You may call me poulet du mer or, in plain English, chicken of the sea. Despite my loud demeanor and brassy bravado, I confess that I have always been a bit of a scaredy cat, a chicken little kind of gal, always fearful that the sky is going to fall. Whenever I am in a movie theatre or crowded public venue, the first thing I always do is to scope out the emergency exits. My flashlights all receive fresh batteries twice a year and my fire extinguishers are up to date. I fill the water tanks on the boat twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, in preparation for the eventual earthquake we are sure to experience sooner or later. It is the things I cannot prepare for that worry me.
It is curious that an ultra-scary past time like boating holds so much attraction for me. I have never liked living on the edge or placing myself in uncontrollable situations but when we were new to boating, we simply didn't know enough to be afraid. For example, our first boat was a trailerable 20-foot Balboa sailboat with a retractable keel. We kept her in dry storage at Oyster Point Marina. As those of you with trailer boats well know, launching and retrieving can frequently become an issue, simply hang out at any launch ramp on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning and you will see exactly what I mean. Anyway, the Balboa had a large metal pin that went through a hole in the retractable keel to hold it in place once it had been deployed after the boat had been launched. The fact that a little water seeped in through the keel bolt didn't shout out the warning it should have, simply because we didn't realize that if left untended, a continuous stream of water flowing into the boat would eventually cause it to sink. FYI: A keel bolt is best placed above the waterline to keep water on the outside of the boat, where it belongs. The keel bolt on the Balboa, for some strange reason, was located below the waterline. I cannot believe how stupid we were! I can vividly remember how surprised I was the first time I stepped down into the cabin and had cold saltwater spill over the top of my shoes. Picture in your mind the proverbial scared woman with a bucket and you will have some idea of how I felt at that moment. After a few similar incidents we eventually contacted the manufacturer who rectified the problem by raising the keel bolt, but we lost an entire summer of boating while the repair was being made.
Scary moments in boating are a given. Scary is smashing a swim platform to smithereens against the dock, been there. Scary is running aground hard, been there. Scary is falling in the Bay fully dressed, been there. Really scary is a fire in the engine room, been there too. Sometimes scary is simply heeling over too far on a windy day. I told you, I'm easy to scare.
But here is the wonderful thing about boating, as you experience these types of not-quite life-threatening occurrences you gain both knowledge and confidence. Every time you defeat the odds against some potential threat or disaster, a check mark goes into your plus column. And, please consider this bonus, you get a whopping good story to share for years to come!
The other side of the scary coin is the reason we love boating in the first place, because, despite the expense, the fear factor and the inconvenience, boating is just about the very best way a person can spend their time on our beautiful planet. As Rat said to Mole in the enduring tale of the Wind in the Willows, "Believe me, there is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
There is a very real scientific reason that spending time around water is beneficial. Negative ions are abundant in nature, especially when those atoms come in contact with moving water, and particularly around waterfalls, on the surface of large bodies of water and after a storm. The negatively charged ions in the atmosphere clear the air of airborne pollens, mold spores and bacteria, so you feel better physically. Once those same ions reach our blood stream, they are believed to produce a biochemical reaction that increases the levels of serotonin, which helps to relieve stress and alleviate depression. Add to that an adult beverage or two and, for my Bay & Delta Yachtsman colleague Pat Carson, a cigar, and you have practically achieved Nirvana!
One of my favorite boating memories is from Ayala Cove at Angel Island. If you have ever been to Angel Island State Park you know that catching those elusive mooring balls can be tricky or scary, depending on your evaluation. We had been through the scary part. The boat was secure on her long mooring lines and we were enjoying pre-dinner drinks in the cockpit after a fun day exploring the island. It was October, so the weather was balmy, plus there was a gorgeous full moon just peeking over the top of Mt. Livermore. Just when we thought life couldn't get any better the music began. It seems that our visit coincided with a large group of Barbershop Quartet singers who also took an interest in boating. The Barbershop group was in a raft of 6 or 8 boats moored directly behind us. I don't know how many singers there were, but their sweet harmonies filled the Cove with old favorites such as "Peg o' My Heart" (which got stuck in Captain Sweetie's little pea brain for over a week! The worst part? He could only remember the first line and sang it over and over and over. Grounds for divorce, or even murder?), "Sweet Adeline," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and, most appropriately, "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." Eventually the tantalizing fragrance of grilling meat diverted my attention from the singers, but it was a magical evening and one that I will never forget. As I recall the steaks were good too.
The Blue Angels are coming to town and will fly on the weekend of October 12th and 13th. The popular air show is part of Fleet Week which takes place along the San Francisco waterfront the week of October 6 - 14, 2019. The events this year will include a Veteran's Art Exhibit, the Parade of Ships, K-9 Heroes - Bark at the Park, free concerts and a High School Band competition as well as the popular air show. For more information with details of times and locations visit www.fleetweeksf.org
This month the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park at Aquatic Park is hosting a rousing sea music concert scheduled for October 26. Chris Maden is described as a working chantey man who is currently on staff at the famous Mystic Seaport Museum.
