of July.

Annie and Darlene said they were available to anchor out with me, so the long weekend was a Go.  Annie was in charge of the menu, while I spent the week preparing the boat.

I checked that the anchor and windlass worked, checked the batteries, filled the water tanks, emptied the toilet holding tank, cleared off the stuff cluttering the guest bed, cleaned the windscreens, got new batteries for the portable radio, bought a ton of Cokes, fetched my Mac so that we could play DVDs, and just generally puttered around.

I also dropped the dinghy onto the dock intending to inflate the slackened pontoons but once I had the dinghy down where I could see it properly, I noticed that the transom had come away from the port pontoon.  I visited West Marine for friendly advice on how I could repair and re-glue the separation.  The glue alone was $128 but the advice was free – they suggested I take it to an inflatable repair facility.  That was a blow – I was expecting us to have a runabout for the weekend.

Transom coming unglued from the pontoon

Transom coming unglued from the pontoon

Annie and Darlene arrived early Saturday morning and we cast off the dock lines and motored into a clear, warm, calm day.  No wind.  But then again, there is never any wind early in the morning in the Bay, however, around noon up comes a howling banshee of a wind as regular as clockwork.  Well, maybe “howling” is overstating it somewhat, but a solid 20 knots with sharp gusts blows thru.

Under the Bay Bridge, Darlene, and San Francisco in the background

Under the Bay Bridge, Darlene, and San Francisco in the background

We motored calmly up the Bay and Annie mentioned that the SFWeather said that there would be a Small Craft Warning in the afternoon.  Darlene made a joke to the effect that we weren’t a small craft so we didn’t have to worry.  Right.  As we motored under the Bay Bridge and moved out from the protection of the highrise buildings of the City to our left, we were quite suddenly slammed with high wind and sloppy waves that splashed over the bow and onto my clean windscreen utterly obliterating our view.  Darlene did a rapid disappearing trick behind cover to avoid being soaked through.

We weren’t sailing so we didn’t have to rush to reduce sail and we weren’t in any real danger, but the radio crackled on and on with Pan-Pan calls from the Coast Guard asking sailors to look out for a craft overturned near Berkeley, or a boat taking on water near the island, or a vessel sinking near….   Seems that if you were a small craft, you were in real trouble.

Alcatraz coming up

Alcatraz coming up

We bounced thru the bay being doused in spray.  We passed Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge to our left, and finally after a total of 4 hours of motoring we reached Richardson Bay.  I had been told to anchor near Cove Rock because with my shallow draft we would comfortably manage the 7ft depth.  We entered the Sausalito bay eagerly looking out for the rock.  It turns out that Cove Rock is actually a lump below the water and all you can see is a very large bouy marking the spot.

The Golden Gate bridge to port

The Golden Gate bridge to port

Since I was the only one who sort of knew how the windlass worked, I put Darlene on the helm and we went thru our hand signals – Stop, go left, go right, go forward, go back, and power back hard to check the holding.  You have to have hand signals to impress the watching masses.  It doesn’t matter how badly you mess up, but if you hold up a fist (the military equivalent of Stop) and the helmsman responds by putting the boat in neutral, then everyone watching goes Aaaaah!  You just look professional – even when you aren’t.

Then Annie and I went forward to drop the anchor.  The first time we dropped it and Darlene powered back the boat, the anchor did not bite and we hopped backwards.  We lifted the anchor and tried again.  This time the anchor bit and held under full reverse power.

Then Annie and I tried to connect the bridle to the anchor rode with mixed success.  The anchor hangs off the middle ama which puts strain on the bow and windlass and also allows FastAlley to twirl around freely – putting further strain on the bow.  To reduce the twirling there is a bridle contraption which is a long, thick line with clips at each end another clip in the middle.  The middle clip is hanked onto the anchor chain hanging off the bow, and the two ends are connected, one each, to the port and starboard amas.  This v-shaped effect reduces twirling.  Of course it does nothing for the windage – you’re stuck with that.

