Astoria to the Golden Gate

Sausalito, California

In Astoria, our last stop before crossing the Columbia River bar and turning south, we found the weather forecast had changed from steady northwesterlies – perfect for a fast trip down the coast to San Francisco – to anticipated southwesterlies, combined with changeable and light winds to boot. Not so perfect. We monitored the weather forecast and decided to wait as we could see a building high pressure out in the Pacific that was expected to move toward the coast and bring winds back to the northwesterlies we wanted. After all the pressure and the push to leave Portland, here we were waiting in Astoria for a change in the weather.  But Astoria’s not a bad place to wait … nice showers, for one thing.
By Friday, the weather finally seemed on the cusp of a change for the better, and we left

Passing Buoy 2 means we're out of the river and in the open ocean...finally.

Passing Buoy 2 means we’re out of the river and in the open ocean…finally. Sea lions take advantage of the sunning deck provided by the US Coast Guard.

our slip at 0-dark:30 on Saturday morning. We made it as far as Hammond – not far at all as people who know the Columbia will recognize – and were turned back by a thick wall of fog that made it unsafe to continue. Visibility ahead stopped at the bow. So back to the dock for another couple of hours (and a short nap), by which time the fog had lifted. Once the fog was gone we good visibility all the way out and over the bar, leaving Buoy #2 on our right as the bow pointed south. Finally! We were on our way!

Ruth on watch in comfortable seas

Ruth on watch in comfortable seas

The first couple of days were uneventful. At times we motor sailed because the wind was coming from ahead. At least it was light. But by late Sunday night things got interesting. Just before midnight, 11:40 the wind veered around to the west and began building rapidly. The electric autopilot was overwhelmed and broke before we could disengage it. The abrupt wind shift forecast from SW to NW was accurate. We expected that and were happy to be able to sail on a fast reach for a change. What was unexpected was the gale force wind and the consequent sea conditions – steep, high, with one wave following fast after another. It was very dramatic to watch the breaking crests and blowing spume. At one point, we saw dolphins surfing inside the wave face, underwater and level with the cockpit, obviously having a grand time of it!

Following seas at seven knots. Windvane is steering

The conditions for a small boat were challenging, but we learned that we can handle it and certainly Velic handled it very well. We had only the small staysail up and the Aries windvane steering, while we took turns in 2-hour shifts through the worst of it. And though we ended up not deploying the Jordan series drogue, it was reassuring to know that we had it.

Boisterous seas from strong northwesterlies

Boisterous seas from strong northwesterlies.

By Wednesday morning the wind was abating and the waves had become longer and more regular, which improved the motion onboard. By Wednesday afternoon, the waves were low and very regular at 6 – 8 feet, and we were losing wind again. We decided to pull into Drake’s Bay, just north of the Golden Gate, to clean up the boat a bit, have a good meal and a night of uninterrupted sleep. Also, the timing of the tide meant an early Friday morning entry was a good choice. Drake’s Bay is behind Point Reyes, where there’s a Coast Guard Station, and from where the main radio weather forecast for northern and central California coast is broadcast. Although it was windy, there’s no fetch to speak of, so the waves are small and of no significance. The boat rested easily, and so did we.

Cockpit scene after some heavy weather sailing. Windvane is still steering, Yeah!

Cockpit scene after some heavy weather sailing. Windvane is still steering, Yeah!

Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge

Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge

Friday morning, we pulled up anchor and motor sailed past Bonita and Diablo Points to enter the small boat channel approach to the Golden Gate. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do: Sail my boat under the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, we didn’t actually sail beneath the bridge, but we did pass under it, which is quite dramatic.

Directly under the Golden Gate Bridge; right at noon on Friday

Directly under the Golden Gate Bridge; right at noon on Friday

I sat on the forward edge of the cabin and took photos while Randy drove.

Into San Francisco Bay, heading to Sausalito. After the ocean it got hot fast in double layers of fleece.

Into San Francisco Bay, heading to Sausalito. After the ocean it got hot fast in double layers of fleece.

We decided to pull into Sausalito, finding a Schoonmaker Point Marina that is close to the Golden Gate and easy to find. Hot showers and lunch followed a few phone calls to immediate family. So here we are.

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7 thoughts on “Astoria to the Golden Gate

  1. For me, who knows nothing about sailing, this is already very exciting! Thanks for your great posts and photos. And thanks for taking us along for the ride. I think about you daily.

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  2. Sounds like a good shake out cruise. Thanks for the pix and the post. You are great distraction for those us still stuck on shore in the “real world”. I enjoyed following you on AIS too (even when you fell off the edge of the world). Hope you can get the autopilot fixed easily while you are in SF (Yeah for the self-steering wind vane). Enjoy the sunshine in SoCal. It is sunny here today but fall is definitely in the air in the PNW.

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  3. Excellent report. Sounds like the well prepared crew- and fine vessel had an adventurous trek. Thanks also for chatting away with Mike. HAPPY “puttering” and preparing for the next leg

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  4. So happy to know you’re on your way! Your photos and comments actually made me homesick–especially remembering all the happy time I’ve spent (mostly on land of course) at Point Reyes, Drakes Bay, and in the SF Bay area. Wish I was there to take you to favorite restaurants, etc. Much love to you both, Cousin Jan

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