The plan was to head up to Drake's Bay, spend a night at anchor there, and then head back, possibly detouring via the Farallones. Although that would make for a much longer return journey, the wind would be behind us on the way back.

Horseshoe Cove from Vista Point, at the end of the bridge.

One problem was that to catch the current going out the Gate in the morning would have meant leaving Alameda around 6:30 a.m. However, some elements in the crew thought that this was a bit early, specially since those elements needed to drive over from SF! So we decided to leave Friday night instead, and anchor somewhere handy for a quick run out the Gate in the morning. Ayala Cove (on Angel Island) would be good, but it's highly unlikely that we would have got a mooring on Friday night. Clipper Cove in Treasure Island was another possibility, but Horseshoe Cove, right at the north end of the Gate, seemed ideal.

Since Horseshoe Cove is (was?) part of a military base, and overseen by the Presidio Yacht Club, I checked with them in advance that it was OK to anchor there -- no problem. Actually, I believe that Fort Baker is now 100% run by the parks service.

Thu 9 Aug 2001 17:00 US/Pacific

We finally got under way at 21:05, and motored up the estuary. Watching out for kayakers is usually a worry at night (they can be incredibly hard to spot, carrying either no lights or very tiny ones), but they did't seem to be out. We reached the bay at 21:47 (a pretty quick run down the estuary), and decided to keep motoring up to the north bay.

The route into Horseshoe Cove, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge (Highway 101). Ayala Cove, on Angel Island, is to the northeast.

It was a beautiful, quiet night on the bay; virtually no traffic, and realtively warm, and almost completely clear. We had the radar on just in case; interpreting it is very much a knack, so it's good to get some practice in. It's also helpful in judging distances, which can be very deceptive on the Bay at night. When it seemed like Alcatraz was almost within a stones throw, the radar was telling us it was over 3 miles away!

The wierd hairdo is caused by a combination of salt and sun-cream. I don't often look like this...

We met one comercial vessel -- it looked like a large barge being pushed -- as it came through the gate. It turned south as we were going north, so there was no conflict; and apart from that, and a couple of party boats, we had the bay almost to ourselves.

We headed to the north end of the bridge, where we could see the lights of the Coast Guard station in the cove, and started looking for the red light marking the breakwater. Although we could see lots of lights, and many of them seemed to be flashing, we worked out that they were the tail lights of cars that seemed to be maneuvering around there -- for what reason I don't know. We also spotted a steady red light in about the right place, but the entrance beacon is supposed to flash. So we motored up slowly, and spotted the entrance channel at last; the red light seemed to be a lamp in use by fishers on the opposite pier, so its lucky we didn't trust it. (The real beacon was not working.) We finally got into the cove at 23:05.

Horseshoe Cove from the boat, as we sailed back in the Gate.

Once inside, we started cruising round looking for a place to anchor. Actually, it's so small that there wasn't much cruising, but I wanted to drop the anchor in the right place. The soft, silty quality of the bottom didn't help, either: on the first try, the anchor dragged; on the second try, by the time it had bitten in, we were in a pretty bad position. As we were getting set up for the third go, I saw a bright shooting star overhead! Unfortunately, Paola missed it, and what with trying to sort the anchor out, I only caught a glimpse of it. At last, at 23:24, we got the hook down in the right place, and after slipping a bit it seemed to take hold.

Coast Guard Station Golden Gate.

It looked as if we were uncomfortably close to the shore on the north, the breakwater to the south, and the piers to the east, but at least we had a good-sized space between us and the Coast Guard station on the west, where boats need to go in and out on an emergency basis.

I set the anchor alarm on the GPS, and kept a periodic watch overnight, but there was essentially no wind at all; it seemed as if we hardly moved during the night. Since I was worried about drifting, I got woken up every time the anchor chain hit the bobstay, and when a coastguard boat came in from a rescue in Half Moon Bay; but Paola said she slept like a log.

