Boat and Beach Camping on Tomales Bay, 2013

August 17-18, 2013

Arriving at a beach on Tomales Bay by boat and spending the night must go back to the time of the Miwok.  Inverness Yacht Club members have sailed, motored, paddled, and rowed to Kilkenny or Marshall or Heart’s Desire beaches for overnights for so long that it’s a hallowed tradition. Continue reading

Sailing on the seas of Titan

It’s past 3 am and we’re observing asteroids with the Arecibo planetary radar system. In the lulls between experiments, Twitter conversations covered everything from the Russian bolide explosion, 2012 DA14, Toutatis, rain on Titan, and some jokes about sailing on Saturn’s largest moon. The sky is falling, what else will you talk about?

Who would run the Titan sailing expedition?  I suggested myself and nominated Sarah as admiral; an aeronomer offered to be railmeat.  Cracks about how we’d all be “squidbate” went back and forth.  Brian christened our ship “The Calamari”.  Alex designed a mission badge.

Before I knew it, Justin “@UrbanAstroNYC” Starr had turned the whole conversation into a meme.

From @UrbanAstroNYC, “Sondy and friends go sailing on Titan”, with apologizes to Charles Schultz

My grandfather Bill Littlejohn used to animate Peanuts; he would have been 99 this year.  An animator, union organizer, test pilot, and airplane designer, his long and varied career reminds me that it’s okay that mine is taking a variety of twists and turns through technical and creative pursuits.  Bill grew up in a sailing family, and a few of his hand-illustrated birthday cards that he’d mail or fax every year involved sailboats and depictions of me with short brown hair.

Thank you, Grandpa, for all you created and gave; you’re living on as we continue to explore the cosmos.

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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Oystering

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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Marshall Beach Boat Camping in November

November 12-13, 2011

The blue brig

Autumn continued, warm and dry.  The tides were in our favor one weekend, so a bunch of us piled into a Flying Scot and sailed up to a beach as two compatriots kayaked up the bay to join us.


A panorama for your scrolling enjoyment.

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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,

“Yes.”

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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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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

Skippering
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.

New England visit

A few shots from exploring Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York with a strong emphasis on water.

Sailboats on the Charles from the Red Line
Community Boating holds a race off the Longfellow Bridge

Dewey, Cheetham & Howe offices
Not quite sailboat related, but still entertaining.

What a cute window display
Her dress matches the coral-print fabric in the store

Anderson Bridge
The Charles River as seen from the Anderson Bridge

Photographing sunflowers
Sunflowers at the Copley Square market

Reflected light
Reflected light on Destiny

Sailing on Destiny
Sailing on Destiny

Through the bimini
View through the bimini

Stern Marge
Marge on the stern

Fireboat plume
Fireboat plume

Steering Destiny
Steering Destiny

Kaycee snoozes
Kaycee snoozing

Sound Structure
Sound structure

More here.