2011 July 4th – SAUSALITO

Bryan with yet another leopard shark - catch and release

For the 2011 July 4th Annie and I decided to go back to Sausalito and anchor out next to Tiburon, as we did last year.  At the last minute my son Bryan called from Los Angeles and said he would be joining us for a few days, so Annie bought enough food for an army – aka one tall, hungry man.  Annie couldn’t find a babysitter for Gidget, her little dog, so we got another passenger.

Gidget - showing off on the foredeck

Hank and Sandy said they would buddy boat up with us, so the two boats set off on Saturday 2nd around noon, heading for the San Mateo Bridge.  The weather was less than pleasant.  Usually we put FastAlley on autopilot and sit up front with coffee, cheese and biscuits and watch the Bay go slowly by as we motor decorously up the Bay.  But today the wind was howling and kicking up substantial chop that flung spray all over the decks and sent FastAlley airborne as we struggled up the bay.  Obviously I can’t see how FastAlley performs in bad weather, because I’m a part of it and her, but with Hank’s catamaran behind me I could watch fascinated as Shibumi flew skywards over the waves.  I was taking photos of Hank’s boat as he flew along behind us, and he was taking pictures of us flying and covered in spray.  We had a mutual gawk fest.  With the tide against us and foul weather, our speed was down to 4 knots.

When I move my boat around the Bay I stick close to the buoys – I’m not brave enough to carve out my own route because I have bad visions of a 30-foot submerged mast, or 10-foot sunken rebar, sticking out of the mud and impaling FastAlley as I take a mistimed shortcut.  So I stick to the marked channels.

Buddy boating with Shibumi - a Gemini 105 all tricked out

As I left the final channel buoy and set course for the Bay Bridge buoy my way was blocked by 7 behemoth container/cargo ships anchored, and lined up sideways to me, for their turn at the docks.  As I slowly approached them I tried to decide if one goes in front of these anchored monsters, or behind them?

I remember once when I was making my way down the Long Beach Channel, I obliquely passed a tug boat at some distance.  But even though I was quite far away from the prop wash of the tug, it nevertheless sent FastAlley into a tailspin.  I watched fascinated as the autopilot did a 90-degree spin to port, tried to correct, and spun to port again.  I decided the prop wash of a container ship starting up suddenly would be more than FastAlley should bear, so I chose to pass in front of the anchored ships.  I figured if it suddenly lifted anchor then I would do a 180 and run back down the channel.  Annie assured me there would be nothing “sudden” about lifting anchor!  Any up-anchor of a container ship is a major production including tugs, horns, and whistles, and lots of busy activity for at least 30 minutes before anything actually moved.  So we passed uneventfully in front of the ships.  It is quite daunting as you pass by to realize that my whole boat is probably the same size as just their anchor!  Hank said he had fallen asleep and Sandy was steering and when he woke up he found himself surrounded by monster ships!

We moved along the waterfront then turned for Richardson Bay which took us west of Alcatraz.  Every time we cross The Slot – the strip of channel running from the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz – we get hit by high waves as the wind howls in from the open sea and funnels into the Bay at ferocious speeds.  Today was no exception, if anything it was the worst wave conditions I have hit in the Bay so far.  We struggled forward but even though our speed was good I could see that relative to our bearing on Alcatraz, we had not moved forward at all in the last 5 minutes.  Our forward motion matched the push back from the high waves, so our motion was stalled.

Bryan was watching Hank behind us getting all beat up, as were we.  Looking back at Shibumi, we were very impressed that Sandy was brave enough to sit right upfront in those high seas.  Earlier Sandy had gone forward to sit on the seat on the nose but, she said later, that with the high seas she got stuck there because it was too dangerous to crawl back along the bucking deck to the cockpit.  Eventually Hank came over the radio and said he was turning back for the lee side of Alcatraz and I followed.  Annie, Gidget and Bryan were equally grateful to be out of the turmoil of that washing machine.

Its a Mother thing... you have to give advice even if you have never removed a hook from anything before

When we reached Richardson Bay, we both anchored at Cove Rock where it is shallow and thus Far from the Madding Crowd.

