Halfway to the Farallons

27 May

It’s been almost a year since Condesa sailed outside the Golden Gate. About a month ago we made a short trip to Point Bonita, which is just outside, but we were swarmed by flies and beat a hasty retreat, so that doesn’t really count.

This week we planned to properly get out on the high seas, with harnesses and jacklines, and make a lap around the South Farallon, which lies 28 miles west of San Francisco. It is known for being steep-sided and inhospitable, smelling of guano, and being home to lots of great white sharks.

Earlier in the week we got up at 5AM and it was already blowing 25 knots, so we gave it a miss. Yesterday, however, the forecast was for winds in the low 20s all day. My girlfriend Alison, my little brother Jim, and I set sail on the ebbing tide…which promptly crashed into the North Pacific swell with great violence, making all aboard queasy.

We raised sail, then minutes later triple-reefed in the freshening wind. We pounded seaward, passing a few container ships on their way into port. At about ten miles offshore we were engulfed in a fog bank, making us peg our eyes nervously to the radar, knowing that more big ships were lurking in the fog. With the spray and vomit flying, we called the fight, tacked, and shooshed back into San Francisco Bay to lick our wounds and take a nap anchored behind Angel Island.

Daysailing is so nice in that one can just walk away from such weather and be in a hot bath by nightfall. On a longer voyage we’d just have to make do, meaning be cold, wet, worried, and sleepless. I’m out of practice for such adventures, and I didn’t know that could happen to me. Last year I was charging through conditions like that for weeks on end without a complaint, while yesterday I was drained after just a few hours. Finally, San Francisco sailing is not to be taken lightly. It howls pretty hard inside the Bay sometimes, but outside can be a real trial, even on the good days.

This article was syndicated from The Adventures of the Vessel Condesa

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