SAILING SAN RAFAEL — PHOTO / LATITUDE / TIM UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED bout two months ago, I was roughly a half mile off McNears Beach and sailing lazily into San Pablo Bay. behind Mt. Tam, but I waited, not wantThere was just enough wind to keep the ing to crack the glorious silence with my sails full and the boat moving, but not outboard. Inspired by Latitude's founder enough wind to ruffle the water, which (aka the Wanderer), I looked at my time was perfectly glassy and serene. In the out here as an impromptu 'Zen Sailing distance, birds cawed and sea lions Meditation'. Just a few years ago, I would barked, the chorus have been supremeechoing thr ough ly frustrated by the the empty Bay. Oclack of wind — I "On San Pablo Bay, I see casionally, a seal wouldn't have even the same stuff over and would pop its head gone out, in fact, up, spot me, and without a robust over again and don't care shyly retreat back forecast. But not because it's so beautiful." into the depths. only was I content Even though to drift, I was comland was only a mile pletely enthralled. and change in every direction, and even It was a pleasant surprise. Everything though I heard the faraway droning of about San Rafael was a pleasant surfishing boats or the occasional airplane, prise. I felt like I'd stumbled into some vast About two to three million years ago, wilderness. In the megalopolitan sprawl the mountains and hills surrounding of the Bay Area, it's hard to get a piece present-day San Francisco Bay were to yourself. The Central Bay, by compushed skyward by geological might, parison, feels congested with container forming a deep, dry, meandering gorge. ships, ferries and herds of sailboats. But "During the glacial periods, when vast on San Pablo Bay — and in the waters quantities of ocean water were stored in around San Rafael in general — mine continental ice, the Bay floor became a is usually just one of a few sailboats valley," said a study by the US Geologion miles and miles of empty water. The cal Service. The glacier-fed Sacramento surrounding mountains, which were River carved through the Bay valley and thoroughly greened with recent rains, out the Golden Gate Straits. The ocean reminded me of a scene from a western only began flooding into present San (but I chuckled at my romantic musings). Francisco Bay some 8,000 years ago. En route to San Rafael, the wind died San Rafael Creek has long been in earnest and I was becalmed. I dropped trickling into the Bay, forming a tidal the jib on my 24-footer and was drifting estuary and eventually morphing into an homeward on a fresh ebb, but I knew I ideal waterway bisecting Marin County's had to start the motor soon. The days largest city. The Creek, which is also were still short and the sun was slipping called the Canal, is home to dozens of marine businesses, hundreds of boats, Sailing Education Adventures is a great way for and thousands of homes perched along sailors of all ages to access sporty dinghies.
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• April, 2018
the water. The longterm vitality of the Creek is in question, as it, like many Bay Area estuaries, desperately needs to be dredged. The Canal also splits the city of San Rafael into 'two sides of the tracks', separating the city like a moat by income and race. We cannot recommend San Rafael enough as a surprisingly off-the-beatenpath sailing destination. There are vacant waters for cruising, as well as lively shoreside attractions, which include a walkable downtown and numerous hikes into the hills. There are several marinas and two boatyards. Coming from the greater Bay, and after passing through the center span of the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge, you head 340 degrees and go about 1.5 miles to daymark 17. From there, you're in the channel, which can be treacherously narrow on a low tide (if you draw more than four feet, we highly recommend planning your visit around a rising tide). As you're heading west into San Rafael, keep the green markers close to port. On your right you'll see the East
The April 2018 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.