Bananas will no longer be allowed onboard…

We recruited five unsuspecting crew for this epic down wind race from Richmond to Stockton.  The full crew list for this epic down wind race consists of Aaron, Calvin, Eugene, Janelle, Keith, Mark and Robert.  The Delta Ditch race starts in Richmond then run through the northern part of San Francisco bay, passing the Brother’s Island to San Pablo Bay, through the narrow, twisting channels of Carquinez Straits to Suisun Bay, passed the mothball fleet then snake through the meandering San Jauquin River to Stockton.  We had conceived this race as a fun (and fast) way to tour the Delta for some of the naive, wide-eyed crew that have not been “up the river without a paddle” and to take advantage of the long downwind run to imagine what it’s like to dawdle in the Delta. This was designed to be one part race, one part tour and one part adventure – our plan is to race the Delta Ditch Run then turn around and motor sail back all night back to Coyote Point Harbor.  The key to the success of this (ad)venture is to time our itinerary to transit the Carquinez Straits at optimal current going up the river as well as back down to SF bay. So plans were made to cast off at 07:00 sharp to make it to the starting line at 10:00.  Weather forecast for the weekend was a bit conflicted.  NWS predicted strong Northerly winds at 8-15 knots and hot weather (90°+) for the weekend.  However, the TV forecasters were predicting mild winds from the east and cautioned on record high temperatures. In either case, it’s really ideal sailing condition albeit a bit unusual wind direction for the Delta Ditch.

Bright and early at 06:30 on the fateful Saturday morning of the Delta Ditch, the crew of S/V Mist assembled at the Coyote Point Yacht Club dock with provisions for the weekend for the 10th Annual Delta Ditch Run of 2010.  As we put away the provisions, we noticed that someone had brought a bunch of bananas onboard.  After several denials, we found the culprit and teased the crew member about being ignorant on the sailing superstition that bananas onboard brings bad luck to the boat.  The crew member took the ribbing in stride and attempted to eat as many bananas as possible before departure, but after ingesting two bananas in quick succession, he left the remaining bananas in the galley for later consumption.

We pulled out of the dock and immediately noted the low tide marker at the harbor master’s dock to be  -1.5 feet – not a good sign, but we’ve managed to get out of the harbor before…  Sure enough, as we motored out to the main basin, we started to drag bottom.  As we headed out to the harbor entrance, the depth sounder showed less than three feet below our hull and then, we were firmly stuck at the harbor entrance.   We order all the crew to sit to starboard to heel the boat, but no avail, then we hoisted the main to get the morning breeze to put further pressure to heel the boat to pass the shoaling that had developed gradually at the mouth of the harbor – all to no avail.  So when the going gets tough, the tough gets going:  we call on the heavy weights to get us out of our dilemma: we put Keith on a bo’sun’s chair and cranked up the spinnaker pole to 90° starboard and with the rest of the crew putting their weight on the starboard rail and the main sail drawing from the morning breeze…

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further notes on farrallon island cruise…

Well, the weather seems to be shifting. We may experience a W wind versus a more typical NW winds… Here’s what the NWS predicts for Sunday. May be a good day to go out the Gate on Saturday for Vince.

>EXTENDED…THE EXTENDED GLOBAL MODELS ARE SHOWING A WEAK BAGGY TROUGH BISECTING THE STATE FROM ABOUT YOSEMITE TO SAN LUIS OBISPO. LOCATIONS NORTH OF THIS LINE WILL CONTINUE TO EXPERIENCE OFFSHORE FLOW AND VERY DRY CONDITIONS WHICH INCLUDES MOST OF OUR DISTRICT. THIS PATTERN IS VERY SLOW TO CHANGE OTHER THAN THE WEAK TROUGH TENDS TO FILL OVER THE EXTENDED PERIOD. MODELS HAVE BEEN ADVERTISING THE LONG WAVE RIDGE WOULD BUILD OVER THE WEST WITH A TROUGH OVER THE MIDWEST. THIS LOOKS TO BE THE CONSENSUS OPINION FROM ALL THE MODELS THROUGH MIDWEEK NEXT WEEK. THUS EXPECT CLEAR SKIES AND WARM DAYTIME TEMPERATURES BUT COOL NIGHTS IN WIND SHELTERED AREAS. SINCE HUMIDITIES WILL BE DOWN COULD SEE SOME VERY CHILLY OVERNIGHT LOWS IN THE VALLEYS OF SOUTHERN MONTEREY AND SAN BENITO COUNTIES AS WELL AS THOSE IN THE NORTH BAY.

Vince may head out to Drakes Bay and try to rendezvous with us at Farrallons. So I plotted a course for his route and calculated an intersection point at Farrallon Island. It should take him about 4 hours to get from Drakes Bay to Farrallons. We will be departing the South Beach Harbor at 8:15AM (hopefully). Take an hour to reach the Gate Entrance, so at 0930 it will take approximately 4.5-5 hours at average 6-5.5 knots. This means we will approach Farrallons by 2 PM and returning to the gate by 6-7 PM if we keep the speed up…

do you know the way to san jose?

