I was glad to be out of Crescent City and back on the water. I could have certainly sourced all of the necessary parts there if need be but San Francisco seemed like a much better place for me to prepare for the jump across to Hawaii. Not only would it be three days closer than if I were to leave from Crescent City, but parts and sailboat gear is readily accessible. In addition, it has always been a dream of mine to take Cascadia underneath the Golden Gate bridge. To be able to navigate my little boat underneath such an iconic structure and alongside some of the world’s largest freighters, in one of world’s busiest ports; seemed like it would be well worth the trip down there.
Leaving Crescent City, the winds were mostly calm and by nightfall there wasn’t even a whisper on the water. There was a full moon that night that illuminated the water like I had never seen. To see have a vast ocean, velvety smooth and lit up by a full moon created a dreamlike iridescence that gently rocked me to bed that night.
The following days, the winds started to pick up out of the NW and by nightfall they were blowing a steady 30 knots. The forecast over the VHF called for 30-35 Knots for the next 3 days. I was not looking forward to this after having previously battled my way down the Washington and Oregon coast. Nevertheless, there are few places to seek refuge on this portion of the coast and It would a day worth of sailing just to make it back to land.
That first night was one full of anxiety and little sleep as the winds kept building. Little sleep is common for people who sail solo but that night I routinely had to go out on deck to adjust the sails and make sure we were sailing a straight course. By sunrise, the sea state had built to a very uncomfortable 8-10’. Normally that size swell is not too bad, but since it was all wind swell, the period in between each wave was too short and made the rest of the ride to SF to be quite uncomfortable.
By that afternoon the seas and winds were at their max and I had just about enough. I decided to pull into Bodega Bay just outside of SF, however when I was within 20 miles of land I had observed the marine layer fill in over Bodega Bay, and being that I would not be at the entrance until midnight, I chose to stay out rather risk going into a foggy unknown port during adverse conditions. My only other option was to sail through the night towards SF as planned, arriving at the Golden Gate by 6:00 a.m. the following morning. However, as the conditions were at their worst, and tensions were high, thoughts about not even being able to enter the bay started to go through my head. I really thought that I might just have to continue south, and if so for how long? Could I stop at Half Moon Bay? Or should I point it to Hawaii and say “Aloha”!
However, my tensions were eased at around 3:00 a.m. that morning as I rounded Pt. Reyes outside the bay and the winds immediately calmed to a gentle 10 kts. By sunrise, the wind had all but disappeared as I motored through thick fog toward the city and right as I passed beneath the bridge, the fog parted for just a brief period to reward me with a breathtaking view of the city and this iconic man made marvel for which I had just passed under. At that moment, I truly felt that Cascadia and I could go anywhere and we were ready for whatever lies ahead.
Author: Andrew Stephens
A Pacific Northwest native and recent graduate from Seattle University, Andy is currently sailing his 30′ Cape Dory sailboat around the world. You can find more information him by visiting his website SailingWithAndy.com or on his YouTube channel.