Getting ready for a vacation is almost as much work as working! The boat needs washing, the tanks need filling, the stores need replenishing and it is not just people who require restocking, we must not forget the cat. God forbid I should be anchored someplace idle and we run out of kitty litter. That would not do at all. Lists are being made and items, crossed off as they arrive, are sorted and stored. My little refrigerator is already packed like a sardine can. The challenge is going to be where to fit everything.
We will begin our Great Boating Journey of 2018 anchored at Clipper Cove. Mary Buckman is planning to join us for a couple of days on board her Cheoy Lee Clipper Ketch, Shantung. It seems like we are always saying, let’s go boating but the timing is never right. This time we made the timing work. Both boats are fresh from recent engine services so they should be good to go, Mary is bringing steaks to barbecue, I will provide the accompanying side dishes and galley slave duties and Sweetie, bless his heart, will be in charge of barbecuing but most importantly, making the Mai Tai’s.
The first thing we saw as were leaving Oyster Cove was our new Harbormaster, Jason Koulouris, working on the channel markers. Jason, like other Harbormaster’s before him, had to correct me on the spelling of his name. Our previous Harbormaster, Tim Christopher, became Tim O’Neil and the Harbormaster before Tim was Dick Timothy which I also managed to spell incorrectly. Why do we never get a Smith or Jones as a Harbormaster?
Shantung and Dancing Dragon ride very well together at anchor as both boats have a similar bottom configuration. I hope I can say the same about Mary’s cat Charlie and our own boat cat, Eartha Kitt. The two cats have never been formally introduced.
Our brown tabby Eartha is a friendly, curious cat who was pushed overboard a few years ago by a Tango, the large brute owned by our former neighbor Dean Altschuller. Eartha had been exploring on board Fellowship while we were anchored together at Clipper Cove when Tango snuck up behind her and gave her a shove or a nudge. Eartha jumped right, when she should have jumped left, and the next thing we knew a wet cat was climbing out of the drink by way of our swim ladder which we always leave down for her whenever we anchor. I hope nothing like that happens again, but with crazy cats you just never know.
A gentleman named Philip Kiefer who works for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Tiburon contacted Bay & Delta Yachtsman recently with an alert for all Bay Area boaters. The Marine Invasions lab which tracks invasive species arrivals around the Bay, is trying to ramp up public awareness of Chinese Mitten Crabs. You might remember the Mitten Crab outbreak in the late 90’s when people were hauling up hundreds of thousands of the little crabs every year. No one has seen the Mitten Crabs in the SF Bay since 2010, but the agency doesn’t know if that is because the crabs are no longer here or if it is because closer inspection is necessary.
The continued search for the Mitten Crab was stepped up on the East Coast earlier this year and, unfortunately, there are new reports of mitten crabs all along the mid-Atlantic.
The key to identifying the Mitten Crab is its furry claws. All adult crabs have white-tipped claws that are equal in size. Mitten Crabs adapt to both salt and fresh water environments.
Getting the word out to fishermen and boaters in the Bay Area and Delta region is vital so that people can be on the lookout for the crabs and report them if found.
What to do if you find a Mitten Crab? Do Not Throw It Back Alive! The Smithsonian Research lab wants to see it. Freeze the animal, if possible. Make a note of the precise location the crab was found, take multiple close-up photos then send the information to http:mittencrab.nisbase.org
Our time spent with Mary at Clipper Cove went far too quickly. The steak dinner was spectacular thanks to the Bar-bee-cutest, Captain Sweetie, and the purveyor of the steaks, Mary. The cats behaved and, more importantly, stayed dry and a good time was had by all. After a quiet night we untied Mary and set her on her way back home, then headed north toward Loch Lomond Marina where we were to pick up our next guest.
Debby is a long-time friend. Because we were on an extended cruise and not returning to the dock for a few days her husband acquiesced to drive her to San Rafael so that she could join us for an overnight at anchor at China Camp and then pick her up the following day at the Napa Valley Yacht Club where we had made reservations for a guest slip.
Dancing Dragon is not set up to accommodate overnight guests. The guest cabin has been transformed into a garage/hanging locker and the only available spare bed is concocted by lowering the dinette. It is an uncomfortable single at best so Dabby’s poor hubby was left to his own devices and to serve as taxi. To minimize the pain of being left behind we took Dabby and Fritz on a short cruise down the San Rafael Canal which they both seemed to enjoy. It’s always good to see a place from the water because it provides an entirely different perspective.
We returned to Loch Lomond, dropped off Fritz, then continued on our way to anchor at China Camp overnight before departing for Napa the following morning. Dabby was an excellent boat guest who kept her belongings tidy and in one place and didn’t complain or get sea sick, even though the anchorage at China Camp caused us to rock and roll. We laughed, drank, carried on like silly girls and played our favorite board game until we finally decided it was time to call it a day. Getting the dinette to cooperate with the bedtime agenda was peppered with colorful language but eventually it succumbed and every available pillow and down comforter was brought upstairs and piled high so that our dear friend wouldn’t feel the chill. The following morning we woke early to a flooding tide so it was a quick breakfast and then anchors aweigh. How many times did the Vallejo Ferry pass us as we crossed San Pablo Bay? Too numerable to count. We had to get uncomfortably close to the Mare Island Causeway Bridge to be able to read the phone number to request a lift but once I dialed the number on my cell phone, the bridge was quickly opened.
