China Camp State Park Sail


This last Saturday morning, I rowed ashore with my (newly patched back together) oar, dodged two shiny Beneteau’s, and ran errands. Food at TJ’s, 0-gauge battery connectors and 1/2″ slide slugs at west marine, and a bag of ice at siete-eleven. I rowed back, ran up the full set of new sails for the first time, and sailed off the hook. After several tacks through the anchorage in light, floopy wind, I passed Spinnaker’s and the sails went limp. I started my six horse Tohatsu for what turned out to be a long motor against the current. I went through Racoon Strait, under the Richmond Bridge, and past The Brothers. (The Brothers and The Sisters are sets of islands east of the Richmond Bridge.) I aimed at a point just between the Sisters and shore, and continued to motor against the current, making 1 to 1.5kt over the ground. Then I stopped. I had run firmly aground on an ebb tide, which threatened to leave Caper careened in 1′ of water where I would spend the night. I stuck my boat hook in the water and ran in full reverse, moving me about 2 feet per minute. Then none. Also, I felt like a lot of mud and muck was getting sucked through the engine’s cooling system for no good reason. I put her in neutral at idle, jumped in the dink, and rowed out to find where the water got deeper. Only one boat length away, and perpendicular to Caper, the water was 6′ deep. I had to work fast to beat the ebb, and I had just sold my little danforth stern hook and the 50′ of small chain¬†hours before.¬†My choice was 35lb delta or the 33 rocna to kedge off. I chose my main hook because it was lighter and already on deck with a rode attached. I put it in the dink, flaked in 50′ of chain, and started rowing out. My repaired oar had been strong enough to go ashore that morning, but wasn’t up to rowing out chain. I snapped it again. I grabbed the chain and pulled myself back to the boat, fueled and fit the cruise & carry, a 2.7 horse 2 stroke outboard, and motored the hook out. Back aboard Caper, I hauled on the chain manually, moved a bit, then stopped. I got back in the dink, and motored out checking depth along the way. Caper draws 4′, and she was in about 3’9″, heeling a bit, and the anchor was in 5’11″. In between was an underwater “hill” with a depth of 3′. Not happening.. I had to weigh the kedge and reset it. Well, turns out the Rocna set by hand so hard I couldn’t break it from the dink. I stood up, leaned back, and started to pull Mimsy (the adventure dinghy) under against the hook with the chain going strait down. My choice was to spend the night there, or dive on it. I took water damageable things out of my pockets, put them in my hat, secured it along with my autoinflating PFD to the dink, and went backwards over the rail. The Rocna was only in one fathom, so I followed the chain, grabbed it by the (vertical) shank, put my feet on the bottom, and pulled myself down by it. It took three more dives to dig the mud away from the Rocna’s fluke, after which I was able to pick it up and lay it flat on the bottom. I climbed back aboard Mimsy and hung the Rocna over the gunwhale with a rolling hitch. I picked a new place with 6′ deep water, checked in between there and Caper, and dropped the hook again. The Rocna is amazing. Pulling on the rode from a grounded boat, you can feel the chain pick up, the anchor turn straight, and then dig in after about half a meter. It just stops. I took 50′ of 1/2″ nylon three strand from a lazarette, cleated one end, and motored it out straight, securing it to the chain with another rolling hitch. Caper was heeling more than 5 degrees now. I got back on aboard, fed the nylon around a cockpit winch, and started grinding. I repeated this procedure twice, and finally we were free. I was beat after winching Caper’s four and a half tons about 75′, inches at a time, but I beat the ebb! I had my sails down, and the wind was dead, so I throttled up the Tohatsu and headed towards the other side of the sisters. The wind started to pick up, so I hoisted the main, then the jib. About an hour later, as I approached the anchorage, I secured the jib, rounded up, dropped the hook, and took down the main. I only put out 50′ of chain, as I was advised that I only needed 30. I don’t even trust my Rocna at less than 3:1 scope, and really prefer 5:1 for overnight and 7:1 if I have to leave the boat. Anyways, the hook is a beast and held as expected, digging deeply with the strong current. I lit off the cruise/carry, which I have nicknamed “the chainsaw” because it sounds like an 066 Stihl. I tied off to another Triton, where I was immediately fed scotch, steak, kale salad, and jumbalaya. Such livery! I could write as much about the sail home, but for the most part we broke our hooks out, motored for a bit as the current was pushing us backwards, and didn’t find any good wind till near Racoon strait. I passed it to the east in hopes of taking the strait on a single port tack, but got in really weird floopery conditions in the lee of Angel. Wind under 3kt, and waves in random directions big enough to frequently dunk the engine and even put water over the stern. I started the engine and motored for a couple minutes before finding myself in good wind. I killed it and sailed rail down at 5-6.9kts close hauled, had to tack out only once to clear the strait. What a fun change of pace to be sailing hull speed close hauled in Sunday traffic! Once in the lee of Sausalito, the wind died off again and I lowered my sails as I motored home. I dropped my hook nearly where it was before, let out 90′ of chain, and took a nap. A great time was had, I’m covered in salt and mud, Caper is covered in salt and mud, and I want to sleep till Thursday. Oakland tomorrow.. Lots of firsts for me this weekend, first time rowing out a kedge, using the new sails and boom, diving on an anchor, taking water over the transom into the cockpit, and sailing hull speed close hauled. The anchorage is comfortably and unusually still tonight, feels like land. The cabin is a mess and all of my clothes are dirty, but I’m happy.

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