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June 22, 2020

A Brisk and Refreshing Summer Sailstice on San Francisco Bay

Saturday, June 20, was both the summer solstice and the 20th annual Summer Sailstice celebration of sailing. San Francisco Bay served up its typical brisk and frothy stuff in the Central Bay, but other corners of the Bay were far more benign. We made it a dual Father’s Day/Sailstice celebration and participated in the YRA Summer Sailstice Treasure Hunt, which sent us to many corners of the Bay searching out pictures to post. That turned into a 31-mile tour taking us from Tiburon to the Cityfront, out the Golden Gate, back down the Cityfront, under the Bay Bridge and back up the Cityfront before returning to Tiburon. Taking all the photos and dealing with the breeze kept us busy!

Daughters Sarah and Hannah
Daughters Sarah and Hannah made it a great day along with brisk breezes and mostly sunny, blue skies.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Aquatic Park
There’s one. The YRA Treasure Hunt #photos included a quick sail into Aquatic Park to spot a swimmer to post #sailsfbayaquaticswimmer.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The breeze in the Central Bay remained fresh all day, though the fog backed off and would then return to chill things down. The edges of the Bay were treated to blue skies and gentler breezes with more comfortable conditions in the South Bay and Raccoon Strait. We’re sure the Oakland Estuary had sweet sailing as well. It was one of those days when you could choose the conditions that suited your taste. Or, as we did, you could sample it all: a hard charge out under the Gate in the morning and then down to the South Bay for a warm, comfortable lunch cruise to McCovey Cove.

Catalina 30 Jonathan
Photos can be misleading. Most of the Bay was warm and sunny with pleasant breezes. For the Central Bay, the Catalina 30 Jonathan, sailing out of Sausalito, did the right thing by putting in two reefs.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Sabre
Raccoon Strait provided a comfortable respite from the center of the Bay for Nick Sands aboard his Sabre 402 Escapade.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Spinnaker Sailing
Drew Harper of Spinnaker Sailing San Francisco was back on the water aboard an Andrews 21 with students in the warm, pleasant South Bay.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Passport 42 Gemini
We crossed tacks with Jack and Sonya on the Passport 42 Gemini, with Latitude 38 and Summer Sailstice marketing and communications ringleader Nicki Bennett aboard as crew. Life was looking good with the Two the Horizon gang reefed down and ready for the Central Bay.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Escape
The nice thing about small boats is you don’t need a big crew to go sailing. This Escape was cruising outside the South Beach Harbor breakwater while many big boats remained sheltered in place.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
The course of Summer Sailstice
It was a 31-mile tour of San Francisco Bay in all kinds of conditions. The 10-hour time suggests a 3-knot average but it did include some very comfortable dockside breaks too.

With the passing of the solstice, it is now officially summer. The breeze is up, the days are long, and somehow we’re finding ways to do more sailing. It’s not as easy as during a normal year, but it’s the same great relief from life on land when you find your way to the Bay on a sailboat. And it’s all that much better when you can do it with your family. If you were out sailing this weekend and have some Summer Sailstice weekend photos, you can email them to nicki@latitude38.com. We’ll also look for your #sailsfbay posts and look forward to crossing tacks with you more over the summer.

Great News from the Singlehanded Sailing Society

Singlehanded Farallones Race

The Singlehanded Farallones Race was supposed to dash out to the stinky rocks and back on May 16. With the Bay Area still sheltering deeply in place, that date came and went with no racing. Over the weekend, things were looking up for the Singlehanded Sailing Society. The race committee issued the following announcements:

“We have tentative approval from the USCG to run the rescheduled 2020 Singlehanded Farallones race ‪on Saturday, June 27.‬ Please note that we do not yet have final approval, but we wanted to give skippers as much time ahead of the race as possible to allow for boat preparations and compliance with safety requirements. We will share final USCG approval as soon as it is confirmed.” Register on Jibeset by midnight on Wednesday at https://www.jibeset.net/JACKY000.php?RG=T009182456.”

There’s some poetry in the June 27 date — that’s when the 2020 Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race had been scheduled to start. The SSS postponed the solo race to Hanalei to an as-yet-to-be-determined date in 2021.

