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Sailing Under the Golden Gate Bridge, and Not Looking Back

Most Bay Area sailors know the ins and outs of our local sailing grounds. And most of them have probably sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge — perhaps to the Farallones and back, or perhaps just for a look-see and a turnaround. Some, however, make that extra tack and keep going. One local sailor, who goes by the name Whye Wait, sent us this story about when he did just that, aboard his Catalina 470 No Plans.

What it Feels Like to Turn Left

Months, even years, of sailing didn’t prepare me for this moment. I’m not sure I’m ready. Not sure the boat is ready. Are there things I’ve missed? Could I have done more? Should I have done more? Am I irresponsible? These questions are spinning in my head like a circus ferris wheel.

Turning left under the Golden Gate Bridge and sailing off into the sunset has been my dream for years. You’ve felt the pull, right? Tell me I’m not alone. I’m sure if you have saltwater in your veins, you can relate. You can see the freedom just sitting there, whispering in your ear, waiting for you to make the first move, yet you don’t. I’m scared.

Sailing under the Golden Gate has been a goal for many San Francisco Bay sailors over the years, and it’s now staring me square in the face. It’s a rite of passage, a bucket-list milestone, a new lease on life, and I’m about to do it.

Changabang sails under Golden Gate Bridge
Not all who sail under the bridge are setting off on a circumnavigation, as Philippe Jamotte did recently, but the appeal to keep going is nonetheless very real.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Imagine being on a boat, looking up at the orange splendor of this fabled bridge, turning left, and not looking back, feeling the pull of the swirling currents taking you where they want, not where you want — the funneled blast of frigid Pacific wind numbing your ears.

Now imagine sailing your boat under this bridge. Yes, your very own, bought-it-yourself-with-hard-earned-money sailboat. Scary, right? These feelings are hard to describe, but I’ll try.

I feel I’m in way over my head as my lovely, smiling bride glances at me for reassurance. Have we made the right decision?

I flash a smile of confidence. Yet inside, I’m twisted in a knot. Hearing the rumbling of cars overhead, I glance up. A tingling wave of accomplishment unties the twisted knot and sends peaceful goosebumps across my neck and down my arms. Tears of satisfaction fill my eyes then race down my cheeks to be cast into the sea by the gusting wind.

Sailing under the Bridge: what it feels like to turn left
We all love this view! Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge is a must. But why stop there?
© 2020 Monica Grant

I feel alive. The world lies at my feet, open, waiting for me to take the next step, the next breath. I feel free. Free to go faster, or slower, or turn the boat in lazy circles if I want.

I feel humble. How can I be so fortunate? How can I share this moment with my family and friends? These feelings fill me to the brim. If I speak, I’ll turn into a puddle on the deck, so I don’t say anything for fear of ruining the moment. I feel joy, and smile the biggest shit-eating grin. The world has just shown me one of its secrets.

14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Tim Dick 4 weeks ago

    Wonderful! Bon voyage wherever you go…

  2. Avatar
    Eric Rouzee 4 weeks ago

    One of my biggest thrills was being at the helm of “Rage” then owned by Steve and Nancy Rander, as we sailed her under the Golden Gate Bridge after a delivery from Victoria, B.C. We passed under that legendary span, the city spread out before us, bathed in sunshine, and when I finally surrendered the helm, someone handed me a cold Anchor Steam. Perfect.

  3. Avatar
    Craig Russell 4 weeks ago

    When we sailed out the Gate on our way to Mexico, I did not have any emotion. However, after sailing back from Ztown and 7 months later, sailing under the GGB was very emotional! I now understand what sailors feel when sailing under this iconic landmark! Especially after such a successful and amazing voyage under our belt. Read about our adventures:

    http://h2uh0.blogspot.com/2020/05/15-years-of-h2uho.html?m=0

  4. Avatar
    Kent Fletcher 4 weeks ago

    Bon voyage, fair winds and following seas!

  5. Avatar
    Pat McIntosh 4 weeks ago

    This captures that magic moment so well! Have a lump in my throat as I finished reading it.
    Thanks

  6. Avatar
    KAREN L MILLER 4 weeks ago

    I share the dream. Sail onward and fairwinds!

  7. Avatar
    Chuck Cunningham 4 weeks ago

    Very nicely expressed. Great choice of vessel. Spacious solid. I understand in a limited way their feelings having participated in several offshore races, and deliveries. Time slows down perceptively and suddenly you have left the day to day worries behind. As my cruising friends all say, you leave one life style and accept the pleasures and challenges of new ones.

  8. Avatar
    Paul 4 weeks ago

    Great sailing name. It’s what you do after rounding the wx mark…. Chuck Cunningham!

  9. Avatar
    K. Wildflowers 4 weeks ago

    My fiance turned into an a real jerk after he did this while delivering a sailboat to Hawaii with friends. We broke up shortly thereafter. Completely went to his head and his ego thereafter was insufferable. You’d think he had discovered America … or something.

  10. Avatar
    Will Cabranes 4 weeks ago

    Congratulations! Fair Winds!

  11. Avatar
    Beau Vrolyk 4 weeks ago

    As someone who has done it a few times, you have nothing but joy ahead of you.

    Of course, you’ll be challenged, the sea challenges us all. But, in the end, the Pacific deserves her name. She is a kindly mistress and you’ll do fine. Have a great time and don’t come back until you are truly done.

  12. Avatar
    Lauren Knobel 4 weeks ago

    We were lucky also – we left the gate and turned left November 2018, had so much fun along the way that we stopped in every harbor – only missed one and spent a year in California before making it to Mexico this spring – word Of advise – take your time , I know we’ll never sail those waters again – destination New Zealand in a few years !!

  13. Avatar
    Victor (s/v Odyssey) 4 weeks ago

    Will there be more chapters in this adventure?

  14. Avatar
    Dan Brenny 4 weeks ago

    As my good friend, Capt Mike Priest always mentions, “it never gets old going under the Golden Gate Bridge.” It’s such an iconic structure. Mike has thousands and thousands of ocean miles under his belt, but passing
    under the GG Bridge is at the top of his list.

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