Eventually Darlene at the helm got bored watching us struggling away and came up to see what the fuss was all about.  All three of us offered advice to each other on how to tie the bridle properly.  It was a hoot and I’m sure everyone watching from the houses on shore were vastly entertained with our Anchoring By Committee.  .  Eventually we got the bridle connected to the anchor, but we also had 50ft of chain out in just 7ft of water.  Basically that gave us enough scope for a hurricane!  There was no denying we were holding firm so we called it a day, retreated to the cockpit, killed the engine, and made coffee.

Sausalito with its mantle of cloud

Sausalito with its mantle of cloud

Considering the Small Craft Warning just one mile away in the Bay, it was beautifully calm at the anchorage and the views were spectacular.  Sausalito nestles on the side of hills, and a mantle of cloud gently covered the tops.  We watched the sun set and chatted into the evening.  After dinner and a movie, I left some soft track lighting on so that we could see our way should we have to get up during the night, and we all hit the sack.

Sunday morning dawned and I shot out of bed to check my batteries.  There had been no wind during the night and so the wind generator hadn’t charged the batteries and the track lighting had run them down to a little over 12.  I switched from the wind generator to solar power and slowly my batteries came back up again.  Around noon high winds buffeted us at anchor and I gleefully switched on the wind generator and watched it rapidly top off my batteries.  Sometimes I like wind.

Annie whipping up a gourmet meal

Annie whipping up a gourmet meal

Annie had a great menu planned and we ate generously.  We could hear the parade trumpeting thru the streets of Sausalito but we were stuck on the boat with no dinghy.
Darlene bbq-ing chicken

Still it was very relaxing.  Darlene bravely tried the solar shower and declared it marginal.

Anne and Darlene got energetic and started doing yoga on the tossing deck while I tried not to feel guilty at my lack of enthusiasm for exercise.

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Boats started arriving in their hordes but avoided anchoring anywhere near us – because we were in such shallow water.  It was great having the waters at Cove Rock all to ourselves and not having to worry about a boat dragging into us.  Or us twirling into someone on our 50ft swing.  It got pretty crowded in the cheap seats as more and more boats arrived throughout the afternoon and anchored – way over there!

The other major consideration with a trimaran is that it is twirled around at anchor by the wind.  Monohulls with their deep keels are moved by the tides.  The bridle on my anchor stops any great swings, but the winds still have quite an impact on a shallow draft vessel with such high freeboard as my trimaran has.  So at any one time you would see all the monohulls sedately facing into the tide, and FastAlley doing a dance thru 60 degrees as the wind clocked around constantly, back and forth.  So much for the “prevailing” wind – it was gusting all over the place.

Around 9:30pm it was dark enough for the fireworks show and the skies over Sausalito lit up with color and sparkle.  Of course, my finger is somewhat slower on the camera shutter than my eye, so I got a lot of pictures of fuzzy dots on a black background.  But the show was fun to watch – it is years since I saw fireworks.

Then the two San Francisco fireworks shows started along the city waterfront but it was pretty distant and the fireworks exploded high enough that they were obscured by the marine layer.  All we could see was the rocket streaking towards the low cloud….. then nothing, just a loud bang as it exploded and the clouds turned red, green, or gold.  And the racket from the finale was something to hear – but not to see.

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It was pretty cold by the end of the show so we retreated below, crawled into our snug beds, and watched a movie – The Last of the Mohicans.  It is my favorite film but I was asleep 20 minutes into the show.

This time the wind blew all night, powering up my batteries as the track lighting flattened them.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Homeward bound buoy

Homeward bound buoy

Monday morning dawned cold and foggy.  We lifted the anchor, un-tethered the bridle, and got underway around 9:30am.  I expected the trip back to be a hard slog against the current but there was no wind, the water was flat calm, and FastAlley flew along.  We were back at the dock by 2:00pm.

I have two wishes – I wish I had had my dinghy so that we could have run around the waterfront and followed the parade, and maybe visited all the houseboats that Sausalito is so famous for.  And I wish I had my new cockpit enclosures in place already for the long weekend.  It would have been nice to have a cozy cockpit.

…..so that just means that we will have to do this again some time!

Bay Bridge and the city

Bay Bridge and the city

Alcatraz close up

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