The J/120 Jamani tacks
Sean Mulvihill throws in a tack on his way out of San Francisco Bay in the 2019 Singlehanded Farallones Race on the J/120 Jamani.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

“An updated 2020 season Notice of Race will be posted to the SSS website detailing the revised schedule and providing guidance regarding relevant social distancing practices. There should be only a few changes to the standard SH Farallones Sailing Instructions, most notably the requirement for skippers to record their own finish times as a back-up to the race committee record. We are planning a Zoom-based skipper’s meeting ‪on Thursday, June 25, at 7 p.m.‬ to review the SHF SIs and to answer any questions. Log-in details will be published on the SSS forum and on Jibeset.”

Round the Rocks One by One and Two by Two

“We are currently planning to run the rescheduled 2020 Round the Rocks toward the end of July/beginning of August. We will confirm this date at the earliest possible opportunity.” Unlike the Singlehanded Farallones, Round the Rocks is also open to doublehanders sailing in their own divisions.

Dianne, Express 27, under spinnaker
Skip Allan and Steve Katzman sail Steve’s Express 27 prototype, Dianne, in last year’s Round the Rocks, a Bay tour.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

“Depending on the relevant social distancing regulations in place in mid-July, there may be more substantive changes to the standard Round the Rocks SIs, designed to enable appropriate social distancing for the race committee. We’ll endeavor to share these modifications to the standard racing format as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience as we work through all of this.”

Laser Fleet Experiences a Wet, Wild Sailstice

We hope our Latitude readers enjoyed the Summer Sailstice, our international celebration of sailing. Over in the East Bay, a hardy band of Laser sailors celebrated the Sailstice by venturing into full-on nuking summer pressure on Southampton Shoal. It was blowing about 18 knots with gusts to the mid-twenties when we arrived at Richmond Yacht Club (RYC) around eleven in the morning. The local Laser fleet has become more active during the pandemic, and Saturday was no exception. Toshi Takayanagi and Emilio Castelli, the two most hardcore locals, were already rigging their boats when we showed up. Several others arrived one by one, small cars towing compact, trailered Lasers.

Toshi Takayanagi is rigging his green Laser
Toshi Takayanagi rigs his well-known green Laser
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Susan Burden

We had just returned from Los Angeles where we had purchased a Laser, the seventh one we have owned since 1973. As most of Latitude‘s readers no doubt are aware, the two most sublime moments of boat ownership are the day you buy your wonderful new boat, and the day you finally sell the damn vessel and unload the related headaches and expenses.

It seems to be a seller’s market right now for the ILCA Dinghy (the alternative name acquired recently for the Laser). Used boats were hard to find, especially in the older, lower-priced range favored by us recreational Masters sailors. We stalked the Laser forums without luck, finally locating a 2019 boat that had been used as a charter in eight regattas. Buying a Laser that’s been “borrowed” by a rock-star junior for the Leiter Cup or other championship is an economical method for obtaining a virtually new Laser at a discount.

Jeff Holder and Toshi Takayanagi finish rigging on the dock at Richmond
Jeff Holder and Toshi Takayanagi finish rigging.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Susan Burden

As we watched our friends splash their boats and go blasting off into San Francisco Bay, we pondered the mysteries of six-to-one outhauls with bungee cord retractors. Attempting to figure out a pile of micro blocks, Dyneema and pre-stretched Dacron line and turn said pile into a functional boat, we watched YouTube videos.

Do We Have Enough Boats?

We also wondered how many Latitude readers are as nuts for a one-design class as we are, now on our seventh Laser. We know a few fanatics like our friend Chris Nash, who told us he once owned ten (10!) OK Dinghies. RYC member Kers Clausen recently gave a Zoom presentation about the International Etchells class and why he has owned over twenty (20!) of them. We have no idea how many Thistles our friend Mike Gillum has collected, refurbished and raced with his wife and daughter.

And how many boats are too many? Our fleet includes three El Toros, two kayaks, this new Laser and an old Plastic Classic 40. We know lots of folks who have more hulls, and longer total waterline length, than we do.

The author is rigging his new Laser
Rigging the new boat
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Susan Burden

So we would like to hear from you. Have you owned, or do you own, multiple boats of one class? Do you have a large fleet of small boats? Do you know of a shrink who treats the boat-poor or a self-help group, Boat Fanatics Anonymous perhaps, for the likes of us? Leave your comments below.

