Log #61r Down to San Francisco

November 12, 2016 in Log Series 60-69, Logs by Series, Series 61, The Logs

San Diego, CA

Nov. 20, 2016


Hi Folks,


We are down here in San Diego, just above the Mexican border, getting ready for our sail to Ensenada in Mexico. We have enjoyed reciprocal privileges at the Southwestern Yacht Club and the San Diego Yacht Club while here. This ends our transit down the western seaboard of the USA, and we are looking forward to the warmth of Mexico, especially Judy. The weather down here is warm most days, but cool at night.


This log gets us into California and down to San Francisco Bay. My next log will talk about our exploration of the different parts of the bay, including our jaunt up into the Sacramento River Estuary.


The chartlet below shows our track to San Francisco.

(Webmasters note: This image did not come through in the email)


All the best,



Log #61r Down to San Francisco

Mission Bay, San Diego, CA

Nov. 12, 2016


The night time entry and anchorage at Port Orford (42 44.207N, 124 30.184W) on Sept. 20 was OK, a bit rolly, but better than the beating we were getting at sea. Judy especially was thankful, as the motion was getting to her. We didn’t bother going ashore, but left early next morning at 0740 for a 68 mile passage to Crescent City, California.


As we exited, we saw a small pod of whales in the bay. In the afternoon we were favored with sighting a couple of humpbacks less than 100 yards off our port bow, crossing our bow. I slowed the engine down to avoid a possible collision with them as they submerged just ahead of us. I would not want to hit one for fear of damaging the boat, or hurting the whale … and possibly it seeing us as a threat and attacking Veleda. I actually held my breath hoping they were deep enough or beyond our course line. No collision and no more sighting of them. Whew!


The stern winds allowed us to motor-sail wing on wing, and at one point in the afternoon I turned the engine off to try sailing. However after an hour, our speed had dropped to below four knots, which would mean that we would be making a night time entry into Crescent City anchorage, and so we continued to motor-sail. As it was, we arrived at 1900, just before sunset.


There is a large breakwater protecting the city and its beaches, as well as an inside breakwater for the marina. We were able to anchor almost anywhere inside the breakwater for a well protected anchorage. We anchored in 20 feet of water (41 44.598N, 124 11.556W) just off the Battery Point pier, thankful for a quiet calm night at anchor.


We didn’t bother launching the dinghy to go ashore, although one could spend a pleasant day touring the city and its reputed Ocean World aquarium. Also nearby, though requiring a cab or car rental, are the Redwood National and State Parks. We had driven through them a couple of years ago with our trailer. The area is noted for fishing and Dungeness crabs, but as I do not have a California fishing licence such activities were not of interest to me. Although Judy and I like crabs, they are too much work to open and clean them for the little meat from each crab. Other than lobster and perhaps escargot, I don’t like to have to work for my meal.


Anyways we were now in California, with pelicans and palm trees wafting in the breezes.


We departed next morning, Sept. 22, at 0925, calculated for a daylight entry after an overnight 30 hour, 150 nautical mile passage to Fort Bragg. We hoisted the reefed main before weighing anchor but motor-sailed most of the way in light west winds. A couple of times that day and next morning I tried to sail without the engine, but only for a hopeful half hour each time before turning the engine on to keep up speed. If we had sailed only, the 150 mile passage would have taken us over 60 hours rather than the 30 hours we calculated. We are not purists. We refer to the engine as the “Iron Genny” helping along when motor-sailing.


A fog bank enveloped us at noon the first day out, causing us to turn on the radar as visibilty was less than 100 feet. It cleared off an hour later and we rigged the preventer on the main to stop the flogging in the light fluky aft breezes. Later that afternoon we were startled by a whale surfacing 20 feet off our port, but saw no more of it. Next day we saw a humpback whale and some white sided dolphins nearby for a few minutes.


The winds were light westerly or northerly most of the way, between 3 to 10 knots. At least they were in the right direction and we didn’t have to plow into southerly winds. We made several sail changes with the genoa out one side, then the other, wing on wing then broad reach. At 2300 (11:00pm) the main sail seemed slack, and started coming down the mast! What happened? I hauled in on the main halyard in case it had slipped from the jam cleat, but it had no tension. I called Judy and we gathered the main down to find the shackle still attached to the headboard, but no halyard on it. The siezing must have given way and dropped the sail. We lashed the main to the boom and continued motor-sailing with the genoa still up. Shortly after sunrise next day, we furled the genoa and just motored the last five hours to arrive at Fort Bragg by 1300 (1:00 pm) after a 28 hour passage of 150 nautical miles.