Bryan settled down to fish with his stinky bait, while Annie made dinner.  I had bought the banjo minnow fishing set and was sure I would catch dinner.  I explained to Bryan how the wrist action on the plastic minnow on my line simulated a dying fish, which was irresistible to any passing fish who was genetically disposed to attack the “dying” fish and swallow my hook.  I also pointed out that plastic fish did not smell or stink up my fingers.  Bryan was not convinced and stuck to his stinky bait and pretty soon was fighting some huge fish.  He fought it for 15 minutes before it broke the line and took off.

Bryan disrespectful of my plastic minnow

Then he caught a 4ft leopard shark.  Annie said that Tiburon means shark and that Richardson Bay is known as a leopard shark nursery and haven.  Bryan wrestled his newest shark onto the deck for a photo shoot before releasing it.  Meanwhile the entire stock of fish in the Bay ignored my plastic minnow.

Fish are ignoring my banjo minnow

In the quiet bouts between catching leopard sharks, Bryan would muse on my banjo minnow.  Maybe it was my wrist action, he said with a wicked grin.  I assured him I was doing exactly what the instruction DVD said; it was simply that the fish were too dumb to notice my superior fishing skill.  Bryan suggested that maybe I should soak my plastic banjo minnow in bait pheromones?  I pointed out that the whole idea of plastic fish meant I didn’t have to have stinky hands.

Five hours of minnow wrist action later, Bryan was admiring my tenacity as yet another shark leapt on his line.  I pointed out that I was fishing for our supper, whereas all he got was photos.

Bryan said the banjo minnow DVD was probably a condensed 5-minute compilation of fish catches over 3 years!  And the catches filmed in a fish tank (for clarity, I said) were probably fish that hadn’t been fed in 3 weeks.  He said that by the time they tossed the plastic banjo minnow into the tank, the fish were ready to eat each other.

I should have pointed out that some mothers eat their young!

Mother and Son

The sun set as I (realistically, I thought) wriggled my plastic minnow thru the water, but we had to settle for chicken for supper.  Bryan tried to comfort me and my lack of catch, but his grin belied his words.

Sausalito's houseboat community - c/o Google Earth

The 4-corners houseboat

Sunday morning dawned so Bryan and I enthusiastically manhandled the dinghy into the water, and dropped the engine onto its transom.  While there were no waves in Richardson Bay, there was a considerable swell running and it took some coordination between us not to drop the outboard in the Bay!  Annie watched from the deck with misgivings.  At one point I was nearly decapitated as the engine propelled us under FastAlley between the starboard ama and central hull.  At the same time the swell hurled us up under FastAlley and I flung myself backwards into the bottom of the dinghy to avoid having my head crushed on the underside of the deck, with the sudden upward swoop.

The Pirate House

I wanted to do a tour of the houseboats of Sausalito but Annie refused to get into the dinghy.  She said this was Gidget’s first time on the water and she didn’t want to subject her dog to yet another new experience.  Gidget meanwhile was digging a hole in the deck trying to get under the stanchions and leap into the dinghy to join us.  That little dog was ready to go-go.  Personally I think Annie wouldn’t get into the dinghy because decapitation was not high on her Bucket List.

The Little A-frameBryan and I set off across Richardson Bay heading for the houseboat section.  The little houseboat community is magical with floating homes of every shape and size from multi-level mansions to modest little colorful shacks.  We motored around slowly while I happily snapped away.  Eventually I ran out of memory space on my camera card and had to regretfully delete some pics as I saw yet another floating home that I just had to snap.  Bryan waited patiently as mother (me) ruefully paged thru my new pics, deleting some, then he started up the engine again for more touring after I had freed up some memory.  Sometimes technology can be so annoying.  Bryan reassured me it was the tool that was at fault and not the user.  Brat.

The Hippie Commune - with its flotilla of dinks

I was specifically searching for the Taj Mahal houseboat that I had read about in the Architectural Digest.  We explored every nook and cranny of the houseboat village but didn’t see it.  Eventually we stopped to ask directions and the friendly man told us where to go.  As we made our way back down the channel towards the Taj Mahal we passed the building that housed the Bay Model – which happily was on my List of ThingsToDo.  So we found a rickety public dock, chained the dinghy to the dock, and walked back towards the building.  As we walked, we passed a chatty couple who kept pace with us and told us about an organic ice cream shop that we just had to try.