Our morning view, after waking up at anchor in Horseshoe Cove.
Fri 10 Aug 2001 17:00 US/Pacific

I got up at 7:00 to bend the headsails on (they'd been off while the sail bags were getting repaired), and found a splendid view of the Golden Gate Bridge, under a beautiful clear blue sky -- a major rarity in the west Bay in summer! I was also relieved to see that the cove is a lot bigger in daylight than it looks at night, so we weren't really close to anything.

The morning weather forecast looked great; the usual small craft advisory applied north of the Bay Bridge (this is normal summer weather in SF), and conditions looked ideal. Winds southwest to west up to 25 knots in the bay, and forecast up to 30 knots for Sunday; in the ocean winds west to northwest up to 20 knots, with swells 3-5 feet, which is very mild indeed.

Cormorant, boats and SF, in Horseshoe Cove.

After breakfast, we lifted the anchor at 8:27, and Paola steered us out into the Golden Gate while I put it away. 6 minutes later we were motoring under the Golden Gate Bridge, one of a small handful of boats out at that time. At 8:43 we set sail, and were soon crossing the Gate southwest under main and staysail. We soon found ourselves under-canvassed (winds are usually light early in the day) so the jib went up too; when that proved too much, the staysail (smaller than the jib) came down, and we were nicely balanced. I kept the usual 1 reef in the main.

Point Bonita Lighthouse, seen from the Marin headlands.

After passing an inbound Coast Guard cutter (heading for the base at Alameda, just where we'd come from), we turned north for the Bonita Channel, which provides safe water between the infamous Potatopatch Shoal and the jagged rocks of the Marin headlands. At 9:36 we passed into the channel, whose entrance is marked by a bell buoy to seaward, and the historic Point Bonita lighthouse standing sentinel on the south-west extremity of the headlands.

We soon found the wind veering northwest from west, putting it in about the worst possible place -- one tack took us out to sea, the other into the cliffs. So, we started beating into the fairly fresh breeze, to try to work our way north. As time went on, however, it became clear that we weren't making much progress -- the GPS showed just 2.5 to 3 knots, but our strong wake showed that our speed through the water was higher -- we were obviously fighting a pretty strong current, as well as the wind.

Paola and Marin, heading north up Bonita Channel.

By noon we had Muir Beach in sight ahead; by 12:14 we were close off Muir Beach and tacking out to sea. We seemed to be making even less progress, though; after half an hour Muir Beach was still to the northeast! By this time we could see that there was a solid fog bank sitting across the land to the north of Bolinas, including Drake's Beach -- where we were heading.

Since it seemed like we'd be arriving to anchor in Drake's Bay around midnight, in dense fog, we decided to call it a day and head back. So, at 14:11, with Stinson Beach just to the north, we turned around and headed southeast.

Paola and Harry Potter

Progress southbound was a good deal faster. We passed Muir Beach at 14:20, shot down the bonita channel, and reached the end of the channel at 14:56. 4 hours 35 minutes up; 45 minutes back!

We turned and gybed into the Gate, and headed in, still in brilliant sunshine -- the daily fog just wasn't showing itself! This made for a great view in. Paola wasn't paying attention though -- after raiding my bookshelf on Friday night, she became thoroughly absorbed in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; she didn't even look up for the Golden Gate Bridge!

We passed the bridge inbound at 15:22; I got a pic of Horseshoe Cove from the outside, nestling under the Marin hills. After that, it was a pleasant sail around the back of Alcatraz (you want to avoid the front while the tide is flooding), and back under the Bay bridge -- dodging two freighters on the way.

Ocean Planet, docked in Alameda.

We made it back to the estuary at 16:51, sailing under main and jib; the wind was quite strong in the estuary, and pushed us along nicely right up to Oakland Yacht Club in Alameda, where Bruce Schwab's Ocean Planet is docked. We finally got back to the berth at 17:55 -- BBQ time!