As for Saturday’s Sailstice, we must confess that we never made it out onto the water, but we did get the outhaul on the new boat to work. Our friends bashed upwind in the chop, screamed downwind complete with plenty of death-roll capsize excitement, and returned to the dock with big grins on their faces. The intense conditions, with gusts over 26 knots, swept even the most enthusiastic Laser Radial sailors away in about an hour. It was a short, sharp 2020 Summer Sailstice for the Richmond Laser Fleet.

A Solo-Sailing Mountain: Point Reyes and Back in a Day

On Memorial Day weekend, singlehander Graeme Lowe decided to attempt a “crazy but incredible” race against time. The skipper of the Berkeley-berthed Baltic 38 Merope had been planning a solo passage to Drake’s Bay over late May’s holiday weekend, but because rough conditions were forecast for his anticipated two-day trip, Graeme reconsidered his original plan, and attempted a round trip to Point Reyes in a single day  — hoping to make it back into the Bay before sunset.

Graeme Lowe at the helm of Merope and just outside the Gate on a non-singlehanding day.
© 2020 Nico Chen
Merope on a Bay trip, doublehanded this time, out of Sausalito YC
© 2020 Mariya Ryazantseva

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have made it difficult for skippers to find crew, and outdoor activities have been limited to the company of household members. None of this stopped Graeme, who has been singlehanding in the Bay frequently — taking a GoPro along to share his trips on a ‘slow TV’ YouTube channel — and sometimes venturing outside the Golden Gate. With two days ahead of him, Graeme decided to take the plunge and sail Merope to Drake’s Bay, a trip he had done one year ago with two other boats, on his own this time.

“I found sailing outside the Bay more rewarding, maybe because it’s more challenging as I’m not as familiar with it. So I’m frequently trying to figure out ways to sail outside the Bay. In a perfect world, I would have been able to drop anchor up there and spend the night, but because I turned back that first day [Friday, May 22], I couldn’t: I actually had to be at work on Sunday.”

Two reefs in the main and a partially furled jib were the call as Graeme arrived at Point Reyes.
© 2020 Graeme Lowe

After a late start from Berkeley on Friday morning, Graeme’s plan was just to “dip out and see.” Unfortunately, a system offshore had created  rough coastal conditions, both for sailing to Drake’s Bay and for anchoring there. Shorthanded and without a windlass, Graeme did not feel comfortable taking the chance: “The swells were really big and the wind was too much. I got out just a little bit past Point Bonita and decided to come back. That first day, turning back was a pretty easy decision. So I  came back in and pulled up a mooring ball at the Sausalito Yacht Club.”

That first attempt gave him more confidence and determination to try again the next day. After a morning coffee, he departed from Sausalito, hoping to get more of a breakfast underway. “Next thing I know, a few hours into it, I’m looking at the chart and calculating my ETA. I decided that if I could make it there before 4 o’clock, then I would continue and if, at some point, things set me back, I made the commitment to myself that I would turn back”.

Graeme’s zigzagging Navionics track.
© 2020 Graeme Lowe
Racing against the sun, Graeme made it back to Point Bonita just in time.
© 2020 Graeme Lowe

After a wild beat up in strengthening winds reaching mid- to high 20s around Point Reyes, Graeme finally made it to Drake’s Bay, achieving his goal of less than 30 feet of water at 4:15 p.m. — “right on the edge” — only to bear away and finally set a course that allowed him to fix up a snack below deck.

After such an intense upwind leg, “the way back made it all worth it.” Graeme remembers coming back through the Golden Gate as one of the best moments of his trip. “I’ve done that so many times before, but this time, it felt so magical, having been sailing for 12 hours at that point. Perfect conditions for it: following seas, beautiful setting sun, birds, porpoises,” and above all, a great sense of accomplishment.

Back in sight of homey San Francisco Bay in calmer conditions.
© 2020 Graeme Lowe

“I don’t climb mountains, but that’s what I imagine people feel when they do. It’s uncomfortable and it pushes you; it challenges you in ways that you don’t really anticipate until you start. But then that makes that view from the summit all that much better, because you feel like you have actually accomplished something.”

A Question for the Nation
“Attached is a photo taken from the El Cerrito hills, on the Bay, in the late afternoon of May 24 — I’ve seen this phenomenon many times but this is the first time I documented it,” wrote Larry Radcliffe.
Schedule Adjustments
We'll lead off with some good news: "A muffled cheer may be heard around the docks. The Coast Guard has resumed permitting of racing on the Bay…"