The trip up the Napa River was easy and we were welcomed to the Napa Valley Yacht Club dock by Greg Parker who provided us with a key to the gate. Not long after we were settled onto the guest dock Fritz arrived so that he could rejoin his wayward wife and enjoy a tour of the Napa River. We hustled him on board, untied the lines and headed upriver to see the new municipal dock which boasts no overnighting, no cooking on board, and basically saying “thank you very much, leave your money in town at the restaurants and then go away quickly.” Better to spend my money at the friendly yacht club instead, don’t you think? We were surprised at the $45 overnight fee at the NVYC, but perhaps that is the new trend in reciprocal privileges.
Captain Sweetie had been at the helm for about 10 hours by the time Dabby and Fritz departed, having driven all the way from China Camp to Napa, then downriver again as far as Cuttings Wharf and finally back to the NVYC to conclude the guest/tour portion of our vacation. Poor old Sweetie was pretty much knackered and, as a matter of fact, so was I. Sometimes being charming can be so exhausting.
Once on our own we never left the boat except to return the gate key the following morning. I was anxious to get to an open anchorage where life was simpler, and we found it! South of town, past the beautiful river front homes on Edgerly Island Road and where the confluence of the salt flats meets the Napa river there is a wide, shallow stretch of water. Mariners know this area as the Keel Eater because it is so very easy to go aground there.
We anchored just outside the channel markers and settled into blessed silence and a glorious view. The entire Carneros Wine growing region was spread before us with Mt. George to the north, Mt. Tamalpias to the south and Mt. Diablo to the east. I love a wide open anchorage with broad vistas and this was ideal. Had it been windy we would have moved on but the weather was balmy and calm. We quickly settled into vacation mode. I did a little painting on the flying bridge while Sweetie settled into his recliner to read. Cocktails were enjoyed, dinner was made and books read until it was time to turn in. I made a quick tour of the deck and found the anchor was holding well and all systems green. Everything was perfect until 4:00 a.m. when a bright flashing white light woke me from a sound sleep.
I had been a little concerned about our choice of location because I knew that tugs with barges frequently traverse the Napa River, but we were anchored outside of the channel. The possibility of a barge swinging wide on its tether was one of my concerns but Sweetie assured me that the Mare Island Causeway Bridge didn’t open between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. so the likelihood of an impact between those hours was unlikely.
The flashing light outside the window brought me out of a very sound sleep and bolt upright in bed. I did take a moment to throw on some clothes, just in case I was going to have to deal with the USCG or some other enforcement official. A quick scan of the surroundings assured me that we were in no danger and in fact, we were all alone on the moon lit water. The flashing that had awakened me was from Sweetie’s solar powered anchor light, which was just about out of batteries and the flashing was its way of letting us know. Disaster Diverted!
We found the spot so pleasant that we stayed for another day, just because we could. We hadn’t intended to spend two nights in our new favorite anchorage but it was so peaceful there.
We didn’t make it to the Delta this year. Sweetie had been ill and missed work the week before we left for this vacation. He didn’t feel he could afford to miss 2 weeks of work so we headed back down bay, stopping at China Camp to overnight, yet again. We had lost the tail end of the ebb and we were still in vacation mode so why not?
The following morning we stopped in Emeryville to pick up fuel. 228 gallons filled the tanks to the brim and loaded up our credit cards just in time for Christmas.
It is a good idea to fill your fuel tanks before winter, at least that is what I’ve been told. Apparently moisture condenses in the void of a partially empty fuel tank. Everybody knows that water and oil don’t mix and engines would rather drink the straight stuff.
While we were fueling in Emeryville we ran into Steve Ingram and Wayne Goldman who have opened a new kind of brokerage. Atomic Tuna Yachts hopes to change the way used boat brokers do business including the sharing of commissions of each yacht sold between all sales staff to encourage the team to work together to make buying and selling a boat easier for all involved. Good luck boys! Contact Atomic Tuna Yachts at www.atomictunayachts.com or call 888-833-TUNA.
Our Mary Buckman is a busy gal. Currently she is very active with both the children’s and women’s sailing classes at the Bay View and Mariposa/Hunter’s Point Yacht Clubs. The popular program has been instrumental in helping women boaters feel more comfortable at the helm. I only wish they had a class for twin screws. Every time I touch the throttles on this damn boat it costs me $$$$!
The ladies have a bit of classroom instruction each week and then it’s out onto the water where they put into practice what they have learned in class. Being able to handle a small boat all by yourself is very empowering and builds confidence, not to mention being buckets of fun.
Getting away from the dock for a week was just what the doctor ordered even though we didn’t make it to the Delta again this year. Everything on the boat worked well, including the generator, thanks to my friends at Fathom Marine. We didn’t run out of anything, thanks to Sweetie the provisioner and the weather cooperated and remained mild the entire time we were away.
I hope that your summer on the water was as successful. We all spend a lot of money and energy on these floating holes-in-the-water. It’s always best if they, in return, treat you gently.
If you have questions, comments or contributions please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Until next month, be safe, go boating and enjoy life! H