Great Trip Out to Farallons and Drakes Bay Shows Why It's Always a Good Idea to Have a Back Up

We had the pleasure of taking a brand new, 2015 Beneteau Oceanis 38 out for a weekend offshore. Beautiful boat, twin rudders and slides so smoothly through the water you wonder if you're even moving. It's part of my club's limited fleet of offshore-equipped boats: meaning that in addition to the gps-chartplotter, it has radar, a life raft, EPIRB, jack lines to tether to, etc. 

We filed our float plan and set out Friday night from Sausalito to anchor at Horseshoe Cove, on the Marin side right by the Golden Gate, to get a very early start out to the Farallons Saturday morning. However we were greeted with the prospect, or perhaps foreshadowing, of sailing into a bank of thick fog that had flowed in through the gate. We chose to divert and anchored by Cone Rock, just off the Tiburon peninsula, where we proceeded to have a turkey meatloaf and way too much wine for three people. We had fussed repeatedly with the instruments, and never got a good nav view, but chalked it up to unfamiliar equipment. 

We were off and under the gate by 7 am, and enjoyed just fabulous sunny weather all the way out to the Farallons. As we approached, the wind kicked up, and under full sail we reached the islands. We wanted to come into Fisherman's Bay and see where the "rat pack" of smaller male great whites liked to hang out, before heading around the island to the territory of the sisterhood, where up-to-20-foot females roamed (these so named by the researchers who had been stationed on the desolate island studying great whites each year). 

Still unable to get actual chart data on the GPS, I reverted to my iPhone, onto which I had bought and downloaded the Navionics charts. This showed us depths and nav features absent from our boat's GPS. 

After sailing around the islands, we headed on a 28 mile close haul into a northerly wind to Drakes Bay, a secluded and beautiful anchorage about 30 miles north of San Francisco. We arrived at dusk, and just south of Chimney Rock, around which is the safe entrance into the Bay, we saw countless pelicans gorged on fish and lolling on the water like husbands on Thanksgiving watching football after too much turkey. Then we saw the whales, spouting and breaching, and managed a few photos. 

We came into Drakes after dark as fog rolled in over Pt Reyes, and spent a quiet night. The next morning it was thick fog, and it was clear at this point that our navigation was missing. Turns out the chip on this new boat hadn't been installed, so all we got was a barebones outline of land, with no no depth contours, no buoys, no nothing having to do with navigating a boat. Heading south some 20 miles to pick up Bonita Channel, we needed to find buoys, and we did so with a combination of backups. First and foremost, my iPhone with Navionics worked like a charm. We used paper charts to plot a course to steer at each way point and kept a regular log of location in case we had to pick it up totally old school. We had crew on the bow, and picked up the channel buoys by the sounds of whistles and bells, and used radar to dodge fishing boats all the way in. No big deal, but it was nice to have a backup. 

When we reached the Golden Gate bridge, we didn't actually see it until we looked up, and there it was. We were already under it. Had we been headed for one of the towers we would have seen it in time, but we were between and so didn't have a visual until we looked up. Then shortly after we were out of the fog and caught some nice pics of sailboats by the bridge.

All in all a great weekend, and a nice reminder that back up is always a good thing.