Le Grand Départ

This day that we first dreamed of, fantasized, then came to dread and look at with both excitement and anxiety, has come. And it doesn’t look that unfamiliar at first. We are greeted by Graeme coffee in the morning, a raftup ritual! We are usually more hung over and that one is a life saver. But last night, we went light on the drinks, just a little beer and celebratory champagne that Kakelekele brought over, just the same way we remain light on coffee who tends to upset a fragile sailor’s stomach (Marie speaking here!). That day, we have also been prepping things all morning (having food ready for easy access in the galley, putting the boat in a “sailing state” – nothing should slide out of their spots when the boat heels over with the wind, checking engine’s vitals one last time, etc…) and the casual chat in the dissipating fog is not our usual waking up weekend moment. So enjoyable nonetheless! With a little bonus as I realize that my watch, not used for a while I guess, had been set for summer time, therefore allowing us for one more hour of chill time before setting off… But time eventually comes to break the raft-up, eyes get wet as we say goodbye and it’s an emotional Tire Bouchon crew that motors out this Cove just as casually as it came in (or actually more casually, as there’s more water this time a day!!).

Thanks Mariya for this beautiful shot 🙃

The wind comes from the North, which makes for an easy ride to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge – the prevalent winds are from the West, the very direction of the Gate which would have forced us to zigzag to our destination as one can’t sail straight into the wind. Take the fenders in, find them a spot, same with the dock lines; head into the wind, raise the mainsail! Familiar gestures but a little hard to get in the grove with a heavy heart. Last look at “the City”, the beautiful San Francisco, with her parallel streets. Last look at Angel Island which actually forces us to turn our engine on to pass as it shelters the nice North wind – so many raft-ups and hikes there too, even swims! Last look at Marine County: Sausalito, Richardson Bay, Tiburon and Sam’s already too far too look at. Watch for the traffic! Big ship coming in as we sail in this busy commercial channel.

Yalçın takes advantage of this easy reach in flat water to test the Hydrovane. Last installation on Tirb, it’s been one of the longest and most challenging – we only completed it a couple of days ago. Seems to hold course! Good news for the future but requires more playing with… No worries about getting time for that though.

“That was an easy time to the Gate!”

“Apparently, timing it well does make it easier”, I remember replying with a thought of our last crossing out. This time, the tidal currently are gently carrying us out the Bay as the tide goes down. On our last trip to Monterey Bay this summer, we hadn’t been as thorough in our planning and ended up having to motor again the current as sailing again both the wind and current would just result in us tacking back and forth in front of the scenic monument… But anyhow, getting side tracked here…

We are reaching the Gate at precisely 2PM, sat phone in one hand (Yalçın’s) to precisely record the time and camera in the other (mine!) to immortalize the moment when “sails up, we are passing the limit of the San Francisco Bay, the familiar know territory, with comfortable flat waters, familiar shores and steady winds”. When I tell you we fantasized this moment! …

Tire Bouchon, on the other hand, had other plans as we discovered. He simply tried to turn us around, precisely under the bridge! Rational people would argue that the Northern winds got shielded again by the tall hills of Marine County we were passing, but a part of me wants to believe that our boat was sharing our grief for this place and made a desperate attempt to postpone the inevitable. Of course, the course was readily corrected and Tirb will deny any moment of weakness here, but it surely ruined our pictures of that so many time dreamed moment! We had to motor for a little while after that to clear these shadowing mountains. The swell was already upset my stomach and rocking me to sleep, so I started snoozing on the cockpit seat while Yalçın remained at the helm, supervising the autopilot and watching for crossing traffic in this route taken by container ships as well as small sail crafts.

The snooze on the seat transformed into a nap down below, punctuated by the humming sounds of the Hydrovane rudder which was steering like a charm as I emerged again a couple of hours later to find Yalçın in awe with our new steering system. We had called the vane Avocet as an hommage to his previous boat which taught us so much around the Bay and beyond. More stories over there. Half Moon Bay, our destination of the day, was also the first trip we had taken with Avocet outside of the Bay, years ago now, with Nick which we had left this morning. It felt like a huge endeavor at the time. It still does in a way, but the route after that fells more intimidating.

Tirb was sailing beautifully, following the vane commands and passing the gorgeous sight of the half foggy mountains preceeding Half Moon Bay. I, less beautifully, honored the view with an offering to Poseidon on the side of the boat, which improved my comfort for the remain hour and a half we had to go. Yalçın was dodging the line of crab pods that ambushed our way (another Avocet lesson: do not sail on top of a crab pod – what do you mean it wasn’t intentional?). Carl the fog, the social media famous heavy mist likes San Francisco was ready to embrace us as well. I steered the last miles to the green marker that marks the channel the enter Half Moon Bay while staying clear of the breaking waves on the legendary surfing spot of Maverick. The wind was picking up significantly as predicted by the forecast and we were progressing under main only between 6 and 7 knots. We doused the main sail by the marker with an eye on the incoming fishing boat returning to port. The lazy jacks took the sail without an hesitation despite the flogging in the strong wind, which was a significant improvement compared to last time we did that with those lazy jacks at that same entrance. Promising!

We motored the rest of the way to find out spot at anchor one more time in this other familiar Bay. Wind was howling in our rig for a couple of hours, as to make us enjoy shelter even more!

3 thoughts on “Le Grand Départ

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