Sunday, December 27, 2009

Missing Britannia

It's been too long since our last post. That's because it's been too long since we've been out sailing. We've continued pressing forward with our boat projects, ripping into the electrical work and contracting out canvas and sail work. As such, we are without a headsail and a dodger and the cabin is a disaster. We are hoping to be back on the bay in a few weeks when my mom and sister Jessica get into town.
Hoping you all enjoyed your Christmas and have a great New Year's!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First time through the Golden Gate

A forecast of wind and rain wasn't enough to keep us from making our way under the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time - and a good thing too, as we awoke to pretty perfect (albeit slightly chilly) sailing weather. 15 to 20 knots and intermittent clouds and sunshine. Amanda and I invited Rick (since he'd done such a great job last time in 50+ knots of breeze and could officially call himself a sailor now) and Nick who'd helped me sail the boat over to the slip for the very first time from the broker's dock (Amanda was in Minnesota). Between the four of us, we were feeling pretty confident, and ready to leave the safety of the flat seas in the bay to venture out into the open expanse of the Pacific for the first time.

Because the currents under the bridge can be pretty intense (sometimes literally barring entry or exit via sailboat), we made sure to time things perfectly. However between a run to Starbucks (Starbucks and yachting? Who are these people...?) and the standard (though somehow never foreseen) delays, we missed our ebb tide which would have sucked us out under the bridge with ease. Instead, we hit the gate with 2 knots of current (and a stiff breeze) directly in our path. This actually turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise though, as it allowed us to perfect the finer points of sail trim, scraping for each tenth of a knot. The downside was that by the time we got out, we pretty much had to head straight back again to avoid the opposite problem, as the tide shifted again sweeping everything out to sea.

We threw up the spinnaker, as we rocketed at max hull speed back down wind. We ended up getting home in about two hours whereas we'd taken more than 5 to get out.

Literally within minutes of pulling back into the slip, the rain started - all in all a fairly perfect end to a great day of sailing.

Looking back east after leaving the gate.

On our way back in

Sailing buddies

Nick looking confident with the spinnaker up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A day on the Bay: Saturday November 29th

When the Britannia, with all sails furled, blew sideways upon casting off from the dock-- slapping into the opposite pier, sliding toward the harbor's rock shore-- most sailors would have forgone a day on the Bay in wild winds. But not the Captain and crew of the Britannia. When you're good you're good.
When the anometer pegged at 52 knots, which is 60 miles an hour, which is pretty wildly wild-- waves breaking over the bow, spume racing horizontally off cresting swells, sails as taut as marble sculpture-- the only reaction was, "Yes!" Hardcore is hardcore.

The other boats on the Bay were... docked. But the Britannia handled the conditions like the round-the-world pro she is. Though her main sail did rip. Not badly. Not dangerously. But the truth was revealed that both major sails-- the main and the jib-- were so old they need to be replaced. This discovery was actually a blessing before getting into the middle of the South Pacific. But the replacement cost of $11,000 is not a good discovery. How this unexpected cost will be met is not clear.
But the clarity of the Bay's wind-blown sky and the ringing brass sun postponed economic worries. Beauty will do that. For a day. After sailing downwind, quickly, beneath the Bay Bridge and learning how well the boat sails on a beam reach, it seemed like a good idea to enter an estuary and drop anchor for lunch. The winds slowed. The sun was as warm and inviting as the homemade wine Curt brought. Curt is a friend who has been sailing for 30 years, a helpful voice in extreme conditions: "You guys are doing fine."
By the afternoon, back on the open water, the winds simply stopped (The San Francisco Bay will do that) and the sunset colors began. "Pacific" means peaceful. In fact. The second-in-command (Krister) decided that it was not an option to head back. No one disagreed. As the last magenta/vermillion/indigo radiance faded west, the almost-full moon rose. A silver moon coruscating across wine-dark seas is as close to Heaven as sailors get. Of equivalent wonder was slipping into the slip under full sail, a graceful bit of sailing. All in all.

Written by guest author Richard Leo, seen here at the helm. It was a pleasure to have him aboard last Saturday- Thanks and much love!