Aquatic Park is also hosting (for the second year) a 24-hour Moby Dick Reading Marathon on October 19-20. There's something about that book! Anyone who wants to read a chapter in the Maritime Museum can sign up at https://maritime.org/events/mobydick/
For more information on the events at San Francisco Maritime Historical Park visit their web site: https://www.nps.gov/safr/index.htm
October is my favorite month for boating here on San Francisco Bay. Karl the fog has departed (yes, it's true, the fog in San Francisco actually has a name), the temperatures are comfortably warm, with just a few Indian Summer days of blistering heat thrown in for good measure, the fierce seasonal winds have been tamed and the shorter days have the crisp feel of fall. It seems that even the water changes color in October, turning a vivid green rather than the steely gray tones of summer.
October is also the ideal time to make a longer trip across our two notoriously vicious Bays, San Pablo and Suisun. Crossing these two Bays is much easier in the fall than during the blustery summer months when the wind kicks up a nasty chop. If you are planning to make a trip to visit San Francisco Bay, your window of opportunity is open!
Captain Sweetie and I love to visit our beautiful local rivers during the fall season. It's been a few years since we have taken the boat up to the Delta, but we do love the trip up the Napa River, especially since it has the feel of old stomping grounds, probably because we were both born and raised there. Last fall we discovered a wonderful open anchorage on the Napa River just south of town. We liked it so much that we spent two nights there. We found the anchorage quite by accident. It seems that the City of Napa discourages visiting boats from staying overnight at their new downtown dock and although the Napa Valley Yacht Club is always welcoming, we sometimes just like to be independent and hang on our own hook. To me there is something healing about an anchorage with wide open vistas. China Camp, Mandeville Tip and, closer to home, the area near the Brisbane Fishing Pier are other anchorages that meet my criteria of an open vista. It must have something to do with not having to focus my eyes on the hustle-bustle clutter of daily life. Sometimes I prefer to look at water, sky and the horizon, thank you very much.
For those of you without the scaredy cat gene, a trip down the coast to Half Moon Bay, or even further south, might be in order this month. The weather in October is notoriously calm and mild. We spent a glorious night at the anchorage at Point Reyes during the month of October. The trip under the Golden Gate Bridge and up the coast was easy enough with the big, rolling ocean swells providing enough of a thrill for this scaredy cat. The anchorage at Point Reyes is large and protected on three sides. The Milky Way was spectacularly vivid in the inky night sky and the only problem we encountered was the 3,000 plus pounds of seaweed that came up with the anchor.
I asked Captain Sweetie what his scariest boating experience was. He told me it was the first time we caught the cable with our anchor at Clipper Cove. The muddy bottom at Clipper Cove is littered with python-sized cables and chains leftover from the Navy days. It's very easy, and not uncommon, to accidentally snag one of them when setting an anchor. On the plus side, being firmly attached to a cable probably means you won't have to worry about the anchor dragging during the night, but, unfortunately, you wouldn't know of your predicament until it was time to retrieve the hook. With patience, ingenuity and a bit of strong line it is possible to escape this hazard without losing your ground tackle. As a matter of fact, it has happened to us so frequently that we have become pretty good at freeing ourselves from the cable traps.
Here's what to do if it happens to you; using a winch, windlass or brute force pull up the anchor as close to the bow as possible. Once the anchor breaks the surface of the water you will see the offending cable. Use a boat hook to loop a line around the cable, feeding the line back to the boat and securing both ends to a cleat. The cable is now secure to the boat. Next, release the tension on the anchor rode by allowing the anchor to drop slightly until the cable is no longer hooked. You might have to do a little fancy footwork to unhook the cable from the flukes, but once the tension is released that is a fairly easy process. Finally, it is a simple matter to let go the line that holds the cable and allow it to drop back into the bay, ready to snag the next unsuspecting victim.
Harbormaster Jason Koulouris informed me that Oyster Cove Marina has taken possession of the old sailboat that recently sank. You might remember that the neighbors had given it the nickname of 5K Firm. I had presumed that most marinas are insured against this type of liability, but Jason has told me that the marina was responsible for having 5K Firm towed out. Before the boat was towed away, Jason had given me permission to remove a short section of the bronze trim before the boat was removed. Several of us had our eyes on the tantalizing bits of bronze but the boat was towed before any of us could get our greedy paws on them. Jason told me that the towing company was so confident that the boat would sink while underway to the chop yard, located near the Bay Model in Sausalito, that they attached a buoy line so they could find and retrieve the vessel when it went down. RIP 5K Firm.
Harbormaster Jason was on hand for the towing of yet another houseboat. A recent mandate from our marina management requires that all boats be able to leave the dock under their own power. Those which can't comply have 30 days to rectify the problem otherwise the boat must leave the marina. The 45-foot power boat that came in to do the towing had no identifying numbers on the hull, which presented a bit of a problem because during the process of dragging the old houseboat out of her slip there was a minor altercation when the towing vessel came in contact with a docked boat. Thankfully no damage was done.
Tooting my own horn and just in time for the holiday gift giving season! One of my watercolor paintings, entitled Bucket o' Fish, has been made into a puzzle. The nice people at Artifact Puzzles paid me a one-time honorarium so there is nothing for me to gain (except perhaps they might like to use another of my images in the future). If you, or your friends and family, like to put a puzzle together you might get a kick out of my most recent endeavor. Artifact Puzzles creates enduring wooden puzzles with intricately laser-cut whimsical pieces such as anchors, shells and fish. You can take a closer look at www.artifactpuzzles.com
Winter is just around the corner. Untended boats have a naughty habit of getting into trouble when left on their own. Please check that your dock lines are not frayed, cockpit drains are clear and that bilge pumps are in good working order.
I love receiving your questions and comments. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month, be brave, go boating!