Yesterday’s SF Bay Singlehanded Sailing Society Corinthian race felt like every sailing event of my entire career rolled into one.

For starters, there were 179 boats. You can see Medusa’s spinnaker amidst the traffic jam pics here. Now, imagine that entire traffic jam converging on a stick in the water, Southhampton Shoal. There was a lot of shouty shouty and some of the boats didn’t make it around (well, it’s a shoal). Nathan and I survived, by virtue of tight teamwork, some stubbornness and Nathan’s cool head.

“Do we push off now, or later?”

On New Year’s Day 2021, Nathan and I were still rigging Medusa, our Santa Cruz 27, when the VHF radio crackled alive. “It looks like the Park Street Bridge has opened early,” said the skipper of Pacific Star, “they might just keep the bridge open for us.”

Indeed, we — a team of volunteers from Island Yacht Club — in cahoots with our friends at Aeolian Yacht Club, had announced two start times. The first was a 10:30am rendezvous at Park Street Bridge, which instead had opened at 10:22. …

Written originally for Latitude 38 — Sightings

With the Treasure Island Sailing Center’s youth summer camp coming to an end, you would think their hard working staff might choose to take a breather. After all, it has been a tricky summer season for both kids and staff to navigate. Social distancing rules and safety provisions have meant that classroom activities have had to move outdoors — even throughout some of San Francisco’s hotter days. …

I live in the Mission District, San Francisco. Due to a concentration of rental properties and working class residents, the proximity to the city and an influx of highly-paid workers, the Mission has developed a lively activist scene, whose mother-cause is affordable housing and the fight against gentrification.

Now, if you’ve secured housing that’s affordable and secure, there’s little incentive to take upon yourself the activist mantle. “I don’t believe in gentrification,” a sailing buddy told me once, “we all just exist together, right?”

Like this buddy, it is certain that many yacht club members — the majority being…

My position on sailing during the shelter-in-place? No sailing.

For the first few weeks of the SIP, I believed it to be okay to sail with people in your household. After all, sailing is a healthy activity, and the risk of exposure to anything more than bright sunshine and sea breezes is highly unlikely.

Since then, my position has changed.

First of all, there’s the easy reason — the City and County of San Francisco have strongly discouraged non-essential travel, to maintain the shelter-in-place and control the spread of the virus. Unless you live on your boat, or you’re lucky…

Nathan, Dave and myself were taking our breakfast at the Long Beach Cafe, a teal-and-pink confection of a diner, splashed together in the 80’s and bleaching under the hot California sun ever since. We were waiting on our fourth passenger, Dave’s friend Paul, who Dave had coaxed into joining us for an “adventure”, professing that Paul was the kind of young guy who didn’t really do anything in his spare time. Paul needed this chance.

Punctually enough, Paul appeared, smiling, but slightly wary — understandable for someone who was meeting new people, while not entirely confident with it.

“Hi Paul…

I thought of the time when I was a small person. I sailed a Sabot on Sydney Harbor, a W.D. Schock Co. design whose lineage I would come to appreciate much later. The Sabot is a wooden boat, built like an upright piano — with a stocky teak trim and utilitarian lines. We managed to haul it on top of my father’s white van and drive it the kilometer or so down to the sailing club, where we’d haul it off and rig it on the lawn.

There were a few occasions when I singlehanded the sabot. With only a…

Of the American myths, the most misleading is that we achieve success entirely on our own steam.

A well-managed boat is like a startup, a small business. And while it’s not in fashion to acknowledge the specific skills, roles and hierarchies involved (at least not on the West Coast), we also can’t deny that the reason why any good adventure happens, is because they exist.

And while we do well to separate our pirate lives from our private lives, it’s undeniable that the qualities that make us successful in the “real world” are those that make us successful sailors still…

“Be faithful in small things, because in them is where your strength lies.”
— Mother Theresa

Despite the bravado and bragging rights that come with sailing the big boats, my most joyful moments have come with the little guys — the pocket cruisers, the training boats, those fiberglass hulls that move so lightly, like water beetles across the lakes and estuaries of the United States.

My regular Friday evening regatta took a break the other week, which gave me a rare chance to schlep back to Alameda, where I could sail a Santana 22. Remarkably, my friend Lee was available…

This is a running log of the sailing books I’ve read — and those I’ve lined up for the future. I’ll keep this “nautical book club” updated as I progress.

For the Kindle users out there, I’ve provided Project Gutenberg links, wherever possible. For everything else, please consider using the Amazon referral links below. Hopefully these help you pass many a happy day at sea.

History and adventure

The Log from the Sea of Cortez” — John Steinbeck (Amazon)

Sailing Alone Around the World” — Joshua Slocum (Project Gutenberg)

The Last Grain Race” — Eric Newby (Amazon)

The Sea Wolf” — Jack London…

Ros de Vries

I’m an avid sailor and community firebrand.

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