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Pink Full Moon Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 March 2012 00:00

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Sailing the Bay of a night with a full moon rising above you is a wondrous event. It is even more wondrous more SEA members don't want to do it!

On Friday April 6, there was such a 'Pink' full moon. This was Summer Solstice's maiden departure from her new berth at Pier 39. After a year's exile from Gas House Cove to Clipper Harbor, she now finds solace in the surge of Pier 39, close to seals and tourists.Only Thad Glass joined skipper John Paul Watts at 1830 at gate D, slip 44.

It was a clear and warm spring night. By 1920, we departed the slip with Thad at the wheel. Pier 39 presents its own problems: not only wind and current but a violent surge can affect the boat under any circumstances. Fortunately, the surge was down, the wind light to moderate - fortuitous conditions because you wouldn't want to drop your gaberdine to your knees in front of tourists, right? There is a sharp turn immediately at the harbor mouth exit, often made ominous by looming and gigantic cruise ships alongside pier 35. Thad managed the hairpin impeccably and had us raise sails to wind: there was a minor issue with the main - lack of lubrication in mast track, reefing lines self-reefing, boomvang or mainsheet not loose enough but we made good in the end (no new-fangled devices for Summer Solstice, such as a roller furler jib). Keeping sharp lookout (Rule 5) for moving or flashing lights, other than landside traffic signals, and heading NNW, we were chatting about things nautical, enjoying the warmth of the evening, when we realized the moon had snuck up behind us into the sky over Alcatraz. How full she was: roundly perfect. Almost pink! Blushing, perhaps, from the brazenness of slipping our attention.

Slipping our attention, too, was the beginning flood: despite 8 knots of wind, 150% jib and the centerboard down, Summer Solstice was looking to make the Alcatraz shoreline (that 'rock' is such a pain in the transom, isn't it?). Then, disturbing our peace and the serenity of the moon further, a container ship with a string of white lights was rounding Alcatraz in the north channel toward 'HR' and Little Harding. We were forced to evaluate if we were or were not in its path (Rule 9), and must take evasive action. Fortunately, the beast passed two (of its) boat-lengths across our bow. The wind was now a breeze and we, still short of Harding Rock buoy. 'Ready to Tack' called out the helm - and so we did, hardening up to put distance between we and the 'rock', for now that flood was stronger. Our range mark was the Palace of Fine Arts but the further we sailed the closer we pointed to the St Frances yacht club: yep, that thar current was setting us East.

The moon was now higher and whiter in the sky, and, matey, were we impressed! But calm waters are always ruffled: under the Golden Gate Bridge loomed a - what? and which way would it go? Richmond? Oakland? For a while we made out an impossibly dim green light with two white lights high up, one ahead and lower than the other - steamer lights. 'Ah,' we said, 'green means heading to Richmond - but wait.....' We espied dimly green and red lights - the 'it' was heading for Oakland, coming straight for us! Rule 9 again - we must not impede a ship in restricted waters. Will we clear its bow or must we come about? It was still some quarter of a mile off but....Then we realized the ship had lost its red light - we could only make out the green.

Yes! This meant we had crossed its intended course and it would pass astern of us. With one set of beady eyes watching the ship (a container no less with freight US of A can't make anymore) and the other set watching the 'set' (yes, now we were heading for Fort Mason), we surrendered to the flood: falling off, we broad-reached toward the Bay bridge - or rather 'broad-currented' - past Aquatic park, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and to the Ferry Building. Our intention was to pass under the bay bridge: with the Ferry Building more or less abeam of us at 2135, we dragged out the iron sail, lowered the jib and made for port, the moon lighting our way. With minimum breeze and a quiet surge in the harbor (those container ships set up surge like nobody's business!), we berthed Summer Solstice at 2210. put her to bed and allowed ourselves a well deserved glass of wine. Of course, you can guess to what we raised our glasses....!

 

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