I found out that I may be helping a friend to bring back a new-used J-32 from San Diego to Coyote Point Harbor. So I volunteered to do some trip planning and coordination. I wanted to consider a few alternate routes which would make sense for this delivery. So I launched my trusty Garmin MapSource program and played around with some of the route options. Basic premises:  

J-32 with 28 hp diesel Yanmar Diesel engine, approximately 27 gallons of fuel; 100 gallons tank for water J-32 (specs). Given the waterline length of the boat is 29 feet, the theoretical hull speed is 1.34 times the square root of LWL, therefore, the theoretical hull speed should be 7.216 knots. So we will be conservative to assume an average cruising speed of about 80% of theoretical hull speed since we are likely to encounter head wind and waves. This make the target cruise speed of 5.8 knots – besides who knows how well any of us will steer following the routes exactly – even the autopilot isn’t beyond suspect. For a 24 hour period, we can expect about 140 NM distance covered. We will take delivery of the boat in San Diego and need to provision and outfit her for the north bound delivery. Because this is a delivery rather than a cruise, the objective is to get it to our final destination as soon as possible. Our assumption for this trip: if our sailing speed is less than planned average 5.8 knots or the VMG to the next mark falls short of the target speed, we will start the engine and motor sail to the next way-point at or above targeted speed.

First question is whether to plan a route for the inside or the outside of the Channel Islands. Heading inside of Catalina Islands means more ship & boat traffic, fixed obstacles such as oil rigs and Point Conception up close and personal. Heading outside of the Channel Island makes navigation and watch keeping far less demanding, perhaps a little better wind but adds distance and longer transit time if there’s problems. Given we will have very little time to familiarize and prepare the boat for delivery and the boat systems dependability is untested, my inclination is to favor the inshore route to take advantage of the many harbors we can duck into should problems arise rather than taking unnecessary risk by going off-shore. Nonetheless, I’m open to alternate route proposals if there’s compelling reasons we should and we mitigate any risks. Right off, I can envision 4 possible routes:

  1. Non-stop to avoid the many traffic and oil rigs and head outside of the San Clemente Islands, out side of San Nicolas Island and rounding outside of the Santa Rosa, San Miguel Islands (first set of islands south of Pt. Conception). The charts noted that magnetic variations of 5° have been reported by San Clemente Island so need to monitor the autopilot’s course diligently.
  2. Non-stop straight inshore route which will keep us close to shore and sights along the way. First night out, we will pass by Avolon within 12 hours from departure at SD entrance buoy. This is the shortest route of all options.
  3. Combination In/Out route; a combination of inside the San Clemente Islands and Outside of Catalina Island. Going outside of Santa Barbara Island and San Nicholas. This is a course for the un-decisive – it has no redeeming value.
  4. Route with stopover at Santa Barbara. This is my current favorite – reasons below.
  5. An irrelevant route for this trip, but an interesting one to ponder – Best route based on prevailing wind direction and velocity. Monitor this link for wind conditions in SoCal.

If we follow any of the planned non-stop routes to SF, it should take 3.2 days to complete this delivery. However, I’m reminded of the saying: “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.” So if we opted to sail straight through from SD to SF, planning for 4 days journey seems to be a reasonable estimate of total trip time. If we decide to stop-over in Santa Barbara, then a 5th day will be added to our total trip time. So far so good. From the resulting GPS plots, it appears that the entire trip from SD to SF is approximately 435 NM – 450 NM with most of the variation in distance on the routes in So-Cal. The distance delta between all the routes is less than 15 NMs, so the real issue is what is the advantage and disadvantage of each route and what would suite the goal of this trip.

The outside route’s advantage is primarily ease of navigation and watch since there are lot less obstacles once you are outside of the Channel Islands, the disadvantage is the added distance travelled and recourse in the event of break downs or other emergencies. The inside route’s advantage is that there is a lot more sights to see and we would sail right pass Avalon on Catalina Island. With the inside route, we will also have the option to stop in one of the many ports along the way if we chose to do so. For me, part of the fun in this delivery is a chance to see the sights along the coast, not so much bragging rights on how far offshore we sailed. However, sailing the entire trip without stopping is a bit ambitious and tough to envision for the first trip on the new (used) boat. So my vote is to use the inside route with Santa Barbara as a stop-over and a rest point before rounding the Cape Horn of California.

Santa Barbara is approximately 39.1 NM (7 hours) from Point Conception so if we want to round Pt Conception before the wind picks up in the afternoon, we can depart any time after mid-night to latest departure of 0500 in the morning from SB and make it around Pt. Conception before noon. The stop-over at SB will allows us to assess the weather conditions before rounding Conception and to provision the boat for any depleted supplies or make necessary repairs to any mechanical or system problems that developed on the first part of the trip. By the time we reach to SB, we would have sailed 24+ hours and it will be good for us to rest up and freshen up a little before rounding Point Conception. Refueling in SB rather than carrying 4-5 jerry cans onboard will eliminate yet another detail to tend to before the trip – as I think we will have our hands full provisioning for food and also making preparations to the boat for coastal cruising. Our time to prepare the boat will likely be very limited (one day before departure).

We will need tools, navigation and safety gears and all the myriad of small stuff to check off before casting the lines. So, I for one, will be happy to scratch extra diesel cans off our list of to-do’s. Even though this is a delivery trip, we don’t want to make it unnecessarily harder on ourselves, Besides, I think a stopover is a prudent safety feature to reassess our progress and operational plans at a midway point and an opportunity to refuel and recharge ourselves and the boat before the next (brutal) leg.