On September 12th Seawitch with crew left port for a small adventure to include Drakes Bay, Bodega Bay with the ultimate goal of getting into Tomales Bay. We've always wanted to get into Tomales but it has a tricky entry and the timing with tides, time and weather never gave us a good opportunity to try it.
So on Saturday we set out on our adventure. On the leg from Richmond to Drakes we were accompanied by Yankee 30 Chelonia with captain Ed and crew Melissa and on-board Seawitch was me and my son Ansel. We left Richmond at o-dark 30 with rain and lightening/thunder all around us. I didn't feel that great about being in the ocean with lightening but we pressed on in pursuit of Silverheels (Tartan 34) that left ahead of us to rendezvous in Drakes Bay, our first stop. As we left SF bay and turned North the storm winds let us do a close reach all the way up the coast with only a few hitches to get into Drakes. Pretty much a gray day with fog but a good sail with enough wind to make it fun, if a little wet. We sailed into Drakes right by anchored Silverheels, rounded up and dropped sails and hook for an impressive landing and stayed the night.
Next morning we raised anchor and headed off to Bodega Bay, our next stop. As a new storm was now coming in we had a good Southerly and once we rounded Point Reyes hoisted the chute and took off. Chelonia was originally going to stay in Drakes one more night and then head home but we saw her leaving Drakes shortly after us. After contacting them we found out they decided to leave because of the kelp flies, which were horrible, and go home via the Farallon Islands. I haven't talked with them but I think they had an exciting trip home.
We arrived at Bodega sea buoy after a 3 hour spinnaker run and sailed, motor-sailed and finally motored into Bodega harbor still in company with Silverheels. We got a slip, had a fine dinner and then met with Silverheels and two other boats to discuss out strategy to get into Tomales. The plan was to arrive at the Tomales sea buoy at just before high tide, evaluate the conditions and then motor in over the bar. Tomales opens to the NW and the bar's depth is 8' at MLLW, a consideration if there is any kind of sea running. Everyone was concerned over the entrance and the storm swells that were prevalent.
My crew had to leave so I was now singlehandeling and the next day we left early to get to the Tomales sea buoy by 11 AM. It was foggy, so foggy that you could not see the sea buoy until you were right on top of it. Our lead boat, a Catalina 42 was going to wait at the sea buoy until the fog lifted and the seas settled down (there was about an 8' swell running). I elected to hang out with him as he was the most experience captain in our group and this was a new entrance for me. Soon, along came the fourth boat, Solitude a Catalina 38 (aka Yankee 38). He said things looked good to him and he was going for it! I said I would follow him as he seemed to know what he was talking about but as I tried to follow I soon lost him in the fog. I couldn't keep up as he was a much faster motoring boat than I, so I bailed being unfamiliar with the entrance (plus I still couldn't see anything for the fog). Going back out I found Silverheels coming in. As I could keep up with her I again turned around and headed in in good company.
As we approached the bar the seas actually seemed to settle out and there was much less swell, I thought we had it made. Solitude radioed back to us that they were in and everything went great (it turned out they lied) so we pressed on. As we approached the bar I could see breakers and rocks to all sides of me but nothing but fog ahead. Silverheels was right on my stern port quarter when I heard them yell and I looked behind and saw them high on a wave threatening to broach down on me, they were flying! This wave was huge and came out of no-where. I soon realized that while Silverheels was in the breaking part of it I was in the curl, right where a surfer would want to be, not where a sailboat should be. Well I took off like a shot with white water piled up behind me. Silverheels corrected its coarse so, even though it was close, no touching went on and the wave passed under us with much noise and confusion. The next wave was just as big and caught Silverheels and she took off past me looking like she was doing 15 knots! This second wave had no real effect on Seawitch except to scare the daylights out of me. Once these two waves passed it was all calm and we were past the bar and in the bay, safe and sound. This whole experience lasted about 30 seconds, seemed like and hours and got all our hearts pumping, like real fast.
We anchored off Heart's Desire beach in the bay with both Silverheels and Solitude for three days, unfortunately the Catalina 42 never made it in. The anchorage was great and we had a lot of fun and good stories too. Our return to sea back over the bar was uneventful with an easy sail then motor-sail back to Drakes for the night and then back to SF Bay the next day.