Monday, June 06, 2016

Harbor Report: Racing on the high seas

By: Len Bose

I just returned from the first two legs of the California Offshore Race Week, from San Francisco to Monterey and Monterey to Santa Barbara, aboard the Santa Cruz 50 Horizon.
This Friday is the start of the final leg from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
The first thing you notice while sailing in Northern California, especially in San Francisco Bay, is that it is cold, picturesque and horribly intimidating. The wind is always blowing in the 20-knot range and local sailors always show up to the boat with their foul-weather gear pants on.
Once the butterflies go away, normally after the first or second tack, the scenery starts to get your attention. The city's shoreline, Alcatraz and of course the Golden Gate Bridge, just leave you in awe until the next 30-knot wind hits you and the boat tries to wobble out from under you while sailing downwind with a spinnaker up.
We started the first leg one of the race in good shape in relation to our competition and sailed under the gate and out into a body of water referred to as the "potato patch." The wind was blowing in the high teens and we were in race, rather than survival, mode.
As we started to head south near Lands End Point the breeze dropped to around 10 knots and we saw our first pod of whales traveling north. We altered our course to miss the pod.

Just as we thought we were well clear of the pod, two whales breached the water just below us. We bumped into the first one and rode up on the back of the second. I was sitting on the weather rail in all my foul-weather gear and life harness, looking similar to the Michelin Man, when the whales came up from beneath us.
I could barely spit out the word "whale" before we bumped into them. By the time we rode on the second whale I was still trapped under the lifeline looking straight down the whale's spout and I got slimed when the whale spouted.
There was lots going on in this race other than just the sailing. While leaving Monterey, on leg two, we witnessed a great white shark leap out of the water and grab hold of a large seal lion. We were close enough to see the expression on the sea lion's face and it was not having a good day.

While approaching Santa Barbara we noticed another pod and started joking that the whales were looking for us after running into their friends. We made a substantial change in course and yet we came extremely close to running into another whale. We had to have startled this one because it made a quick dive and the tail fin came well out of the water and threw a wave over the boat.
We are doing well in the race. On leg one we finished first in class and fourth overall. Leg two we finished second in class and fourth overall.
We are looking strong going into the final leg to San Diego this weekend. Wish us luck again.

While working around the harbor this last week I noticed the sea lions are making their presence know again, as they do every summer.
If you have a boat on a mooring you had better go check on your boat and place sea lion deterrents on your boat and docks.
New idea I am staring this week — boat name of the week. Call me if you have any ideas.
Let's start with "Good Ju Ju."
Sea ya.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist for the Daily Pilot.

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