Date: Saturday March 31, 2007
Event: Grand Street, Alameda, to buoy #6. 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (8 hrs on the water.)
w/ Solo sail . . . all by my lonesome that covered maybe a dozen miles
Winds: Dead-calm motoring conditions to 6 knots . . . that's all folks!
Weather: Light winds with nairly a cloud in the sky.
 

Course of the day: Grand Street Ramp, Alameda, to buoy #6 and return.Prologue
With repairs and fix-its done from the beating Lazy Ka took in my
March 18th outing, and my body healed as well, I was again back at the Grand Street ramp for what I expected to be a much more relaxed day of sailing. Blue skies and winds in the 6 to 8 knot range were forecast, the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain were plying the waters of the estuary and Rowing Class at the Jack London Aquatic Center, Oakland, CA (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)the central bay providing some out of the ordinary sights to see, one could not ask for better prospects for the day.

On the water
I pushed off from the dock, no motor required, raised the main into a light breeze, and pointed Lazy Ka toward Jack London Square where I expected to
Oakland Recreation Department's bay fleet at Jack London Aquatic Center (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan) find the tall ships. On the East side of the estuary, a half mile of so along my way, lies the Jack London Aquatic Center (115 Embarcadero) adjacent to Estuary Park. Through their outreach programs the Center offers rowing, kayaking, and sailing instruction to area children. Programs range from basic introductory classes to advanced competition. It is here that the Oakland Recreation Department keeps their fleet of assorted cruisers and Folkboats, among them, the Catalina 22, Sally Marie, that I sailed on for my Basic Keel Boat Sailing course.

Kayaks on Oakland Estuary (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)With the light winds, most of my company on the Estuary was powered by muscle. There were crews working out, rowing classes in progress, and many kayaks taking advantage of the calm waters to poke around the nooks and crannies along the shoreline.

Approaching the Jack London Square marina, I spied the rig of the Hawaiian Chieftain towering above the numerous  power yachts moored there. The Lady Washington was nowhere to be seen.

One real joys of pottering on Lazy Ka that I've come to know is the ability to sail into relatively tight confines for a closer look at the sights, or to talk with folks on shore. I did this for a closer look at the Hawaiian Chieftain, coming just a few feet from onlookers and the Chieftain's dock. The gentle breeze eased me slowly along , allowing time to study the her up close. I recall seeing the Hawaiian Chieftain on the bay several years ago when my interest was more the Fleet Week air show than sailing. But now, as a sailor, I find myself studying her details and making some sense of maze of ropes and lines that used to be a total puzzlement.

Back on the Estuary, my phone rings . . . its my friend Chuck Cline. Chuck is an accomplished musician who played the clubs of San Francisco music scene in the 1960's, earning himself an Emmy for a documentary music score in the '70's; today he is with The County Line Trio which is the only trio I know of that is made up of five members. Chuck and I talk once a week or so, often as not he seems to ring me when I'm sailing. We talk about music and sailing. I complain about the lack of wind today. Chuck mentions the Giants and A's are playing at AT&T Park (formerly SBC Park, formerly Pac-Bell Park.) I decide to set a course for McCovey Cove for some excitement in the party atmosphere to be found there.

NO HOT LINK . . . The Lady Washington in the distance (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)Our conversation completed, I look down the Estuary toward AT&T Park and the San Francisco skyline to see  Lady Washington  in the distance coming up the channel under sail. Too distant for a decent photo, I hold off taking pictures. In the light air, I am making slow progress. By the time I'm close enough for a first picture, at about a half-mile out, she has taken in her sails, and is orbiting in the Oakland Inner Harbor channel.

What the heck is this?
Entering the inner harbor turning basin, I see this magnificent hull at Bay Ship and Yacht Co. To my eye she looks like a tall ship. I hail the Skipper of a nearby vessel who tells me she is the C.A. Thayer. I know this vessel. Retired from Commercial service in 1950, following acquisition
The restored C.A. Thayer ready to splash at Bay Ship & Yacht Co, Alameda, CA (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)in 1957, and subsequent refitting, she became one of several display vessels with the San Francisco Maritime Museum at the Hyde Street Pier in 1963.

What an impressive site! The last time I was aboard the Thayer was close to 35 years ago; a year or so after returning home from the service. I recall that she seemed rather small, if over 200 feet could be considered small. But looking up at her from Lazy Ka with Lady Washington over my shoulder, I got a whole new perspective on her size. Lady Washington salutes C.A. Thayer  (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)I can imagine that when the project is completed the Thayer will be seaworthy once again, and we will be treated to views of this historic vessel sailing on San Francisco Bay once again.Lady Washington and C.A. Thayer  (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)

From my vantage I could see balloons on Thayer's foredeck, and bunting draped across her bow. It appeared that festivities were in store. As I approached I could hear bits and pieces from the speakers for the day's rededication and launch. I continued to ride the light breeze amid the gathered flotilla of sailboats, rowboats, canoes, and others, which offered more opportunity for close-up photo passes on Lady Washington. It was on one such pass that I was advised that they would be firing a salute to the Thayer. I moved around to set up an angle that allowed me to catch both vessels as the volley commenced. The first four Lady Washington and C.A. Thayer  (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)discharges were made from Lady Washington's port-side, the fifth and last coming from her starboard in my direction. I was now a little over 50 yards from the good Lady . . . talk about loud! The report shook me to my core.High-altitude housekeeping aboard Lady Washington (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)

In learning more of the Thayer online, I found that her early voyages were dominated by circuits between lumber operations at Grays Harbor, WA, and San Francisco Bay. Grays Harbor is home port to Lady Washington today. More on the C.A. Thayer restoration project can be found in a brief overview here, and Bay Ship and Yacht maintains a detailed photo gallery/chronology of the project here. Neat stuff!

