Could it be the best Friday night of the year? We won’t know until September, when the CYC Friday evening beer can series is over, but it was a pretty perfect start to the first June weekend on the Bay. Warm, steady breezes on a cloudless Friday night took racers around an 8.5-mile course that, unusually, featured a steady breeze from start to finish. Despite its being about as beautiful as one could hope for, you wouldn’t have wanted to miss the preceding eight races in the series — they’ve all been pretty good.
It’s hard to imagine a better way to finish the work week or start a weekend than gathering a crew for a Friday night beer can race. It’s a ritual we’ve followed for 30-plus years and never tire of. Thirty years might seem like a long time, though as the course took us around Easom Buoy (formerly Yellow Bluff) twice on Friday, we thought of Hank, who may have rounded that mark more times than anyone else on the Bay. He raced Friday night races aboard Yucca for decades, and countless other races on the Bay.
The ever-shifting weather keeps every race different, and competitors keep every start and rounding interesting. Getting the crew together and connecting with the rest of the fleet is the icing on the cake.
Although we love flying a kite, we’ve always raced non-spinnaker. It allowed us to race easily with the kids when they were very young and made it fun for everyone, as a spinnaker can make things a bit more complicated and tense. Whatever works for your boat, make sure you don’t miss your local beer can series.
We did say “cloudless” and we took photos to prove it. Light fog and cooler breezes crept in during the rest of the weekend, but Friday was welcoming to all.
Despite a sunny Saturday, we shifted gears back to boat maintenance. While Tom was happier grinding the freshly greased primary winches on Friday night, we still had the halyard winches left to clean up and grease.
Pulling the halyard winches apart revealed the same gooey mess of grease that had been hiding in the primaries. It all cleaned up decently well until we went to remove the central spindle from the winch base. It just wouldn’t slide out. That made no sense, so with the wisdom and skill of crewmember Randy Gridley, we got out the only tool that helps in these circumstances: a hammer. After removing the winch base from the deck we were able to pound the spindle out to discover the deformed teeth of the main spindle. This attests to the crew’s power when we call for halyard tension and a question about how many times these might have been pulled and cleaned since they were mounted in 1989.
Randy always has the right tool for the job. With the help of a Dremel, we were able to grind down the teeth just enough so the spindle slid into and out of the base with relative ease. We’ll probably replace the spindles, since the problem will only get worse, but in the meantime, we now have all of our winches freshly greased, which will help keep the crew smiling regardless of the weather.
The Latitude 38 calendar also showed the Delta Ditch Run, a full-moon Midnight Moonlight race, Mercurys racing at EYC on the Estuary, a St. Francis YC match-racing event, and much more. It was a pretty perfect weekend to start the month of June, and there’s lots more great sailing ahead. We hope to see you out there.
For several years now, the City of San Francisco has been considering relocating East Harbor — the Cityfront marina near Fort Mason that is also called Gashouse Cove — by expanding West Harbor, which is adjacent to St. Francis and Golden Gate Yacht Clubs. This expansion/relocation would also represent a “reimagining” of Marina Green Park, the long, rectangular swath of grass lining the shore near West Harbor, and has created some tension, at least in the always-reasonable groupthink of social media circles, between park goers and boat owners.
“East Harbor’s south end is soon to be too shallow to remain as a marina,” San Francisco Recreation and Parks said. Although some dredging was recently done in East Harbor, we’ve heard several anecdotes of boats going aground, including three six-foot-draft J/105s in April.
In the early 2000s, San Francisco sued PG&E, California’s utility monopoly, over chemicals in the soil of East Harbor; in 2021, PG&E agreed to “fund the cleanup and reconstruction of the Marina Small Craft Harbor,” according to the S.F. city sttorney. “The cleanup of the site will allow the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to design and implement a project to improve the Marina Small Craft Harbor, including replacing failing docks in the East Harbor and increasing recreational access to the waterfront for all.”
The current plan, which calls for a boat and parking swap as well as slip improvements, would extend the breakwater, as well as a “wave attenuator,” around West Harbor, essentially expanding the marina the entire length of Marina Green Park. Boats and a fuel dock from East Harbor (where existing slips would “be improved”) would be relocated to the larger West Harbor.
The ultimate fate of the innermost portion of East Harbor is unclear. The Recreation and Parks Department said that the marina could be turned into a shallow-water basin with “new and expanded recreational amenities” offering “engagement with the Bay.”
