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High and Dry in Drake’s Bay

Last weekend’s Drake’s Bay Race, a two-day event that combined OYRA and Singlehanded Sailing Society fleets, saw more wind than in the past few years. After racing from the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon up to the finish off Point Reyes, boats anchor and/or raft up to spend the night and then race back the next day. The Richmond YC-based Antrim Class 40 California Condor sailed in a full-crew OYRA division. 

California Condor won her division in the race to Drake’s Bay on Saturday; competitors woke up on foggy Sunday morning to find her aground in the sand. Condor’s 10-ft keel was stuck; fortunately her rudders were still afloat.

© 2017 Larry Baskin

"California Condor had a successful race to Drake’s Bay on Saturday," reports the boat’s skipper, Buzz Blackett. "But after that our good karma and my good judgment disappeared. After finishing, we spent the next 2.5 hours trying to set our Fortress FX 23 anchor; dragging, harvesting kelp, moving and repeating. We finally decided to set the anchor closer to shore, out of the big breeze, in 11 feet of water, where there were some sandy, kelp-free bottom patches. It worked, and we paid out almost all of our 220 feet of rode to raft up with the trawler Tortuga, the Mancebo 31 Bloom County and the Express 27 Bombora for a fun cocktail hour and dinner.

Bloom County, her buddy-boat Tortuga and California Condor rafted up to socialize on Saturday evening.

© 2017 Larry Baskin

"My theory was that the northwest wind would continue to hold us off the shallower water as the tide went out. Wrong! The wind went soft and clocked briefly to NNE. By the end of the evening we were softly aground. We tried briefly to move with Tortuga’s help while still rafted up, and then again after Tortuga and Bloom County split off, but we didn’t get anywhere.

"My new theories were that we wouldn’t move as long as we were aground, and that the tide would come back in and we’d be able to float off, aided by the wind. Wrong again! We were firmly aground at 2:30 a.m., with everyone on Tortuga and other boats fast asleep. OK, we’d get help when the sun came up. At 5 a.m., the boat heeled over to port and the dawn light showed the shore was closer. OMG. We must have been gently bounced in by the tiny south-to-north swell. With the water getting shallower by the minute, we kept heeling more and more as we tried to free ourselves. Jib up, all crew on the boom to leeward, one person on the leeward spinnaker halyard, max engine. Nada. Tortuga tried valiantly for over an hour to pull us off. Ixnay. Finally, at 8 a.m., I accepted that there was no chance to get off before the high tide in the early afternoon. Further effort before that would only damage the boat.

With the California Condor crew heeling the grounded boat over as far as they can, Tortuga tugs at her.

© Larry Baskin

"At 1 p.m., we put the jib up, kedged with the anchor, got free, and had a nice sail back. Everybody got to drive. The only apparent damage to the boat was the loss of the fiberglass tail on the keel bulb — a relatively simple repair.

"A big thanks to Charles and Elliott James and Jon ‘Chewey’ Stewart on Tortuga for all of their able assistance. And thanks to all the sailors and the race committee who swung by to offer food, water and help.

"I’d love to know how other boats managed to set their anchors through the kelp.

"Our grounding could have been a disaster. We were very lucky. Magical thinking doesn’t work in anchoring!"

California Condor missed Sunday’s race back; this is Jim Quanci’s Cal 40 Green Buffalo on her way back to San Francisco Bay.

© 2017 Pat Broderick

We’ll have more on the Drake’s Bay Race and resulting incidents in the September issue of Latitude 38, and we’ll also feature a cruising guide to points just a bit farther up the coast — Tomales and Bodega bays.

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