There was no problem entering the river mouth between the breakwaters, but the channel up the Noyo River was a winding S-shaped passage with reported shoaling on the south side and full of boats and docks on both sides. Several of the docks were in poor condition, with several derelict boats alongside some of them. We had phoned ahead to the marina to be sure there was room for us. But as we approached the marina just beyond the Coast Guard docks, we couldn’t raise them by phone or VHF. We did not know the layout of their docks, and didn’t want to venture down the docks lest we get stuck and have to turn around in the confined space of the marina. We went alongside unaided to an empty space on the first set of finger docks.


When we went and checked in we were asked to relocate to the next inner pier. I eyeballed the location before slipping, and relocated to the assigned position, again unaided. Fortunately there was no wind and little current to complicate the maneuver. The chap in the office was quite friendly and informative. We did several maintenance tasks including an oil change and tightening the water pump belt which appeared loose. The marina had a tank for waste oil, allowing us to get rid of our waste oil.


When we turned our attention to the main halyard, we found the halyard had dropped down through the mast, and found the frayed seizing which had given way. We took the entire main halyard out of the mast and the jam cleat. Judy did another lashing to secure the shackle and then we had to reeve the tail end through the sheave at the top of the mast and hopefully be able to pull it our at the bottom. Judy threaded a weight on a long string that she fed through the top, and I tried to grab it using a magnet at the bottom. It was difficult to see the line and the weight. I finally had to remove the housing where the halyard would come out at the bottom, and after fishing around for a half hour or with a bent coat hanger, finally got the string out and carefully hauled down on it, easing the thicker rope halyard down the mast and through the opening. We are glad it worked!


A half mile walk up the hill got us to a shopping mall where we were able to resupply our groceries for the first time since Newport, Oregon a week ago. There was a fish boat selling tuna and salmon from the boat. However they had to sell the whole fish, cleaned and cut up into fillets, but the minimum size was 25 pounds, too much for our freezer.


We didn’t bother going up into the Fort Bragg proper, but had an enjoyable dinghy ride three or four miles up the Noyo River, bird watching and enjoying the tranquility of this quiet stream. We turned around a mile above the road bridge as the stream became more shallow. I loved the wispy rushes growing wild alongside the banks. In a couple of pastures we passed cows and horses grazing.



Bridge in the morning calm               High feathery rushes on the bank


The fuel dock listed in our ten year old pilot was no longer in the main channel. There was one a half mile up the river from our marina. I dinghied up to fill our jerry cans and had lunch at the pleasant marina and RV park. The main problem with the location is that the river is not charted and has less than four feet in places at low tide. I would not like to take Veleda up to this second marina, and if I were to do so, it would have to be at or near high tide.


The river entrance was home to several small fishing boats, some semi-derelict while others were clean jaunty vessels such as the one below.



We left mid afternoon the second day for a 136 mile passage down to San Francisco Bay with a clear sky, and no wind. We didn’t bother to hoist the main, but just motored for the first 24 hours. The sunset that first day was spectacular. The clear atmosphere allowed us to see a vivid green flash that radiated on both sides of the sun’s orb as it sank below the horizon at 1908.


At 2030 the emergency warning light came on the engine console and I immediately shut the engine off. We weren’t getting any water into the engine. The filter bowl was empty. Was the intake blocked? I started the engine up to see if there was any water coming in. No water! On opening the engine compartment we found the water belt had broken. We must have tightened it too much at Fort Bragg.


Judy got to work with our spare belt. We try to keep several spares of belts, but this was our second-last one for the water pump as it is not a regular item and spares for it are hard to find. If it goes then we are out of luck and cannot use the engine. Judy was cursing the design of the water pump, as the whole pump had to be removed in order to thread the belt on the sheeves. It took almost an hour drifting and wallowing in the Pacific swells before the belt was replaced. Fortunately we were well offshore and did not have to worry about drifting into the rocks.


In the morning we were treated to the sight of a couple of harbour porpoises and later a pod of four humpback whales crossing our track 1/4 mile ahead. I altered course to avoid their route. At 1030, the Golden Gate Bridge came into sight.


The Golden Gate Bridge in the morning mist

As we got closer we saw a couple more harbour porpoises off Bonita Point, and a couple off Point Diablo just before the bridge. As we were passing under the bridge we saw the floating bulbous carcass of a small whale or large sea lion which we reported to the Coast Guard. As we went beneath the bridge at 1425 (2:25 pm) another harbour porpoise greeted our entrance to San Francisco Bay.


Beneath the Golden Gate Bridge


A stiff wind came up as we were crossing the bay, allowing us to fly the genoa as we passed just north of Alcatraz Island on our way over to Berkeley. We refueled and pumped out our holding tank before we went alongside the Berkeley Yacht Club by 1743, ending our 27 hour 156 mile passage from Fort Bragg. More about reciprocal yacht clubs and our exploration of the large San Francisco Bay in my next log.


The chartlet below shows our passage.