This post is a bit late but we’re okay with that!  We’re living on a boat!  So … here’s a report on our early February shake-out cruise to some recommended S.F. Bay boat destinations.

We are getting closer to heading for Mexico! The water maker is performing well, a lot of the other mechanical issues are near resolution, the (I’m told it’s) false spring weather is challenging us to throw off the lines. In anticipation of our final departure (looking at early March for that), we decided to try things out with a five-day visit to some suggested anchorages around the grand San Francisco Bay.

After performing all our “leaving checklist” chores, we headed out of our Grand Marina slip, and paid tribute to the Port-of-Oakland.

Our first destination was the part of Richardson Bay nearest to Sausalito. We had heard it was a pleasant anchorage, mud bottom so our Bruce anchor would probably be the best choice. The day, Thursday, January 31, was simply beautiful  (sunny, blue sky accented with light clouds, 65 degrees). But, there was little wind, except when we crossed the S.F. Bay, so most of our momentum came from the diesel.

As we entered Richardson Bay, we noticed an all-metal power vessel with lots of smoke pouring out of its interior. Drawing closer, we noted three men frantically working on what turned out to be an engine fire. One of the crew came to his boat’s stern with a line and gestured for us to take it. We circled the stricken vessel and asked them if they needed Coast Guard assistance. The fire was out but the engine was, well, toast. They were drifting toward an about-to-leave commuter ferry. So, while I took the line and wrapped it around one of our winches, Ron steered Cetacean toward the Sausalito Yacht Club. We contacted the Coast Guard as well. It took a bit of encouragement to get one of the SYC members to take the crippled metal boat’s towline from me and cleat it to the dock, but we think everything was resolved for all concerned.

We headed for the Richardson Bay anchorage, which turned out to be even more shallow then we’d expected. Ron put out only 50′ of rode – didn’t even use any of the chain. We spent a pleasant night with grand views of the San Francisco skyline at sunset.

Next morning, we pulled up anchor and headed for San Pablo Bay and China Camp State Park. It was another day of very light winds, so again, we mostly motored.

The China Camp anchorage was so lovely and peaceful, we spent two days there, rowing ashore each day to walk along the beach, explore the park site and learn about the fascinating history of this encampment and the Chinese immigrants who ran a successful shrimping business there during the early 1900s.

View to China Camp State Park from our anchorage.

View to China Camp State Park from our anchorage.

Unfortunately for these same shrimp fishermen, legislation was passed limiting, then finally ending their rights to ply the bay.

California State Parks has maintained several of the structures used for processing the shrimp and the site itself. The view to the encampment from the anchorage is idyllic – a ramshackle pier clings to the shore, leading the eye back to the park site and the buildings that remain unchanged nearly 120 years.

Our second morning at China Camp, we awoke to gently rolling seas. We both agreed that, given a moment’s consideration, we would have liked to stay anchored at this charming place indefinitely. But, we needed to head out and take care of important business.

We headed next to Benicia, a sleepy village (really, it’s a city but it seemed sleepy when we arrived) located along the north bank of the Carquinez Strait between San Pablo and Suisun Bays. If you continue east, you become engulfed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta.

To get to the Benicia Marina (we decided not to anchor – come on, the 49ers were in the SuperBowl!), a boat must go under the Carquinez Bridge. Passing under these bridges on my boat always does something to my height perception. I look up and can’t believe that our fifty foot mast can pass, undamaged, under the looming structure, even when I KNOW that the bridge towers another fifty to sixty feet over the spar fly. I suppose I have a kind of reverse vertigo or something.

We arrived after a very slow cruise (again, no wind) at the marina. But, the marina entry was easy and so was docking. Cetacean was well behaved in this new marina.  Good boat! We looked for the opportunity to log on to a wireless connection. That proved to be difficult to do – the marina didn’t have an access point. In the end, we were able to finagle access to the Yacht Club’s hotspot.

Ron found an ideal place to view The Game – a wine bar with an enormous projection screen and only two other customers. While Benicia 49er fans cavorted and carried on at nearby sports bars (things were definitely noisy in Benicia by this time), we (oh so demurely) sipped our beverages,  discussed high-level game strategy, and watched what turned out to be a fairly exciting game. It was sad to see the 49ers lose in the end, but football is just a game.  Someone wins and someone loses. Kind of poetic, don’t you think?

We spent an extra day in Benicia catching up on some paperwork and exploring the town. Benicia is a place trying to find itself, we think. There are some interesting waterside businesses, but the slow economic recovery on this side of the Bay Area has taken its toll. Real estate costs seem incredibly low for being so close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where housing costs are astronomical.

On Tuesday, February 5, it was time to return to Alameda.  We headed back to San Pablo Bay, passed China Camp and made, at first, for Richardson Bay. The wind was light and it appeared we’d be spending the night at our first anchorage. But, the winds kicked up and so we decided to head home. When we closed in on the Bay Bridge, a mysterious racing vessel appeared just ahead of us.  The yacht we encountered was the Swedish Artemis Racing, the Americas Cup World Series entry whose team will compete against the U.S. (Oracle) team next summer. As the yacht flew across the Bay, at least four support power boats hovered protectively.

Artemis Racing sailing by the Bay Bridge.

Artemis Racing sailing by the Bay Bridge.

At this point, we were in over 20 knots, a bit overpowered and working hard to get to the lee of Treasure Island so we could reduce sail. Still, Ron had time to snap some shots of Artemis Racing.

Our trip was a success: “Monica” our servo-pendulum auto helm worked like a champ, the water maker did what water makers do, and best of all, we had fun. We were exhausted arriving in Alameda, but Cetacean amazed us with her ability to handle rough conditions with grace and amazing speed (at one point, we were traveling 9 knots … well, there was a five-knot fair current, but who’s counting?). We were flying!