I hung around for a few more pictures as the Thayer was lowered into the water, and Lady Washington made ready to depart. The crew aloft to secure her sails was an impressive site to see. I may well have had a better perspective that the folks aboard and along for the ride. The stern-view of the The C. A. Thayer, afloat again (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)Thayer below was snapped just as she began to float.

Hazards (joys) of the estuary
All this exposure to vintage sailing was enough alone to overwhelm the senses, but there was more. Behind me an incoming container ship YM Europe was being turned to berth at the Oakland Terminal. 
Big boat . . . right! (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)These ships appear massive enough when seen maneuvering about the bay or tied at their moorings. But to view them up-close from the water's surface gives them a towering presence making them appear even larger. The ritualistic ballet of these giants and their dwarf tenders, the tug boats, is slow and deliberate. On the other hand, the performance all comes off quickly with the vessel neatly situated for act II . . . the unloading.

On to buoy #6Hawaiian Chieftain motoring into the bay (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)
Under way, again outbound for the bay into a slightly stronger breeze, meant a series of tacks to make headway. Keeping me company along the way was the US Coat Guard on channel 16. There was lots of activity: a body--like in dead person--had been reported on Brooks Island, off Richmond. Most of the radio traffic revolved around the Coast Guard trying to get a fix on the location and then to establish jurisdiction for a response. It must be frustrating for the Coast Guard to deal with skippers who can't give accurate Lat. & Long. when making a report of this nature.

I catch up with the container ship YM Europe safely nestled at her berth where unloading operations are already underway. No time seems to be wasted in getting these vessels serviced, turned around, and back in transit to their next port of call. Then it's on out into the bay beyond Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. The parklands were conveyed to the Port of Oakland with the closing of the Navel Supply Depot in 1998. The subsequent dedication of the land gave public access to this part of the bay that had been denied for over 100 years.

So now I'm in the bay. This is usually the cause for some excitement as the winds are always blowing sufficient to make for some good and sometimes spirited sailing. Well the reciprocal to the "never say never" rule came into play. The wind stopped! . . . But one can always count on the winds picking up again in short order . . . NOT! Beyond the northern San Francisco waterfront I could see smoke blowing from the stack of still another container ship bound for Oakland. And toward the south, fog was visible flowing over the San Bruno hills; clearly indicating air movement there. But here, in the bay-middle, there was nothing. Becalmed I be.

So it remains for the better part of an hour. I relax, have a picnic lunch, watch the tall ships feigning battle a couple of miles distant, and many other sailboats motoring by in surrender to the conditions. As it becomes clear that my smoke-reference container ship is headed my way, I decide it best to get out of the channel Tugs maneuvering the C.A. Thayer to the Bay Ship & Yacht Co. docks (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)before she gets too close, so I fire up Lazy Ka's outboard, and head back in.

Back at the turning basin finds the C.A. Thayer, now fully afloat, being assisted to dock by a couple of local tugs. I again sail in close for another intimate look at this beauty. At a distance not more that 10 yards, I can clearly see the planking that makes up her hull. Sailing the Estuary channel with tall ships Lady Washington & Hawaiian Chieftain (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)She looks brand new! Absolutely gorgeous!

A gentle four knot breeze at my back pushes me up the Estuary toward Jack London Square once again. Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain overtaking me, offering another good photo-op of the tall ships through the rig of Lazy Ka. Royalty at rest, the tall ships Lady Washington & Hawaiian Chieftain (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)And one more chance to sail in close as they are tied up for the evening. Their flags in the picture to the left indicate the good breezes now being experienced.

On the final leg back to Grand Street I am overtaken by the slickest one-man sailing rig I seen yet. A 16' tri-hull, the Hobie Mirage NO HOTLINK . . . Hobie Mirage Adventure Island (PHOTO: Hobie Kayaks)Adventure Island has peddle power as well. Pictured here in a Hobie stock photo; more can be found on the the company site here. We talk as we sail, trading stories along the way. Before I know it I'm back at the ramp. It's time to end another great day of sailing.

Another tall ship, the Lynx, it turns out, is sailing Monterey Bay for the next couple of weeks before coming to Oakland for the Strictly Sail Boat Show (April 18-22.) I have since checked Lynx website to find that she will be in the greater Bay Area and Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta through June 18th, when she departs for Hawaii. The Lynx will return to San Francisco Bay for a brief stop-over, October 5-10. We will have many opportunities to see this beauty in action.