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Planning a cruise around Alameda, and an old navigation technique

Planning a cruise around Alameda, and an old navigation technique

This is about how to plan a particular cruse, circumnavigating Alameda Island. I'm doing it for two reasons. One is to document the specifics for other cruising skippers who might want to do it. The other is to give members an idea of what's involved in planning a cruise.

Circumnavigating Alameda Island is a wonderful experience. I've done it in a kayak and later in a sailboat on a CSC cruise. Part of the wonder is the diversity of it. You have Jack London Square, the Port of Oakland, the closed Naval Air Station, the aircraft carrier Hornet, an incredible beach facing San Francisco, a marsh with a lot of birds at the south end, and some post-industrial stuff along the estuary. The estuary is much improved since the time I kayaked it. The run-down houseboats are gone, and some of the bleck on land has been replaced with parks.

There is also the Coast Guard Island in the middle of the estuary, and if you're lucky the 418 foot ocean patrolling cutters are in. They go out for 90 days in the Pacific.

And then the drawbridges, 5 or 6 depending on how you count. The website is here. 5 of them are very active, and one is a bicycle/pedestrian bridge, right next to a car bridge that goes from Alameda to Bay Farm Island, and it's is the longest drawbridge in Alameda County. It's an incredible experience seeing them open just for you, a little sailboat.

The question in planning this is which direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise. There are a couple of factors to consider. One is that all of the drawbridges are staffed into the evening except for the Bay Farm Island bridge, which has limited hours (usually until 5:30 PM). Also, the bridges will not open during peak commuter hours.

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Advanced (and basic) Hoist Usage

Advanced (and basic) Hoist Usage

There often isn't enough communication around how to use the hoist properly.  In this post we're going to talk about safety, efficiency, and some tips on dropping and pulling a boat single-handed.

Personal and Boat Safety

The two big rules of using the hoist are:

  • Never ever EVER be under the boat while it's in the air.
  • Don't hit the shrouds or spreaders on the hoist arm.

The first issue most comonly happens when the centerboard falls down and someone reaches under the boat to push it back up.  Or if there's a long line of boats waiting to come out of the water and as soon as one boat starts to go up into the air the next person walks their boat down towards the sea wall.  Then when the boat in the air swings out, it's over the other boat.

Both of these are huge no-no's.  The sling/hoist does break.  This happened recently with a Venture in the air that ended up falling 5 feet back into the water.  The boat and everyone around was ok, but If there had been another boat underneath, waiting their turn, it'd be two broken boats instead of zero.  If there had been someone on that boat waiting to attach the sling, as there often is, it would have been way, way worse.  Always beware of where the boat is, and never get underneath it, and please say something if you see someone about to.

For the shrouds and spreaders, this is the most likely way to damage the boat while on the hoist.  Always keep an eye on the mast and shrouds to make sure the boat isn't going to spin into the hoist arm.  This is why someone should have control of the boat at all times.  The person on the sea wall doesn't let go of the stern until the person on the dock is pulling on the bow line so the boat can't spin.  Same with coming out of the water.  The person on the dock doesn't let go of the line until the person on land has their hand on the stern.

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More on Low Tide Docking

More on Low Tide Docking

I wrote a blog a while back on low tide dinghy dockings, and this was focused on the really low tide screnario - absolutely no centerboard and minimal rudder, and how to get the boat to the dock in those conditions. You can't slow sail without a centerboard, so you need to do something different.

But that's the extreme case. Often, it's not quite that low, and so you have a few more options.

But let's take a quick detour (a parenthesis in Italian) and talk about tides. We use tide tables and graphs all of the time, including predicting when the Club will be closed because the water is too low for the rescue skiff to run.

Tides are extremely complex as they depend on a huge number of factors. The major factors are the gravitational effects of the sun and the moon, and so tide tables are based on observations over a period of time (maybe as much as 19 years) to see these effects in all of their combinations. Tide predictions are based primarily on these large scale astronomical forces, and they do not include significant yearly, monthly, and daily factors such as rainfall, runoff from rivers, even barometric pressure on a given day.

Tide tables give you an approximation only,but we do have information about how predictions are matching reality. The closest station which reports both predictions and reality is the Richmond Inner Harbor, and our website monitors it and reports the current difference between predicted and actual both in when the Club will be closed and in the Club Status (which you can click on in the Cal Sailing home page).

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Keelboat Docking - Part 3 - Planning a Bail-Out

Keelboat Docking - Part 3 - Planning a Bail-Out

Docking our keelboats under sail is one of the most difficult skills required for the Senior Rating.  This series of blogs is intended to give you a conceptual framework for doing it. With that framework and a lot of practice, you'll acquire this important skill.

For simplicity, we're talking about a "normal" upwind docking into a CSC slip, where the true wind is out of the West or South-West, but not too far South.

Here is a map of the Marina with the standard docking approach:

Berkeley Marina

And here's the blow-up of the turning basin and our docks, assuming a normal West or South-West wind:

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Launching and docking in an East wind

Launching and docking in an East wind

Winter is a time of interesting and fun winds.  We're pretty spoiled most of the year with wind pretty consistently out of the West/South-West.  In the Winter an East wind is fairly common.  When the wind is out of the East you cannot dock on the normal side of the dock with your main up, as it is now a downwind docking and you'll just run into it full speed (yes, skippers do this surprisingly often). 

For your first Winter sailing, this will be a new and unique experience.  Here are some tips for when the wind is blowing from the East:
 
For departure, after putting the boat in the water like normal, walk it all the way down the dock and push it around to the other side (by the pilings).
 
 dropping boat
 
You'll have to use your foot a lot to keep it from banging/scraping as the wind wants to push it into the dock.  Once it's around the other side you'll need to take the bow painter in your left hand and hug each piling so you can hand it off to your right hand so you can get the boat around them.  Tie the boat off and from there everything is normal, including the push-off/backwards sailing away from the dock.
 
For returning, if you're coming towards the dock and you're on a starboard tack, you won't be able to depower if you try to dock on the normal side, but you should be able to slow sail up to the pilings side.
 
docking boat
 
Check your slow sailing course and take a couple passes if you need to.  It's a new docking experience so nothing wrong with circling around a couple times until you feel like you've got it.  Bailing out of a docking when something doesn't feel right is a good show of seamanship, and if anyone on the bench makes fun of you for taking 3 tries to successfully dock feel free to throw them over the sea wall.
 
The other option for docking is to sail upwind, which would be past the Cal Adventures dock, towards the 3rd dock, drop the main, and sail jib alone back downwind.  Furl or blow the jib early to give the boat time to slow down (it will take longer to slow than you think when going downwind, even with no sails out) and you should easily and gently reach the dock.
 
Another option, if you get between the docks and realize the wind is wrong, is to dock on the West side of the Cal Adventures dock, drop your sails, and bare poles or go jib-alone over to our dock.  When single handing this may be easier than trying to drop the main while sailing.
 
As a general rule, regardless of the way the wind is blowing: If your main isn't luffing, abort the docking attempt and reevaluate the conditions.  Do not dock!
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