April 24th, 2015
Although the day did not go according to plan, it was indeed an adventure, complete with frustrating obstacles and a few discoveries. Like any day sailing, half of the variability comes from the weather.
Our open ocean route promised fun broad reaches, spectacular views of the cliffs and good chances of encountering migrating whales, frolicking dolphins and ranging sea lions. Timing the tides is important since the giant kelp beds foul great expanses of the water offshore along the route, and the ebb and flood currents at the harbor inlets can inhibit sailboats from making headway in light winds.
While the trip involves at least 14 miles of sailing, less than seven miles separate the launch in Mission Bay and haul-out ramp at Shelter Island, so moving vehicles and returning the sailors to the boats was less time consuming than other long distance sails. We chose this particular day
because it allowed the largest number of us local SoCal Wetas to all sail together. We originally appeared to be 6 boats planning to go. The timing of the tides and currents seemed to fit when the wind was expected to be good, so things were looking up.as long as the wind filled in.
Dave Neagley got his boat back on the water after nearly a year of lots of work and family commitments. Tim Corcoran drove 3 hours down from Claremont with his boat and new North Sails. Winner of the Longest Drive Award goes to Ben Teitelbaum, who came all the way (350 miles) from Fresno. He left his boat at home and hitched a ride with David.
While the ocean temp is in the low 60s, the breeze didn't get past 8 kts or so. Still we had a great sail down the coast under cloudless blue skies, with air temps in the 70s. We kept in contact via VHF radio, and this proved to be useful. As we departed the crowds on Mission Bay we discovered calm and clear water out on the ocean.
Approaching the midpoint of the offshore leg, we began to consider continuing or turning back, but then discovered we'd sailed into a huge kelp paddy that seemed to grow with every minute. Coincidentally, the wind dropped to less than 3 kts. I figured we were near the bottom of a very low
tide and the current in the area slacked as well, so all the excess weed floated to the surface. Tough stuff! David and Ben seemed to find their way out of the quagmire and reach better breeze further offshore, but it took Tim and me another 30 minutes.
Once we finally cleared the weed field by sailing a little further offshore, we agreed that sailing back to our starting point in the slowly diminishing wind was the prudent choice. Though the wind was lighter than we'd like, the sailing was terrific, and near the entrance to Mission Bay we saw a handful
of dolphins chasing fish (under the patrol of seabirds overhead) and each of us tried to catch up to them.
Even with the tide turning and the current in the harbor channel slacking, there's no telling if we would've made it into San Diego Bay much before sunset. Funny thing, my GPS track shows that when we finally hauled out we had sailed over 17 miles; more than the original distance we'd sail if we continued on.
By Bruce Fleming