Fetch; Tomales Bay

by · June 2, 2012

May 29.

Tuesday morning Laingdon and I had breakfast in Café Rome (Sausalito) early and after goodbyes  I was on the road again. I was to be at the boat ramp in Marshall at 10 AM to meet Jim, Dan and Don for a few days on the water in small boats. A quick stop in Pt Reyes Station got me some delicious fresh whole wheat bread and basic supplies for the trip. The wind was a whole lot more civil than last time I was here. We parked out rigs for $5 per night and where off in short order.


left to right: Kees, Jim, Don, Dan and Tom (who was sailing with his wife that day)


Boat ramp at Miller Park (Marshall)


Don Person sails a Potter 15 (P15), which apparently is about 14’ long with a very characteristic shape. Don is in his eighties and after a carrier in the medical world picked up sailing late in life. He gets on the water a few times a week and enjoys it a lot. Jim Kirwan, in his late seventies, is a retired school administrator (among other things), who I had met before in Fort Bragg. He sails a Montgomery 15 (M15) and is very happy with it. He called the boat ‘Surprise’, because at his birthday this boat suddenly showed up on his driveway without him having any clue what his friends where up to. One of these friends of his, Dan Phy (in his late sixties) still was healing from his knee operation, so he opted to crew with Jim, rather than bringing his own boat.


Jim and Dan in a M15


Don and his P15


(picture by Don)


(picture by Dan)


In a mild breeze we sailed partway down the Bay to “Beach of Hearts Desire” for lunch. The wind was slowly building and this beach offers just enough protection from the dominating northwesterlies that are typical here. A pare of ravens had made this beach their home, since we would meet them here every time.


Beach of Hearts Desire




resident raven


After lunch we had a sporty ride down wind. We were all going at hull speed and Fetch, with one reef in, was slightly faster downwind than the M15. Upwind however Fetch pointed much higher than the other two boats and at higher speed. I think the longer waterline, more weight to deal with the chop and more sail area were contributing to her performance upwind, compared with the M15 and P15.



(picture by Dan)



(picture by Don)


After arriving at the same beach we enjoyed some beer and wine with nuts and crackers.





(picture by Dan)


Getting ready for the night, Jim anchored his bow out, combined with a stern tie to the beach, which seemed to work well. Don kept his boat high on the beach and let the water go from under him. He was heeled pretty good, but he said he is a solid sleeper, so it didn’t bother him. Once in a while he had to drag himself uphill in his bunk again. I anchored out and set my mizzen to keep the nose steady in the wind. I realized that usually waves come more or less square to the beach, but the wind doesn’t, which can cause some rolling at night. Next night I was going to try bow out with stern tie ashore as well. Beside the resident ravens, there was an Osprey whistling in the overhead tree, letting us know he was trying to sleep and at night I heard an owl in that same tree.


Fetch ready for the night


Jim's boom tent is up while Don is working on his.


inside the boom tent

(picture by Don)


Hog Island by sunset



May 30.

In the morning Jim went ahead to pick up a friend from the boat ramp across the bay. We soon met up again and sailed over to the mouth of the bay.


foggy sunrise


Don was fully equiped


anchor up for Jim


The channel curves around Hog Island, stays right under the bluff and forks around some shallows to the bar. Winds where fickle around those bluffs, which made for active sailing between puffs and shifts. Close to the bar we decided to turn around in time, because the current was sucking us that way at 1 to 2 knots. It was pretty cool to see the bay opening up around the headlands with breakers over the bar. Apparently this can be a very dangerous area, where people not only die due to rough water, but there are many great white sharks as well. I’ve been told that a many shark attacks happen in the triangle between the mouth of this bay, Faralon Islands and Golden Gate Bridge. Fortunately we didn’t see that big scary fin in the water (neither did we hear that theme tune of Jaws).


Hog Island


The Bar of Tomales Bay


We found a nice spot for lunch on a tiny ‘two-boat-beach’, steep enough to get the bow to the beach. Don had to return to the ramp.


Don is taking off to the ramp


(picture by Dan)


(picture by Don)


a two boat lunch beach


After lunch Jim dropped off his friend and we sailed back to ‘our’ beach for the night.  I took an hour walk up the hill to a nice viewpoint seeing the Pacific on one side and the bay on the other.


