Saturday, June 4, 2011

Flashback….Whale watching to the Farallons

Way back at the end of March Greg and I led a cruise of 8 BYC boats out to the Farallon Islands to hopefully see some whales. We did this last year as part of a cruise organized by a Sausalito club….but thought since we were starting up the monthly day cruises for BYC, this would make a perfect adventurous addition to our schedule. We, on Pura Vida were only gifted a spout – but others did see actual whale blubber – fortunately not in their rigging, but in the ocean where it belongs :-).

I took photos, but we also had along Vi Bottaro who is an amazing professional photographer from the Napa Valley. My photos can’t compare with hers, so please follow this link to her blog post about our very long day:

And if you are into photography – especially boating or water related subjects, I highly recommend backing out to her main blog and subscribing. Her photos are really amazing.

Below is Greg’s Write-up for the Now Hear this….I thought it captured the day perfectly (along with Vi’s photos)…..

Farallones Whale Watching Cruise Report

On Sunday morning March 27th, well before the sun was ready to rise, 8 groups of brave and fearless crews gathered at their boats to cast off for the Farallon Islands. The agenda was to hopefully see some whales, get a close-up view of the Islands and have a fun romp in the big ocean. Even though NOAA was predicting some possibly stomach challenging seas, the following boats found the draw of adventure too strong to stay in their slips any longer: Pura Vida (Melissa & Greg Davids), Maggie (Dave Douglas), Bliss (Jolanda DeBoer & Tod Flak), Margaux (Sharon & Patrick Hind-Smith), Roxanne (Mike Mitchell), Charisma (Bob Johnson) and Mona Too (David Halaby). With us in spirit, but thwarted at the last moment with engine issues, was also Knot Studying (Lindsey Goosherst & Mike Dvorak). All of these boats were ably crewed by a list of sailors too long for this article – 38 sailors total.

After motor-sailing to a couple miles west of Point Bonita, a nice southerly breeze kicked in which allowed us to fetch SE Farallon on a close hauled port tack. This reporter found the sea state to be much nicer than feared from the forecast, though many of the larger rollers would still hide the view of other boats behind walls of water. It is rumored that a few crew members from various boats were so anxious to attract whales that they decided to see if chumming worked as well for gray whales as it does for sharks. Results from this test appear to indicate that sacrificing one’s breakfast does not result in a greater likelihood of attracting cetaceans. While we feel comfortable with accepting these findings, we have no doubt that future scientifically curious sailors will do their part to broaden the sample size of this research.

Actual whale sightings were relatively few and far between, but most everyone saw at least a few blows. There were also some reports of viewing the actual backs of close-by diving grays and one crew member on Maggie witnessed a breach. Most all of the boats completed a circumnavigation of SE Farallon and were able to enjoy the impressive views of big waves crashing on the shore of this very jagged bit of rock 26 nautical miles straight out from the Golden Gate.

We would like to give a big special thanks to BYC member, and marine biologist, Carol Keiper for an enthusiastic talk she gave to all of us at a crew meeting the Friday before. Carol imparted quite a bit of interesting information on gray whales and the Farallon Islands. While Carol was not able to sail out there with us, she nonetheless stood witness to our fleet circling the island as she was leading her own professional whale watching cruise from a chartered fishing boat.

The sail back to Berkeley was quite the fun romp. Winds picked up a bit to the 15 to 20 knot range on a starboard beam reach. All boats experienced some nice surfing on the ocean waves. A bit of drizzle on the return did not dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. Upon their return, many of the crews gathered back at BYC for Sunday “Linner”, a cold beer (or wine) and traded stories. Good times.

Let’s go on a river cruise……

Over memorial weekend, we decided to join the other BYC cruisers head up to Petaluma for what we hoped would be warm sunny river fun and relaxation. The weather had other plans….It’s been really wonky in California this year….here we are in June with a stormy day to face. But memorial weekend also had a rainy day mixed into it. But we rolled and it didn’t affect our visit.

Due to currents we needed to leave the slip by 7am and that we did. Kevin and Renee Murray joined us for the trip. We motored to just North of the Richmond Bridge where we were about to pull out some sail and turn off the engine. This lasted for a while as we threaded our way up the channel through San Pablo Bay, but shortly we rolled up the jib to motor sail up the actual river (which, by the way, is not an actual river). It’s always amazing to sail along the farmlands and vineyards.

As we entered the river we first had to deal with a nail biting moment when we passed under the fixed highway bridge. Pura Vida’s mast is 63′ tall above the water. By the time you add in the attenna, lights and wind sensor at the top, it is mor like 64’+. The published height of this bridge is 70′ MHHW. I think the drama speaks for itself. Here is a link to a video as we passed under it coming back down the river on Sunday: up the riverJust meandering and enjoying the scenery

drive the boat and chat...but scratch my butt while you're at it.........

We even got to see “Greg’s Buoy” where he got to spend the night high and dry after cutting the corner to try to win a race some years back.Greg's BuoyAhhh...the smells....can't beat the smells.......the D Street Bridge. the guy who designed this also designed the Golden Gate Bridge...learned that on the tour 🙂

When we got into the basin, there were already about 30 boats so we decided to tie up toward the outer docks. Besides adding in some local flavor, these were much quieter.Peaceful

We had a nice walkabout town with Kevin and Renee and then returned to hang at the boat. Too soon, they had to head back home to take care of their furkids. Afterward, Greg and I downloaded some walking tours of the town for the next day and turned in early.LOVE the green worm!What a face~

Saturday was the big day for BYC boats to show up, since we knew we wanted to leave early we ended up side tying with a trimaran as to not get ourselves too deep into the raft. Sharon and Tom were one of the first to show up and quickly side tied to us. Then we all headed off for our walking tour of Petaluma. I think we only made it about 2/3 of the way before we ducked in for lunch at a yummy Thai place and the rain started. Having gotten our fill of touring, we headed back to the boat to see the show of people coming in and docking. It can be pretty entertaining. As long as everyone understands, it’s a rotating show and everyone will get their turn at entertaining the anchorage/docking area – no one is immune 🙂 only fate knows who is next on the show.

By the time late afternoon rolled around, the show was almost over and the gang headed to the library where an Apollo astronaut was speaking and answering questions. We were only able to catch the tail end of it….but wish we could have heard his whole talk.

OH – Sat we discovered 24 hour fitness (where Greg and I belong) has a club right on the water complete with an outdoor hot tub that overlooks the basin….ahhh….can you say.YES……. Lovely….. oh, we know this only because we were rewarded for getting up earl on Saturday and working out. It’s a very nice club if any of you make it out there.

Sat night we had dinner at Volpi’s an old Speakeasy and Italian Restaurant which they have worked to save the look and feel of. So it even had the bar in the back – a must see ….

After dinner we strolled to Lala’s creamery ( for a quart of vanilla to go with Tom’s hommade rubarb pie……yummies were had aboard Pura Vida that night……

Sunday, not too early we headed out of the raft for our bridge opening to ride the currents back home. We were gifted favorable winds so our beating fears were unfounded. We actually had a pretty amazing sail up until about the Brothers, then it shut off and we motored home.

This is the Brothers -- or Brother...since you can't see the other.....

Another fabulous weekend….. I love cruising weekends – they make me happy 🙂Finally home...the GG viewed through Raccoon Straight