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Charlie Deist Takes an Impromptu Sail to Half Moon Bay

In the March issue Charlie Deist shares the story of when, together with his family and a friend, he took an unplanned left turn after sailing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. You may remember Charlie from his story on learning to sail under the instruction of Darrell Allen Caraway.

As luck would have it, there was a full moon to light up the cockpit while Jesse cooked crab. We hadn’t planned to leave San Francisco Bay, so we didn’t bring our little hanging solar lanterns, or our pillows or pajamas, or even a change of clothes for that matter. Nor did we have a crab pot or anything that would even come close to fitting the Dungeness crabs — each over a pound — but Jesse improvised a steaming-hot death trap out of some heavy-duty aluminum foil, molded into a basin just deep and narrow enough to bring water to a boil inside the Magma grill on the stern rail. The last of the three crabs put up the biggest fight, suggesting he was the healthiest and tastiest, and sure enough, he was. Dipped in lemon and butter and washed down with cheap Portuguese red wine, these poor crabs were our rich reward for making it the 30 miles or so south from the Golden Gate on our ad hoc trip to Half Moon Bay.

Our crew included friend Jesse Selleck; my pregnant wife, Emma; our 2-year-old daughter, Clare; and me. We had planned to leave the day before, until a tsunami from a volcanic eruption halfway around the world caused a butterfly to flap its wings in Berkeley, or something like that. We arrived before sunup, but we couldn’t schmooze our way through the meter maid’s fortified barricade on University Avenue, which meant we couldn’t get our car and gear into the Berkeley Marina lot and onto Sun Kiss, our 1973 Islander 36. So we waited, and then waited some more, until we had mostly lost hope of sailing to Half Moon Bay — despite the long weekend — meaning it probably wouldn’t happen before the new baby was born, meaning when would it happen, actually?

Sunday came, and we modified our plans to just stick our nose out the Golden Gate and then go hiking on Angel Island. But we made such great time getting across the Bay, riding the ebb, that turning around against the quickening ebb seemed crazier than continuing on. So we kept going, redeeming our original plan, past crab pots and harbor porpoises, craggy cliffs and green buoys, until we reached the next safe harbor. The same journey that can take a full day of hellish sailing instead took just under seven hours because of 10- to 15-knot easterlies. We got up past hull speed, rocketing out on the last traces of the ebb, which wraps some distance around Seal Rocks and should not be underestimated in either direction. With our offshore wind, we hugged closer to the shore than was perhaps prudent. I turned left even before Red Buoy #8, the first channel marker to port upon exiting San Francisco Bay. This was against Emma’s better judgment, but she was distracted by 2-year-old Clare’s delight in watching the porpoises (“Dolphins!”) in our wake all the way past Lands End Lookout.

Here’s a video Charlie took during the sail south.

Read the whole story of Charlie, Emma, Clare and Jesse’s impromptu sail to Half Moon Bay at

1 Comment

  1. Rich Brazil 2 years ago

    Good on you guys for being spontaneous! You should be proud of your accomplishment. Most people are scared to exit the gate and turn left.

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