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Oct 7: Fleet Week airshow in San Francisco bay

With Mike onboard, we decided to delay our departure another day to catch the Fleet Week airshow and military boat parade on the San Francisco Bay. We did this last year on Velella, our Ericson 27, and it was boating carnage. This year was more of the same!

We were up early and had a quick shower in the cockpit. We use a 2-gallon insecticide sprayer with the hottest water we can coax out of the engine heat exchanger. Even if the water is boiling to touch, when it gets sprayed it gets a lot colder!

Insecticide makes a great conditioner


Smelling much better

After rinsing off, we tried to solve a little mystery: what kind of light-air sail do we have? I had only taken it out of the bag once before, but didn't have enough space to really spread it out. We have equipped the boat for a full symmetrical (tri-radial) spinnaker just in case, but I think we actually have some sort of asymmetrical, maybe something called a "Flasher" by UK.

Unknown spinnaker-type sail


Beautiful sail!

We weighed anchor (can you weigh a mooring ball?) and motored out into the bay in the super calm morning winds.

Aircraft carrier under the Golden Gates


Carrier launch! Awesome!

The show consists of a navy big-ship parade under the Golden Gates and down the cityfront, followed by the Redbull Air Races, followed by the Blue Angels. Because it's a naval-themed event, I guess everyone who has a boat wants to be out on the water. No problems, except the primo seats are between Alcatraz and the Gates - right in the slot.

When you combine several hundred small boats, a 6-foot tidal ebb (and associated 3kt currents), 20kt winds blowing against the tide, a seriously distracting air show, and 50ft-deep water, you have a problem! Few boats have appropriately-sized anchors, a lot of the skippers out there don't know what they're doing, and there always seems to be a few morons out to fuck it all up for everyone who is prepared.

We saw exactly the same thing last year: someone finds a nice spot, drops their tiny Danforth (or other directional anchor) and 60' of rode, gets spun by the current, and ends up dragging all over the place. Last year we saw a beautiful all-wood cabin cruiser smash into three boats before giving up. It's not just a pair of boats coming together - the extra-special-ed boaters manage to grab your anchor or rode with theirs, pulling up your connection to terra firma, and dragging you along with them into the next boat.

Moron 1 tangles two sailboats


Lots of traffic

We were first charmed by a 30' fishing boat. These guys pulled up way too close to a neighbour, dropped a small anchor, and proceeded to hit at least three boats. They dragged almost 400', totally clueless, and seemingly unable to raise their anchor (or increase their anchor scope). We dubbed these guys "Moron 1". They had so many people yelling at them it's a wonder they stuck around.

Proving that morons have sailboats too, we were next impressed (almost literally) by a smaller 27' raceboat. These guys said they had 200' of rode deployed, but they dragged into us from almost a quarter mile away. Maybe they didn't drop an anchor at the end of their rode, who knows?

More frustrating was that they were using a parachute anchor that was pulling them in a different direction from everyone else. If you have 100 boats anchored in a grid, all with about the same amount of rode deployed, the boats will all swing in the wind/current together! If one of those boats tries to motor in place, or uses a drogue, they don't swing in the same pattern.

With all the carnage around us, we weren't interested in taking chances. We fended them off a couple of times politely, but then I guess I got a bit frustrated. They had an outboard, but weren't interested in using it. They weren't increasing or decreasing scope, they wouldn't pull in the drogue, and they seemed to be content to 'wait and see' what would happen.

With some colourful language, a 15' spinnaker pole, and the offer to help them cut loose their anchor, I explained what would happen if they didn't move off. I made instant friends. They moved clear of us by hauling in on their rode, released it once clear, swore us up and down, and immediately drifted into a powerboat. Morons.

Other than some unnecessary stress, the show was great.

Blue Angels flyby!


Flying the colours

Sara enjoying the show


Mike and Sean at the ready

The Blue Angels were really awesome. Super tight formation flying and very spectacular demonstration of power. One of the solo flyers broke the sound barrier just a little bit on his way over us, encasing the plane in a cloud of water vapour and making a small sonic boom. It was very very cool.

The A-10 pilot did a very low slow flyby, so close above us we could make out the pilot in the cockpit!

We waited until most of the crazy people around us had left, and took our time pulling up our anchor. As soon as we started, we ran into trouble. The line portion of the rode had not disengaged the gypsy (the toothed wheel that turns on the windlass) and it was stuck. Sean, Mike and I started troubleshooting. When Sean asked for my knife, I knew I had to figure out how to get the line loose quickly!

We eventually got the line out of the gypsy and free, and continued hauling up the chain. We were trying to keep the chain slack with the boat's motor, and use the windlass only to pull the chain up (rather than the boat forward), but the wind and current made that a real task. We used our hand signals and hauled the anchor up slowly. It was hard!

Catch of the day: old anchor!


Sean and Sara as we sailed back to Sausalito

We caught an anchor! It looked like a 35# bruce, but it was so encrusted with barnacles and other sea life, we couldn't tell. It didn't have much chain or rode attached. We ended up throwing it back, we didn't really have a place to stow it. The collection of anchors off Alcatraz must increase by three or four each year.

Mike and Sara


Will and Sean

After getting everything squared with the anchor, we had a great sail back to Sausalito, where we grabbed another mooring ball for the night. What a day! Dinner and a short movie led us to bed.

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