The Bay Model - Red Rock and the Richmond Bridge

The Bay Model building is under construction so there is no water in the model at the moment, but it is still a worthwhile visit.  It is the size of two football fields and encompasses the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento Delta.  It is HUGE!!!  And fascinating.  It was built by the Corps of Engineers as a way to test “bright ideas” before inflicting them for real on the Estuary.  Apparently many “bright ideas” never saw the light of day – fortunately – when the model highlighted their awful impact.  The model was continuously in use for decades as scientists used it for R&D.  Today it is used for educational purposes.  It is well worth a visit – with or without its water.

The Bay Model - the Golden Gate Bridge with its 500ft deep channel that the sea has carved out

As we walked back to the dinghy we detoured past CIBO, the organic ice cream shop.  For $20 we got 2 small lemonades, 2 small ice creams, and some small change.  I’m guessing that an early retirement is on the CIBO owners’ Bucket List!!

Once back on the dinghy we resumed our search down the channel for the Taj Mahal.  It is less of a houseboat and more of a beautifully restored home on a barge, really.  It stands alone in a marina with a fabulous front-and-center view of the Sausalito Bay and protected by the wash of the bay by a breakwater.  I had to delete more pics, this time of the Bay Model, to fit in 3 shots of the Taj.

The Taj Mahal houseboat

Then back to the boat.  I resumed fishing with my plastic fish – with its realistic dying action – but again failed to catch anything.  Clearly the fish in Richardson Bay are not genetically disposed to attack dying small fry, as the infomercial so confidently claimed.  Bryan said he had pretty much run out of sardonic comments except that at least someone caught something, even if it was only the infomercial that caught me at 2:00 in the morning.

I ignored him.   Annie made supermarket shrimp for lunch.

Hank and Sandy came by to ask if we wanted to dinghy tour the houses on the waterfront on the Tiburon side.  So we clambered back into our dinghy, and once again Annie watched us bouncing up and down as we hung on fiercely to FastAlley’s swimsteps…  and declined to join us.  Hank was trying out a borrowed 2hp outboard so we spent a leisurely hour side-tied to Hank’s dinghy as we motored slowly past the fabulous homes on the Tiburon shore.   This group of homes is in a different pay grade to the floating houseboats community!  Afterwards we untied from Hank and Sandy, and after such a gentle meander with Hank’s borrowed 2hp motor, Bryan just had to open up our outboard and carve and surf thru the swell on the way back to our boat!    It was fun.

Monday July 4th dawned – all blustery again.  Hank dinghied over and said he was going to move his catamaran closer to the Sausalito Channel where there was very little swell, and it was closer to the restaurants.  He also wanted to see the parade and stay for the fireworks show that evening.  I had to work Tuesday so I couldn’t stay for the fireworks otherwise we would get back to our dock at 2:00am – just in time for another infomercial.   Maybe its time for a Infomercial Intervention!

Besides, we wanted to go back down the channel and fish at the Shoal.  I was sure the sturgeon hanging out at the shoal would love dying plastic minnows.  We upped anchor and turned for home.

By the time we reached the shoal the wind was howling and there was a Small Craft Warning out.  We decided to skip the fishing and detoured to Coyote Point for fuel instead, then headed home.

We had a marvelous time over the holiday.  Gidget very definitely has sea legs and showed off by running around all over the deck.  She wouldn’t poop on her poop pads that Annie laid on the deck, and simply ignored them.  Then Gidget found the air vent for the marine head up front, sniffed at the vent, recognized the smell, and pooped happily on the foredeck.   A quick bucket of sea water and that solved that problem.

I asked Annie if she had refused to go on the dinghy because she wanted me to have alone time with my son?   Hell No, she said.  Actually the word she used was more expressive than Hell.  She just wasn’t getting into any dinghy that zoomed up above FastAlley’s decks on the swell, then disappeared under the boat in the troughs.  Maybe next time.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: