Max Perez, solo sailing the Pearson 303 Olive in early August, filed this report.
A 57-Mile Day to the Delta
Departing Emeryville at 7:15 a.m. at the end of the ebb, I hoped to catch slack tide by the time I reached the San Pablo Strait and ride the flood as far as I could toward the Delta. I learned the hard lesson of not fighting the current the last time I tried the Delta Doo Dah in 2018. Light but sufficient winds from the southwest pushed my classic plastic Pearson 303 across the Bay.
Kame Richards’ Bay tide and currents seminar proved useful. I took Red Rock and East Brother Island on my port side to catch a bit of countercurrent, as I was fighting the last of the ebb as I sailed up San Pablo Strait.
The wind abated as I entered San Pablo Bay, and the flood caught up to me. I motorsailed until near the Napa River, where the breeze filled in, allowing me to cut the engine and enjoy the conveyor belt of following wind and seas. The favorable conditions almost got to be a bit much by midday, and Suisun Bay flew by. My boat was propelled to almost 9 knots, which is about double the speed I generally see.
The various destinations where I had planned to end the day were left in my wake as I made better time than expected. I wasn’t stopping west of the Antioch Bridge, a waypoint I had failed to pass in my first attempt at the Delta Doo Dah in 2018.
The wind continued to build, and I made a couple of mistakes. I was running dead downwind for much of the trip, so I furled the jib, as it was being blanketed by the main. This is a backward choice, but being singlehanded I was loath to have to go to the mast to drop and collect the mainsail. Furling the jib worked well, but required that I jibe the main a few times in the growing wind as I made my way east. Most of the jibes were graceful, other than a couple that were more forceful than I am proud of. Sorry, boat!
Another mistake was a moment of indecision about taking False River around the top of Franks Tract or following the San Joaquin. I headed for False River and then changed my mind at the last second, afraid of carrying so much following wind into an unknown area, so I belatedly turned away from the False River entrance and almost got pushed onto the levee by the now-30 knots on my port side. I quickly unfurled the jib and sailed out of harm’s way, and up the more-familiar San Joaquin River.
Not having planned on getting this far in the first day and with the afternoon still bright and early, I made my way to Potato Slough. I had never been there before and the entrance looked a bit arid, but I needed to put an anchor down somewhere and finish the day. Bedroom 1 was very full, but it showed the greenery and promise of the favorable descriptions I had read. Bedroom 2 was exactly what I was hoping for: sparsely populated, verdant, calm and inviting. I deployed my anchor just past the water hyacinth in about 8 feet of depth, and relaxed. A snack and a swim in the pleasant water changed my mental state from the alertness of singlehanding to the calm of floating around with a PFD strapped to my butt like an aquatic easy chair.
An annual raft-up was happening at the submerged Mildred Island, so I headed there via Mandeville Point and Middle River the next morning. It was a scenic 9-mile trip, with only one navigation surprise that I avoided, thanks to the multiple warnings to mind my depthsounder that I had read on the Delta Doo Dah website. Mildred Island is beautiful, but there are many snags and stumps lining its perimeter and a healthy breeze running through its center. The raft-up I had come to see was impressive in its scale and included a floating yacht club, a barge with a VW bus, and a floating dance platform that included a grand piano.
I realized that I was looking for a quieter Delta experience though, and anchored away from the raft-up, and as close to the edge of the island as I dared in order to get a windbreak.
On the way back to Potato Slough the next morning, I explored Five Fingers and the surrounding areas. I detoured to Korth’s Pirate’s Lair, whose staff were helpful and friendly. I was able to dock easily enough at the tight but calm guest dock, but if my boat were much bigger or it were crowded, docking could be a bit difficult. The café was closed, but ice, fuel and a nice restroom were available.
Back to Potato Slough
At Potato Slough, Bedroom 1 was now even more packed. Thankfully Bedroom 2 was still quiet and peaceful. I spent two days lounging in the water and enjoying the herons, otters and fish that populate the area. There is something magical about swimming under one’s boat and touching the bottom of the keel, or following the anchor rode to where it disappears in the soft mud. I even ran into some friends anchored nearby on S/V Mazu. While social-distancing practices kept us all at arm’s length, it was nice to kayak around and enjoy good company.
In Oakland, there was way too much light pollution to see the Neowise comet, and even in the rural darkness of the Delta I did need to use my binoculars to see it. An added bonus was looking at Jupiter and Saturn, which were also passing close to the Earth’s orbit. To my amazement, I was able to see three of Jupiter’s moons with my standard boat binoculars!
Sailing the Bay, the raw water strainer in my boat can go years without collecting anything. In the Delta, it was full in two days. After I emptied it, it started leaking a small dribble of water, as the gasket had apparently dried out. I figured it would last until I got home, and added it to the repair list. It was while returning to the boat after a short swim that I noticed the bilge pump running. That small leak was apparently capable of filling my bilge pretty quickly! I immediately closed the raw water intake seacock and tried to fix the gasket with Vaseline and additional pressure, even adding a rubber band. These efforts slowed the leak, but didn’t eliminate it. The seacock would have to be kept closed when not motoring until this was fixed.
It was a much slower trip home.
Readers — We’re planning a feature next month about the Bay Bash; we’ll include the last part of Max’s report there. In the meantime, be sure to read much more from Delta Doo Dah Dozen in the October issue of Latitude 38, out now.