January 4, 2010

San Francisco Frostbiting


Hmm, let's see what's going on in the sailblogs today.

Tillerman reports it's too frosty for even the frostbiters, so he will probably be having his frosties indoors.

Adam Turinas is likewise complaining it's too cold to even contemplate frostbiting, so he's posted frostbite photos from someone else's blog.

JP is getting cabin fever over the meager sailing offerings from the BBC.

I thought the English were made of sterner stuff.

So what did O Docker do today? Would frigid weather confine him to quarters, huddled around the fire like his east coast and English blogging cousins? Heck no! Today, I went frostbiting on San Francisco Bay. That's right, in this post, for the first time ever, there will be actual current, same day, first person, genuine here-and-now sailing content on O Dock.

For four months I've been noodling around the bush without a single such post. Well, no more! Today, my wife and I actually left the slip and transported our butts, under sail, across the Bay from Berkeley to San Francisco, in brutal, frostbite conditions.

Temperatures plummeted into the mid-50's and winds howled out of the north at nearly 10 knots, whipping up waves of almost 18 inches in some places. While I toughed it out in a wool sweater, my wife, who complains of the cold as soon as she leaves the BVI's, had to resort to a nylon windbreaker and gloves. Oh, the humanity!

With that buildup, I must admit I have no idea how to write a blog post about actual sailing, so please bear with me. This will be a little rough.

I think you're supposed to start with a description of the sailing conditions, but I'm not sure why. Would this be a more interesting post if the wind were out of the south? Does anyone really care what tack I was on leaving the marina? Or at what point I turned off the engine?

I will confess that this was a wimpy sail by any standards. We didn't even hoist the main. Like most Catalina 30's, ours has a 130 roller furling genoa, and the boat sails beautifully under it on any point of sail, even in pretty light air. I know, I know, all of the books and experts say if you attempt sailing under jib alone, you will have a horribly unbalanced sailplan, with awful lee helm, and that you will develop jaundice and lose all of your teeth.

But none of those experts have ever been on my boat. Sure, it's fun to tweak all of the strings to get the boat going at its max, to have the belly of the sail 46.2 per cent back from the luff, and all twelve jib telltales streaming back exactly horizontal. But my wife and I have discovered that it's also a lot of fun to forget about all of that, to slow the boat down, drink tea, eat bagels, watch the other anal retentive sailors, and generally take as long as we like sailing over to the city.

Especially when we're out in brutal frostbite conditions like we had today.

Okay, this post is getting entirely too long and I havent even started with the obligatory photos that prove the blog writer was out there sailing, having a grand old time, while you weren't. So, here are the obligatory photos:

Obligatory bow wave photo, showing monstrous waves and brutal January frostbite conditions.

Obligatory San Francisco skyline photo, showing famous pyramidal building artfully framed in rigging, with bonus ferry boat also artfully framed in rigging.

Obligatory photo of happy spouse waving, showing what a great time we were having, and, by implication, what a genuinely considerate and caring person I am not to be hogging the helm the whole time.

Obligatory backlit photo of bridge. Any post about sailing on San Francisco Bay must include at least one photo of a bridge and one backlit photo of sunlight glistening off the water. For economy's sake, I have combined both elements in one photo.



  1. O Docker, this is the most brilliant post about San Francisco frostbiting that I've read all year. How do you do it?

    I will be reading all your posts about sailing conditions on San Francisco Bay with great interest in future because it has recently been announced that the Laser Master Worlds will be sailed there in 2011. So, assuming I qualify, I will be sailing there myself next year and hope to use the superb detailed reports on your blog of weather and wind and wave and tide conditions to assist me in preparing for the event.

    I think it's going to be sailed in a place called the Berkeley Circle. Is that a bit like a traffic circle, or "roundabout" as we say in real English?

  2. OMG!! O-dude you are the man, out there sailing in those brutal conditions. Yeah, they build them tuff in Philly! You do us proud.

    What is even more shocking is the Blog father coming to the Best coast! WOw!

    Now that is really Phemplat!

  3. Finally got out on the water this year, did you? About time! Good on ya, mate.

    How many hundred feet is it from O dock to the edge of the Berkeley Circle? Not too many if I recall.

    Now, isn't it sometimes hard to get a picture of sailing on San Fran Bay without a bridge showing up in the picture?

  4. Ah, now I know why those sea lions have vanished from San Francisco!

    All those scientists have been wondering what could have caused them to up stick and depart but now we know: the O'Dock ship - which they assumed was a static structure - started to move!

    Must have given them quite a scary turn.

    Anyhow its not a right stuff issue but a question of sense over sensibility.

    Ok, maybe a bit saddened by the news that one of the great non-sailing sailing bloggers has actually taken to the waters.

    Less cover for the rest of us dreaming of warmer days from behind double glazing.

    Fab photos btw.

  5. O Dock, You really must come visit me some time in January. -27F. Saturday morning, oh and we were camping at the state park too. I would rather be sailing though, it looked fun. It's been since October 18th since our last time out.

  6. Great pics! Nice to see others going out this time of year - here's our voyage from O-dock to Angel Island on New Year's day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGz2q4hiMtk

  7. Zen, it IS great news that Tillerman is venturing out west.

    But, TM, you won't be needing my reports to track conditions on the Circle. SF Bay has some of the coolest real-time online reports of wind and wave conditions anywhere.

    And I found this Kimball Livingston article that describes the Circle from a dinghy racer's perspective. You may want to check out his book Sailing The Bay for a detailed look at how our crazy tidal currents work. If the racing is late afternoon in the summer months, the thing to remember is that the Circle is very shallow - 8-12 feet in most places at a zero tide - and with a long fetch, the strong afternoon winds kick up a nasty short, steep chop.

    It is a little like those English 'roundabouts' in one sense - no one seems to know where they're going here, either. One of the hardest things for me to learn about riding a bike in England was getting through those things - why does everyone go around them the wrong way?

    Pat, I pass through the Circle all of the time - it's just outside the marina. Hmm, maybe Tillerman needs a mommy boat?

    JP, I'm with you - sailing is a warm weather sport. That's why the best sailing here is in the winter !

    Puffy, I think I'll take a pass on that, thanks. Your wine, by the way, is on its way. Will send you the tracking number.

    John, great music for a sailing video!

  8. Thanks for the advice O. I'll check out that article for sure.

  9. OK, I read the article. Very helpful. I think that what he's saying is that you should go right, except that sometimes it's better to go left. I'll try and remember that. Thanks again.

  10. Nice job knocking the ice off the rigging.

  11. No, right is always right. When you think it's left, it's right. something to do with point blunt.

  12. obligatory comment.

    ps. great photos in the last few posts, btw.


  13. I loved this post!!! I loved the photo of Mrs ODock smiling at the helm! yes--you did not hog wheel. Good! Beautiful photos!!!