Day-Off Day Trip to Drake’s Bay and the Farallone Islands

Story and Photos by Bill Kinney and Monica Alicia Bland

The excitement of sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge brings out the kid in every sailor. Bill patiently explains what he learned from a ten-year-old: There is an elephant in the trees on Pt. Diablo! “See that patch of trees to the right? That’s the head. That dead white tree is the tusk.” Yep, I can see that. He, in turn, humors my firm decision that the bright green algae on the hill is really scales left by the twin dragons, “Tooh” and “Fruhm,” as they drag themselves into their caves. “Oh, dragons. That explains the fog.”

Not that there is any need to create imaginary creatures. We are surrounded by intriguing animals. Our most constant companions are pelicans, gulls, cormorants, and common murres. We cause a frantic bird conversation when we almost sail between what I assume is a mother murre and her chick. Bill snaps a shot of the chattering pair, and tells me that it is usually the murre male who takes the chick out to sea when it is half-grown.

For many glorious minutes we sail on a beam reach to Pt. Reyes! The sun encourages us to de-layer down to our OCSC t-shirts. We sigh and enjoy it while it lasts. Then out of the clear, we sail into the fog. A flock of pelicans transforms from floating dorkiness to breathtaking gracefulness in flight, skimming the glassy surface in front of the bow. I snap a picture and giggle at what the weather announcer calls “gusts to four.” We motorsail through the glass. When wind is light, it is time to tend to the tedious tidying. We roll up the sail-ties tightly, so they will curl out like streamers when it is time to hang them over the boom and under the sail. We reach into the project box and fix an emergency horn with a ziplock bag. We make a boat wish list (cockpit camera holders, a winch handle pocket for the mast, new sailcovers…), a cruising wish list (Hawaii, Mexico, the BVI…), and ginger green tea. We make conversation and comfortable silences until we arrive at Drake’s Bay.

The truth: Drakes’s Bay is mostly pretty nothingness framed with fog. We have traveled all the way up the coast to get to nowhere and we are fine with that. There is one other boat in the anchorage–a sailboat flying the Canadian flag and all fitted out for family cruising. We can occasionally hear the children being children. The Coast Guard bellies up to their mooring ball for a while, does some Very Official Stuff, then leaves. We row the dinghy out to fish, but mostly catch glimpses– of starfish clinging to each other on the rocks, of a comb jelly just under the surface, of the fog rolling across the top of the hills. There are a couple of bites–the dinghy spins around during an epic high-stakes battle between man and Fish! We eat lamb for dinner.

In the morning, the anchor comes up cleaner than it was when we put it down and we resist the temptation to “just keep going” since “some of us have to go to work tomorrow.” Instead of sailing a straight course for San Francisco, we decide to stop by the Farallone Islands on the way back. I cradle the camera for hours, straining to see a whale and the precise minute I step below to make lunch, a whale breaches. Luckily, it isn’t alone. There are so many spouts on the way to the Farallones, we lose count. Southeast Farallon Island is teeming with birds and a few lounging sea lions trying to out-shout each other while we are hove-to.

Then it really is time to sail home since we don’t want to fight the ebb tide as we go back through the gate. At Pt. Diablo, we wave toward the caves of “Tooh” and “Fruhm.” They do not wave back. From a certain angle, the Golden Gate looks like a harp floating above us in the fog and below us—it is almost too much—there are harbor porpoises playing in the water. The weather is gorgeous and the playground is full. There are sailboats and ferries and kite surfers and sailboarders and wind enough for a few “woo-hoos” on a fast downwind run toward home.

If you are just about due for your own big sailing adventure (so you can escape most people and run smack into yourself), OCSC offers several options to get you out there gathering memories safely and confidently:

Give us a call at the club for more info and to sign-up for your next adventure! 510.843.4200

See you on the water soon!