For sailors, this all sounds kind of great, right?
“The proposed [new] breakwater will be terrible for junior sailing, Race Committee operations, and J/22s, Knarrs, and Folkboats which then must tack back and forth a much longer distance upwind to return to their slips,” said one St. Francis member familiar with the project. “[The parks department] told us they are willing to relocate such boats to slips near the new harbor entrance, but that makes a longer walk to the clubs.”
So that’s one sailing opinion. What about non-sailors?
“SF Parks & Rec is fully behind a plan to build a larger harbor for nearly 200 additional boats in front of the now unobstructed waterfront of the Marina Green,” said someone on Nextdoor, an online neighborhood forum.
Several users pointed out that the expansion/relocation of the current East Harbor is not the only option; East Harbor could also be renovated. “The renovate option necessitates a zoning change as East Harbor, or Gashouse Cove, was specifically zoned as a small-craft recreational harbor for the everyman,” said another Nextdoor user. “They’d do away with those slips and the gas pump from Gashouse Cove and build a larger harbor for larger boats in what they’re now referring to as Outer East Harbor.”
Latitude will be digging into this issue in the coming weeks and have a summary for you in the July issue. In the meantime, the full proposal can be viewed at San Francisco Marina Park Community Presentation. The deadline for public comments is June 9, this coming Friday.
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The recent Master Mariners Regatta was a spectacle of beautiful wooden hulls, yards of billowing canvas, and boatloads of sailors “messing around in boats.” Don’t get us wrong; we know the race was serious, particularly for the captains and boat owners, because whenever there’s more than one boat there’s going to be a race. But really, none of them would have been out there if it weren’t fun. And that fun wasn’t limited to the MM crews — there were many more sailors cruising around enjoying the company and the views, one of them being Andrew Gottscho from the East Bay. Andrew chartered a 30-ft Catalina from Modern Sailing in Berkeley, and with camera in hand, set off to sail among the wooden ships as they completed their course.
Three crew joined Andrew aboard — first mate Robert, who was in the same Basic Keelboat class as Andrew last summer, and Alex and Bruno, two college buddies from Mexico City who recently moved to San Francisco. Andrew happened to meet Alex and Bruno that morning and invited them aboard! Of the four sailors, Bruno was the most recent to the sport and was “wowed” by the experience — being aboard, and seeing the grand old ships under sail, not to mention time on the helm and the bonus porpoise sightings. “Their enthusiasm made the whole cruise a TON of fun,” Andrew writes
The fun included getting some great shots of the regatta boats throughout the day. “They have so much elegance, grace, and fluid motion, like swans,” Andrew writes, adding that his favorites were Brigadoon and Gold Star.
Andrew says it was “a real treat” to photograph the boats from the water. “I would love to crew on one someday!”
His camera was set up with a telephoto lens using 1/640 and 1/800 shutter speeds. ‘I am fascinated by the old wooden boats on S.F. Bay, especially the gorgeous schooners and ketches,” he writes. And while he thinks they were out of the way, he adds, “Apologies if I was too close to the course.”
Although he’s been sailing since he was a teenager, it wasn’t until last year that Andrew completed sailing certifications, starting with US Sailing’s Basic Keelboat and Basic Cruising. In January he upgraded to the Silver class and is scheduled for ASA 104, Bareboat Cruising, next month with Modern Sailing. “For my first bareboat cruise I’d love to go down to Santa Cruz / Monterey or the Channel Islands.”
Andrew started sailing out of Berkeley and Richmond in the early 2000s, crewing for his dad as he went through his certifications at OCSC. “I was fortunate to have a parent introduce me to the joy of sailing and take me to places like Monterey Bay, Catalina, Baja, BVI, and the San Juans to really get hooked.”
“Another thing I love about sailing is that it has a low carbon footprint. Flying in the wind without burning fossil fuels is a beautiful thing to me.”
You can see the full results of the Master Mariners Regatta here. And if you want to see some of these fabulous boats up close, go along to the 2023 Wooden Boat Show, at the Corinthian Yacht Club, on Sunday, June 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
How good was May sailing? Did you get enough time on the water? The month’s photos suggest lots of sailors had a blast! See if you can find your boat, or perhaps even find yourself, among all the smiling faces …
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The Master Mariners Wooden Boat Show on Sunday, June 18. More information at: www.sfmastermariners.org