Much has happened in the years between 1976, when Mary and I returned to Sacramento, and the ill-fated start of 1983. Six years of working at Aerojet, living the domestic life. Mary leaving me and for the first time in my life I was a single man. I only bring it up to explain the large gap in years. Now back to sailing ...
June 20, 1983
San Francisco Bay , Ca
To all my friends....
Today on the 20th of June 1983 I had planned to be 1200 miles south-south-east of San Francisco bashing my way into 30 mph southerly (!) winds with 12 ft waves (this mornings Coast Guard offshore weather report). I'm not there, however, but sitting dry and comfy at San Francisco's Pier 39. San Francisco is my kinda town (to steal a line from another song). I was raised and went to high school here. I love this town and hate to leave, but if I don't leave soon I'll be dead broke! There are too many good places to eat and drink. My discipline is about as much as a three year old in a candy store. Not only is my discipline bad but, I'm moored right at Pier 39, in the very heart of good food and drink. The only drawback is that the moorage is the worst in the world. Wave and tidal surges are constantly bashing boats against the docks and breaking lines. I even woke up one night seasick ! I am leaving from San Francisco and sailing directly to the Marquesses Islands. I am making this first 'blue water' passage alone. This is not what I had hoped for, but after several years of trying I have yet to find that special woman who would join me. Let me bring you up to date...starting on Saturday May 27....
It was one hell of a send off ! The going away bash at the Stockton Sailing Club was a special blow-out. Thank you all for coming....
We had planned on leaving right after the party on Saturday, but enough drinks had been consumed that wiser heads prevailed and the departure was postponed until Sunday. My crew for this passage was Juli Krammer and Merlyn Adams. This was Merlyn's second trip as he had been on ODJ's first passage in 1973 with Mary and I. This was Juli's first trip, although we had sailed together on several overnighters. The crews passage is to be a short one, from Stockton Sailing Club to Pier 39 in San Francisco.
Juli was out of the bunk a first light, fixing coffee and breakfast. I was suffering the effects of 'demon rum' and was nursing a king-sized hangover. Merlyn took over and got us underway, down river headed for San Francisco. As usual the winds were dead on our nose, and it was tack on tack. The tacks were short as the river is only a couple of hundred feet wide. So hour after hour we went through a tack every 30 to 45 seconds. By noon we had joined the Sacramento River and at this pace we would be sailing all night through. Invoking the captain's privilege I decided to stop at the Caliente Yacht Club near Antioch. This is the yacht club that my mom and dad belong to and of course we had to have another 'going away bash'.
0800 Drop lines, depart Stockton Sailing Club, motoring, no wind
0900 Stopped for fuel, Problem #1 Engine would not shut off!
1005 Problem #2 Sumlog (distant/speed recorder) quit working !
1030 Problem #3 hooked up autopilot for test run and it isn't working! GOING TO HELL
1130 Left San Joaquin River and entered Old River, light wind started sailing, motor off
1200 Winds increasing to 10 knots, right on our nose, tacking
1330 Winds now up to 15 knots, still on or nose
1430 Entered False River, 3 to 4 ft chop makes wet sailing. SF is out as it would take all night
1530 Entered Taylor Slough and tied up at Caliente Yatch Club
2300 I'm partying with Mom and Dad although crew were in the sack by 1900. Winds gusting to 30 promises a wet rough day tomorrow. Distance by chart 21 miles, probable with tacks 35.
For the second morning the effects of 'old demon rum' had me wishing that I would get well enough to die! The crew again got underway without me, but soon had me up and 'playing captain' at the helm while they tacked us to and fro.
0630 Sailing in 20 knot winds in Taylor Slough, wet with heavy spray everywhere. HUNG OVER!
0730 Entered San Joaquin River with 4 ft chop and wind dead ahead, rough going
0900 Approaching Antioch Bridge rough sailing, I want to go back, crew mutinies and sails on
1100 Entering Suisun Bay wind direction more favorable, sailing well but very wet ride. Have stowed about three extra tons and boat is very stiff in good blow. Handles very well.
1300 'Touched' ground! Juli was the navigator and had called for a tack as the chart showed that we were in shoal water. Merlyn and I tacked and we just 'kissed' the ground. Another second or two and we would have been hard aground!
1400 Cleared Suisun Bay and entered Carquinez Straits, still sailing well but current has now changes against us and the chop and spray make for a wet, rough ride.
1530 Gaining very little distance. While we're sailing well, the current is the winner and we have only gained a mile this last hour and a half. There is no way to make SF today.
1800 Finally! cleared Carquinez Bridge. Four hours of sailing and at least 200 tacks to gain 5 miles! I could have walked there and back in half that time!
1900 Tied up to dock in Vallejo. We go out to dinner and are in bed by 2030. Distance by chart 40 miles, actual with tacks probably 60 to 65.
It was the end of a pretty rough three day passage when we finally tied up at Pier 39 on the San Francisco waterfront. I was looking forward to a nice quiet evening of recovery , but the gods wouldn't allow it! A group of our friends waiting for us on the dock, and insisted that we go out to dinner then have a 'going away bash'. So I again battled demon rum and lost again. Any more of these bashes and I would be 'bashed' for the rest of my days.
0600 Cleared Vallejo harbor bouy, wind 20 knots right on our nose (where else!).
0700 Making very good time because the current is now with us.
0830 Jib sheet block literally exploded! We had been pushing the boat hard with rail down, when the block let go with the sound of a shotgun blast. Rigged spare and pressed on. Oh how the spray flies.
1000 Under the Richmond Bridge. Making good time with 18 miles in four hours. Add the extra tack mileage and we probably sailing 5 or six knots into a 3 to 5' chop.
1015 Wind suddenly went to dead calm. From 20 to nothing in ten minutes. Turned on engine
1115 Cleared Raccoon Straits, can see the San Francisco skyline. Light wind through the gate.
1210 Arrived Pier 39 slip B 30. We got some wind and broad reached across the bay. I had wished for this kind of sailing for the whole trip..and we got it for only one hour at the very end. Distance by chart 27 miles, probably nearer 35 with tacks. Passage ends. 88 miles by chart. About 30 hrs sailing time.
In summary ODJ and crew were fine. As a skipper I was a little too tentative at times, and prone to look for an easier way. I regained a lot of my self confidence by the second day. I've been here in San Francisco for about three weeks, working on the boat and buying last minute stuff. Each day that I've spent here I feel better and better about the boat's condition. I'm getting myself 'pumped' for the passage also. Now that I've made the decision not to try to get to Tahiti by July 14 (Bastille Day), the pressure is off.
I'm going to leave on the outgoing tide tomorrow (21st) about 10:00AM. Pete (and her kids), Juli (and her kids) and Merlyn (and his kids) are all here to see me off.
If the gods treat me right the next letter will be from the Marquesses Islands about 45 days from now. Thanks to all of you. Remember treat yourselves well and TAKE THE TIME TO SMELL THE FLOWERS...