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“I’m glad that wasn’t the windward mark for the day,” says Victor regarding this roller that appeared suddenly off Pt. Bonita.

© Val Ellicott

With the light winds and lack of rain we’re currently seeing along California’s Central Coast, this would seem to be an ideal window for moving boats to sunnier southern latitudes. But we’ll remind you never to underestimate the power of ocean swells — especially when they meet the shallow waters found on the approaches to San Franciso’s Golden Gate.

As Victor Gray and friends found out last Saturday, while daysailing aboard Bob Lugliani’s Express 37 pHat Jack, potentially dangerous rollers can form suddenly on either side of the entrance channel, and elsewhere along the coast. Rule # 1 when leaving the Bay to head south is stay in the shipping channel until you are several miles out before hanging a left, unless conditions are flat calm. To illustrate our point, we’ll remind you that it was just last March that both Kirby Gale and Tony Harrow lost their lives when their Cheoy Lee 31 Daisy was apparently rolled outside the Gate. And just last week two fishermen died off Half Moon Bay after they apparently cut a corner leaving the entrance channel — the nearby Mavericks surf break was seeing exceptionally large swells at the time.

A related reminder is to utilize the invaluable info at the Buoyweather website prior to setting out. Checking the weather buoys along your route, you can see the current and predicted swell heights and the period between them, plus wind strength and direction.

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We built our boat, Morning Star, in our backyard over a 20 year period — she was even featured in Latitude 38 in 1996, the year we launched her.