Can you get from Inverness to Point Reyes Station in a sailboat with a tall mast? What are the obstacles that one might face with a 20’ aluminum tube protruding straight up from your ship? Are there any powerlines that might hinder sailing along Papermill Creek?
On Saturday morning after the Inverness Yacht Club’s October board meeting, Ned Congdon and I intended to find out empirically if a sail to Point Reyes Station from the Inverness Yacht Club was possible. A small armada began rigging two Flying Scots to navigate the narrow channels of Papermill Creek to Point Reyes Station. In the blue Club Scot were my friend Zach from Pasadena, my housemate Emily, staff commodore Mark, and me; in Ned’s boat was his sailing partner Steve and Ned’s son Aaron. Ned has been sailing into Point Reyes Station to grab lunch at Café Reyes for years, so we figured it’d be a grand opportunity to join him and learn a thing or two about sailing south through the narrow channels, as well as to verify for ourselves if such a trip could be accomplished. Our crew grabbed a spinnaker and set off toward Papermill Creek in the last bits of the rising tide and light winds, Ned hot on our heels as we turned south for Point Reyes Station.
Heading south and preparing the spinnaker
Ned behind, chute up
Eventually, we let Ned pass us since he knew the entrance to the channel. We tried to keep up with him without a spinnaker, then decided it was time to hoist the kite. Alas, the pin on our pole broke, so we were faced with a dilemma: be left in Ned’s wake, or pop the chute without a pole? Mark decided to go with the latter, so we gurgled down the bay, chasing Ned with our spinnaker flying poleless high above our boat.
Rigging the spinnaker
The wind was blowing perfectly for our sail into the channel cut by the creek and we had an effortless downwind cruise toward White House Pool. Motorists stopped on the side of Sir Francis Drake to watch and a coupled leaned out of the window of their house to video the two 18’ boats navigate a channel maybe 60’ wide. Several kayakers seemed confused that sailboats were encroaching on their territory.
Thistledown scattered over the creek’s surface in the small puffs of breeze. It felt exceptionally like autumn as we drifted alongside the verdant shrubs and golden grasses of the former cow pastures. We tied up at the Green Bridge without encountering any powerlines or other deterrents to our forward progress. Thus, it has been established that it is possible to sail into town without incident. We set off to find oysters and wait for the tide to turn.. You can find the route we took to Point Reyes Station here.
Thistledown scattering over the water
Tied up at the Green Bridge
Admiral Ned posing with the armada
When we did leave Point Reyes, we had some difficulty tacking out of the narrow portion of the creek in the flaky wind, and Ned got mixed up with some willows growing on the bank. The eastern channel proved to be rather narrow, so we put Zach on the tiller, Mark on the jib and main sheets, and me on the centerboard line as if it was controlling a third sail. Emily’s job was to make sure nothing jammed as we hauled the board up and down during countless tacks across Papermill Creek.
Steering along the creek
Ned’s boat sailing down the channel to the bay
The ebb was so strong at this point that the creeks rushing into the channel looked like raging rivers. We saw a family swimming through the rapids through a gap in a railroad levy. At this point, we were focusing on navigating the channel and not getting stuck on the ground, rather than how our admiral was doing. When we looked behind us, we saw the nose of his boat stuck in the mud.
A few tacks later Mark asked, “Where’s Ned?” We scanned the southern horizon as we fought weatherhelm to return to the club in the strengthening wind, and I spotted the white hull of the other Scot. “Ned’s capsized.” “Well, there’s nothing we can do for him until we get a motorboat at the club and go back for him,” responded Mark.
We sailed on, anxious, glancing south under the sails, eager for visual updates. “He’s back upright!” “He’s capsized again.” “He’s up again, but his sails are down.” We lowered our centerboard as far as we dared in the dropping tide and raced to the club. Mark and Zach launched the Whaler to rescue Admiral Ned, while Emily and I took our Scot out of the water and watched the rescue efforts.
The Whaler returned with Ned’s Scot in tow, containing a very broken centerboard and tiller, as well as a damp ego or three. While I was grateful for the chance to see part of Tomales Bay that I’ve never explored by boat and to prove that one can indeed sail into Point Reyes Station, we were glad that everyone had been wearing personal flotation devices, numerous people were aware of our sail plans, and that several folks in the vicinity knew how to operate a safety boat. As winter approaches, let your friends know where you’re going, pack your foul weather gear, your lifejackets, and your radios. Happy sailing!
Broken centerboard and tiller
Another casualty was my camera: as there was nothing I could eat at Café Reyes aside from butternut squash soup, the effects of protein deprivation hit rather hard and I wound up falling off the dock with my beloved Canon Digital Rebel 300D. We’ll see if it works after drying out for a week. The rest of its last photos are here. Zach and Jim also took a few shots.