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Latitude 38

• July, 2007


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⇑⇓IT SMELLS LIKE COW DUNG, WE MUST BE CLOSE I'm writing in response to two letters that appeared in the June issue. One author proposed a three-day cruise outside the Gate, perhaps to Tomales Bay, and another proposed an overnight sail to Pt. Reyes. Latitude's editorial responses were spot on in both cases, but I thought it might be helpful for me to describe an actual outside-the-Gate cruise we took some years ago. At the time, my wife and I had extensive Bay cruising and racing experience, and some ocean experience. We owned Phoebe, a 26-ft Cheoy Lee Frisco Flyer. It was Labor Day weekend, and our plan was to sail up to Drake's Bay on Friday, spend two nights in the anchorage, and sail back on Sunday. We got clear weather with the usual 15 to 25-knot northwesterlies and the normal seas for the start. So we sailed out the Gate, clearing Pt. Bonita on starboard tack. Rather than short tack up the southern Marin coast, we chose to hold starboard tack long enough to tack once and enter the Drake's Bay anchorage on port. We were enjoying the beauty of the open Pacific when, to our dismay, dense fog appeared. I had just enough time to plot our location on the chart before we were enveloped in fog, leaving us with the same wind and sea conditions, but with zero visibility. This was in the days before GPS, so our navigational tools were a compass, radio direction finder, depthsounder, knotmeter and clock. Our plan became to sail toward shore on port tack until we saw 10 fathoms on the depthsounder. We did that, but since there was still zero visibility, we tacked onto starboard until we reached the next navigation aid — the smell of cow dung! The prevailing northwest wind in Drake's Bay is offshore, having blown across some miles of the Pt. Reyes peninsula, which is still active cattle ranching country. So the smell told us that we were close. While flying along at hull speed on starboard tack, anchored boats on all sides suddenly appeared out of the fog. We'd reached the anchorage. It was a bit of a challenge to keep clear, get the engine started and the sails down before we were too close to the beach, An ancient but reliable navigational aid. but we did. We found an open spot to anchor, and quickly retired below. Fortunately, we had the Tiny Tot, which is a small woodburning stove, that allowed us to at least stay warm for the weekend. But the wind and fog persisted for the entire time we were there. As we had no dinghy in which to go ashore, we hung out below and read. But it wasn't exactly relaxing, with Phoebe tacking on her anchor day and night. The return sail to the Bay was downwind, at least, but it wasn't until we were back at our berth in Sausalito that we saw the sun. The sun, of course, does shine in beautiful Drake's Bay — as it did the Friday before I wrote this — but one can never be sure. When the sun is working, the Pt. Reyes National Seashore webcam provides real-time wind, temperature and humidity (read fog) readings, and a photo of the beaches north of the point. A peek at this before departing from the Bay would be informative. As for anchoring at the mouth of Tomales Bay — which is even further north than Drake's Bay — I think it's a completely

Profile for Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Latitude 38 July 2007  

The July 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.

Latitude 38 July 2007  

The July 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.