Sailboat camping on Tomales Bay, Spring 2012

April 21-22, 2012

On a Saturday in April, 24 intrepid people with an average age of 24 piled into three Flying Scots loaned by the generous and gracious Tejas conglomerate and Bill Moseley, as well as an assortment kayaks furnished by the Speh, Black, Kelly, and Jay households on Saturday morning. The goal was to arrive at Marshall Beach via boat, whether by kayaking or sailing, and spend the evening.  The campers came from as near as San Francisco and Berkeley and as far away as Sweden and New York City. Roughly 1/4 of the folks in attendance were physicists, and at least seven were accomplished sailors. Only one had majored in neither science nor engineering.  The weather was flawless: warm, sunny, and clear. Boats were packed, sunblock was liberally applied, and instructions for reaching the beach were meted out. A grand weekend awaited.

Convening upon Marshall Beach, the adventurers proceeded to build a campfire, dine on kebabs, and consume libations. Vegetarians were taught to shuck oysters and much dinner was consumed. Following the evening meal, s’mores were roasted on the fire and hot chocolate made. The skies cooperated as the fog cleared and a meteor shower graced the dark orb with fireballs. Breakfast was a rather gourmet affair, involving chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup whipped cream, as well as two types of sausages. An expedition was mounted to Lairds Landing to view the buildings left by Clayton Lewis and his fellow creatives.

Returning to the dock on Sunday was frustrated by a paucity of wind, which then turned southerly, further hampering efforts to sail back. The water was unseasonably warm, so numerous pirates dove into the water, swimming between boats and delivering booty from one vessel to another while waiting for the wind to return. Innovations that occurred during the weekend include a method for chilling oysters while sailing as well as exhaustive explorations into alternative Flying Scot propulsion methods whilst becalmed.

Satisfied with the success of their soiree, the adventurers have set their sights on the Kilkenny beach overnight party in August as their next movement in the burgeoning movement of occupying Tomales Bay. If you are in need of crew on your vessel between now and August, please do not hesitate to reach out and inquire regarding the availability of these enthusiastic youngsters.

Photos here and after the jump.

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December 3, 2011

The idea for this outing came in May after getting lunch in a Korean restaurant in North Cambridge.  Elisabeth would be in San Francisco for a Kepler science conference in December, and I’d promised her oysters and sailing.  We schemed with Andy, who would be moving to California, and all decided that we’d brave whatever cold weather awaited us in seven months in the name of mollusks and sailboats.

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A Japanese Thanksgiving in San Francisco

November 24-26, 2011

 Several of the boys from my lab at JAXA attended the a conference on fluids hosted by the American Physical Society in Baltimore in November, right before Thanksgiving.  The boss encouraged them to arrange a layover in San Francisco, and for me to take them to Thanksgiving with my family.  The boss’s ultimate goal is to get his students to think outside of Japan when it comes to future study or work: even if they do ultimately decide to remain in Japan, at least they’ll know what the other options are, or how other folks live their lives outside of Japan.

I could do even better than bringing the boys to a family Thanksgiving dinner: I invited Maro-san and Aikawa-san to a big celebratory meal at a friend’s converted warehouse for Thanksgiving, then to the Inverness Yacht Club for a post-Thanksgiving party the following Saturday.  They can watch US TV shows if they want a depiction of a Thanksgiving dinner in North America; here I could provide them something entirely unique.

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Lake Trophy 2011

October 15, 2011

The Lake Trophy is supposed to be a race only for women at the Inverness Yacht Club in honor of Mrs. Almira Lake.  In the last decade it’s only been raced once or twice as there are very few lady skippers who can round up enough female crew to have anything resembling a race.  I won a match race version of this in 2005 as the other boat spent the entire race looking at the views while Dorci and I worked on our rolltacks and blasted around the course.  Club champion Milly refuses to race in women-only races as she likes racing against her male friends.  What’s a club to do to combat flagging numbers in a race?

This year we allowed men to join in the racing if they made some effort to present as female. I supplied wigs, though many opted to race sans hair. The race committee co-opted my camera, and took many of the on-the-water photos.Thank you to the race committee for all their photographs and mark setting, and to Mark for being a fabulous crew and helping us get across the finish line in front of all the other boats.

The boat that wound up winning was the only one with an all-female crew.  Congratulations to everyone who raced!  It was great to see a lot of folks who don’t usually steer as skippers.

The local Vanguard 15 fleet happened to be visiting the Inverness Yacht Club that weekend.  “Are things usually like this around here?”

In a word,


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Meyers Race 2011

October 2, 2011

The race season at the Inverness Yacht Club extended into the autumn in 2011, giving us races with just enough wind for Mark Darley and I to be consistently competitive, coming in first or second in most races before corrected time.  Joining Ross Valley Crossfit gave me enough strength to wrangle the various spinnaker lines on his Johnson 18, resulting in a fall sailing season with rainbows marking the end of our races.

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A Covey of Quail

I’ve been tutoring a couple in West Marin, teaching them how to use their computer, their printer, their iPod, and their camera.  Milly has taken to gardening while listening to Pandora Radio on the iPod. Richard was so inspired that he printed out a booklet of his poetry and prose and gave it to his sister for Christmas!  His latest project has been a photo of the day blog.  A recent entry was a covey of quail, perched on the boom of a Flying Scot at the Inverness Yacht Club.

Quail perched on a sailboat

I was drawn to how they’re pointing in different directions, and the blueness of the water. Way to go, Richard!

I’m off to Massachusetts for four months to finish my master’s thesis.  Here’s to more sailing on that coast!

Mudskipping Southward

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.

Shoved off Heading south and preparing the spinnaker

Being tailed 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.

