Monday, September 29, 2008

Through the Golden Gate at last! (Plus pictures from California)

Our last post was from Bodega Bay done from a little espresso cafe where I insisted on stopping for a well earned ice-cream after our long hike. Little did we know at that time that the day was far from over. We had left our dinghy on Doran Beach where our boat was anchored. The sun was setting as we approached the beach and I saw that the surf was breaking with some force at this point. I mentioned to Chris that I was afraid of getting in but he reassured me that we could time the waves to avoid being swept over. After watching for a couple of minutes, we pushed off and within seconds a huge wave ( probably only just over 2 feet in reality ) came rolling in and the next moment I was under the Li'l Bugger ( our cute dinghy ) and all our gear was swimming in the water. Luckily the water was not very deep so we sprung into action; Chris lunged to retrieve his backpack before it floated away ( it contained both our computer and a camera ). We pulled the dinghy to shore and rescued our groceries. I found out later that Chris nearly got concussed as he tried to stop the dingy with his head when he saw me go under it, poor dear.

Someone came over and suggested we launch from a spot closer to the breakwater and even gave us a hand in dragging Li'l Bugger up the beach. I had to beg people for some garbage bags to store our computer and camera in case of another dunking. I think I was regarded rather suspiciously by one camper even though I was dripping wet and wearing a life vest , but he did give me a couple of plastic grocery bags.

Our next launch was more successful and we recuperated back on the boat by washing in fresh water heated on the stove and sipping hot chocolate while warming by the kerosene heater.

We sailed to Drakes Bay the next morning and found it to be one of the most beautiful anchorages imaginable. Steep cliffs rise from the ocean, pasture lands roll down to the beach and the golden colour of the land makes a sharp contrast to the azure blue of the water. Sir Francis Drake sailed here in 1579 and stayed 5 weeks to effect some repairs on the Golden Hind. It was settled by the Spanish and then Mexicans in the 1840's. There is still active dairy and beef farming.

We were better prepared with the dinghy this time as we placed all our gear in a dry bag and dressed minimally. We landed perfectly and then hiked up the hill from the beach, crossing fields full of cow patties, ducking under barbed wire cow fences and crossing over gulches. Along the way we saw a variety of wildlife including a mother elk, 2 fawns, and several gorgeous reddish owls.

There is an historic Life Saving Station at Point Reyes which used to be a US Coastguard station and is now available for use by non-profit organisations as a retreat or conferences. We had a quick peak and then hiked over to see the elephant seals of which there were huge numbers slumbering on the beach.

Our return trip to the dinghy was a lot quicker as the tide was out and we walked along the beach. We watched the waves carefully and executed an almost flawless launch ( we didn't flip, yay!!! ).

On Sunday, we sailed a bit further towards San Francisco, stopping for the night at Bolinas Bay, which proved to be rather rolly at night. We set out a stern anchor to keep Ladybug pointing into the swells and ended up sleeping on the cabin sole and quarterberth to avoid being tossed out of bed.

Today, Monday, we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge flying our colourful spinnaker in perfect conditions - calm water, blue skies, sunshine, no fog at all and hardly any other traffic. It was brilliant! Chris was ecstatic and grinned like the Cheshire Cat. We ran in towards Pier 39 and the wind came up suddenly. We were busy taking photos and before we could get the chute down we had it wrapped around the forestay. Chris was yanked off his feet while trying to take it down (I thought he was going to go flying into the sky on the end of this huge balloon! ).

We have been walking about the city of San Francisco all afternoon, visiting Chinatown, Coit Tower, and the Italian district. We plan to stay in the area for 5-7 days but probably not at the pier as it is terribly expensive at $45 per night.

Some pictures from the last week or 2:

Chris's first solo haircut attempt - stylish to a tee!

Rani's first solo haircut attempt- note the novel and artistic 'hedge row' effect. Joanne - HELP!

Fishing boats at Fort Bragg

Humpback off Drake's Bay

Bonita Point Light just outside San Francisco Bay

Rani at the Gate

And Chris Too (Note the brand new anchor light mounted on a nicely painted broomstick)!

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