Hog Island from above


Drakes Bay to the west from above


I first tied my stern to the shore and anchored my bow out, but that left my rudder vulnerable to the sand, so I turned the boat around and had a good quite night. My rudder doesn’t kick up all the way like the Ida rudder that Jim has, which would make stern-to-the-beach anchoring more suitable. Having the bow out like that would be best to deal with incoming waves. Jim had underestimated the distance a bit and ended up on the beach with his keel at about 3AM. The way Dan put it: Jim decided in the middle of the night to go sleep on Dan’s side. Apparently after the water ebbed away, the boat suddenly rolled on it’s side throwing Jim over on top of Dan. Jim was a bit concerned about coming back upright without water coming in, but Dan assured him not to worry. He had done this many times in Florida without any problem.


5 o'clock in the morning, Jim's boat on the beach.



May 31.


After breakfast we sailed over to the ramp and packed up again. They drove back to Ford Bragg and I went to Pt Reyes Station to catch up on emails. Josh, from Small Craft Advisor magazine, had mailed me a contact in Inverness. A cousin of his, Tim Tanner, could probably put me up somewhere for a few days. I called Tim and before I knew it he had called his buddy John and I had a key in my hands to a beautiful boathouse on pilings right smack in Tomales Bay. This was where I was going to try to pick up making watercolors again. It was conveniently located about 300 yards from Inverness, where I would have internet access in the Blackbird Bakery, right across from the grocery store. This boathouse is an historic building where boats used to be built and a boat taxi service operated from. Back in the days without roads, boats where the only way of transportation.


boat house at low tide looking north west


boat house at incoming tide with my cabin on far left.



back deck with cabin and great view


inside of cabin with couch/bed


Blackbird Bakery for a bagel and internet


I stayed in a little cabin on the far end of the boathouse. There was a flushing toilet, an outdoor shower and electricity. A couch/bed complemented all my needs for the moment. Even in the cabin, internet reception would flutter in and out. The tide came in and out as well. When I first arrived, the building sat about 8’ above the mud, but during the day it kept rising and rising. Fortunately it stopped a few feet below my floor! Figures, the building wouldn’t sit there otherwise, but still! It was interesting to hear the waves around the pilings at night, just a few feet below my bed. This didn’t bother me, because in Fetch it was only 3/8” away, but it feels different in a building. I guess I was used to having a building sit on solid ground. Speaking of solid ground; everything is relative, when you realize I was right on top of the San Andreas Fault! At times I was wondering how that crack in the earth’s crust was watertight enough to hold all that water of the bay, but than, where would the water go in case of a leak… Funny enough, walking on the Inverness side (west side) of the bay I did have the feeling being on a separate island that was pressed against the mainland, but able to shift if it wanted. The fault line is very visible going right through the bay and a long valley to the south toward Bolinas. Better not shift for now, I hoped. I was actually in Berkeley in the big quake in 1989, two miles from the collapsed freeway, so I can well imaging what it feels like. More over, the epicenter of the devastating 1906 quake was right here in Olema, only 5 miles away. So all and all, with great whites in the area, water just a few feet under my bed and perched on old historic pilings on top an infamous fault, I felt …very safe?









Discussion3 Comments

  1. Wim says:

    Hai Kees.
    Daar ben ik weer hoor. Jij slaapt één voet boven zeeniveau en wij hier op 1050 meter.
    Voelt wel veiliger hoor.
    Je hebt een paar mooie dagen achter de rug. Weer een mooi verhaal.
    Ben benieuwd wat er allemaal nog komen gaat. Je blijft hier een tijdje?
    Hier schitterend weer. Lekker klussen en af en toe zwemmen.
    Tot de volgende keer.

  2. Laingdon says:

    Hey Kees-

    great job on the blog- writing and photos alike! I’m sitting here, up much too late after getting back to PT, catching up on your travels. I’m glad you could join us for Master Mariners- it was a treat having you aboard and introducing you to the EM family, who have been such good friends to me. Stick around the Bay Area- the Schooner Race is June 30!

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