Spinnaker rigging
Rigging the spinnaker

Content crew

Three Peaks
Three Peaks

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 on the water
Thistledown scattering over the water

Tule rushes
Tule rushes

Stowing sails
Stowing sails

Tied up at the bridge
Tied up at the Green Bridge

Ned with the armadaAdmiral 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.

Return trip
Steering along the creek

Sailing down the creek from town
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
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.

Work Day 2010

Running a non-profit is a difficult undertaking: you have to follow by-laws, keep your members happy, raise money, run board meetings, and figure out the most efficient ways to spend your members’ dollars.  One way the Inverness Yacht Club keeps costs down is by encouraging members to help with a good deal of the facilities maintenance.  Once a year, the community gathers for a day of cleaning, fixing, and generally getting the club ready for another season of sailing and use.

Past work day projects included replacing rotten portions of the dock, fixing rotting 4x4s in the Laser rack, weed-whacking the entire yard, trimming ivy on a fence, and cleaning motorboats.  This last weekend saw the 2010 edition of work day, as well as several dozen members ranging in age from eight to 80 showing up, wielding paintbrushes, screwdrivers, and reciprocating saws.

Taking apart a Flying Scot

Removing hardware from a boat

I was initially given the task of removing deck hardware from the aging Blue Bonnet, a venerable Flying Scot with a very soft hull, deemed unfit for continued usage by both the adult and youth sailing programs.  The treasurer, a staff commodore, another member, and I spent the better part of the morning unscrewing racing-grade blocks and cleats, ripping out foam flotation, and contending with cotter pins.

On the other side of the yard, two more crews were cleaning off dirt and stripping old blocks and cleats from the boats that would replace Blue Bonnet.  Eventually, they began upgrading the “new” boats with the hardware from Blue Bonnet and even managed to tune the replacement boats a bit in preparation for the upcoming racing season.  What’s to come of Blue Bonnet?  Rumor has it that it’ll turn up at Burning Man as a traveling art boat.  Banshee‘s set for the landfill.

Sawzalling a broken trailer

In other parts of the yard and club, folks painted dollies, cleaned windows, removed cobwebs, painted the hoists, trimmed (not nuked) the infamous ivy, cut weeds, and made lunch for the small army of conscripts.  After lunch, I headed to the kitchen to 409 as many levels surfaces as I could, bleach drawers, and make the stove hood a little more appetizing.

Other folks continued to work in the blazing sun: the commodore, his crew, and my father removed a centerboard from a boat slated for the dump.  Sawzalls emerged and various boats and their trailers met their demise.

After most club members had retreated home, a few intrepid souls continued tuning the new Flying Scots and pulling weeds. Their reward: 200 fresh oysters retrieved via motorboat from the farm across the bay. All and all, a great day of work and helping the club keep maintenance costs down.

Marshall Beach Campout

As the newly-installed secretary of the Inverness Yacht Club, trying to keep board meetings short is one of my priorities, especially when the tides after the meeting are high enough to launch a boat!

I reserved the aging Flying Scot Banshee with the intention of sailing up to Marshall Beach with the ebb tide one afternoon in mid-February, camping overnight, and sailing back down on the flood tide the next day. If the winter wind failed to materialize, at least we’d be drifting in the right direction thanks to the tide! We rigged Banshee after the February yacht club board meeting, stowed sleeping bags and provisions in the front of the hull, and prepared to make tracks for the beach. We borrowed one of the club spinnakers–a lightweight, almost parachute-like sail–wondering if it’d be useful on the return trip the next day.

The wind was light, but filled in a bit as we launched from the club and headed north and upwind. While the southern end of the bay was still, the area around Marshall was abuzz with winter activity: numerous seals, huge flocks of birds, several kayaks, a trimaran, and a 30′ cabin cruiser that had anchored at Lairds Landing.

We arrived at Marshall Beach just as the sun was setting and went about setting up camp in a grove of cypress trees. Aside from two kayakers camping further down the beach, we had the place to ourselves. Before the fog rolled in, the stars came out and we were treated to a stunning view of Mars surrounded by crystal clear winter constellations. In the morning we awoke to a brightening blanket of fog… and to find our breakfast had been stolen by ringed bandits (or in local parlance, “raccoons”). (Note for next time: a locking cooler in the boat would probably keep them away. And put the permits on the outside of the tent so that the park ranger doesn’t wake you up at 8:30 am.)

In the daylight, Marshall Beach has a lot to offer: a fallen cypress tree to climb on over the still bay, bright orange torch lilies, and access to Lairds Landing, the former home of the Coast Miwok as well as artist Clayton Lewis. Our grove of cypress trees were decorated with spider webs glistening in the morning dew. A trail takes you to the top of the ridge, providing panoramic views of both the ocean and Tomales Bay.

After losing our breakfast to the raccoons (can you tell I’m still bitter?), we faced a long lazy return sail to the club, though the rising tide helped move us in the right direction. Around Indian Beach we finally had a few knots of breeze behind us, so we hoisted the spinnaker and gained a bit more speed as the tide turned slack and began to ebb. Some curious seals poked their heads out of the water and followed us back to Inverness as we admired the verdant hills, blossoming acacia trees, and thinning clouds.

It’s easy enough to camp out on Tomales Bay—permits from the Park Service are $15 for up to six people for one evening, and you can change the date of the permit once. The day of your expedition, pick up your camping and fire permits from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, pack your boat with your friends, and head off. With daytime temperatures in the 60s and the night bringing the mercury down to the mid-40s, now is a great time to be taking full advantage of this glorious bay. Winter affords us a time of year devoid of tourist activity, so it’s the perfect opportunity to explore a new trail, an old beach, or test your outdoor cooking skills.