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October 30, 2018 By Dick Smith

What a Day on the Bay

One Saturday evening our PVE friends asked, “What are you doing tomorrow?” We were thrilled to be able to answer, “We’re sailing on the bay with our Petaluma buddies, George and Anita. They own a CAL 35 moored at the Richmond Marina. Eat your hearts out!” The following Monday morning when they inquired about the trip, our answer was simple: “We survived!”

Sailing on the San Francisco Bay is always an adventure but this time it was over the top.

The forecast predicted moderate winds. As we motored up the estuary around 11:30 a.m., we noticed an unusual number of sailboats headed back to their mooring with their sail covers already secured. We should have paid attention. Instead, we headed north towards Red Rock near the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge.

By the time we entered the bay the waves were heavy, rolling eastward. The wind was blowing out of the northwest at 22 knots and growing stronger. The bow was pitching seven feet up and down with each wave and heeling at least 45 degrees. On top of that, George and Anita were having an awful time getting the jib line untangled.

Through all this Marie sat tensely in the cockpit trying to keep out of the way. Too terrified to speak, she focused on praying that our four lives be spared.

Finally, the sails were set. George replaced Dick at the helm. Common sense set in. We decided to turn around and head back. But our punishment was not over. As we were coming about, a large cold wave crashed over us. We all got soaking wet!

Back in the estuary the waves diminished, but the strong winds continued. We tried to take the main sail down but it snagged in the spreader. Everyone focused on freeing it. Suddenly we heard George yelling, “We’re going to hit!” Marie went rigid again. Sure enough, we ran straight into the seawall. George put the engine in reverse and tried to back out. It was no use. We were stuck!

Soon another sailboat came along and attempted to throw us a line, but we had no luck catching it. George called the Richmond fire department. While we waited, a crowd of spectators began to form above the sea wall.

Before long, we could see the flashing red light of the rescue boat heading towards us. A line was tossed with a weight on our end enabling us to catch it. We were successfully pulled out. A big cheer went up!

The captain turned out to be George and Anita’s son-in-law. He, along with five other firemen became our heroes. Marie’s prayers were answered.

How did the four feel when the adventure was over? George was hard on himself thinking he should have started the engine sooner. Anita broke down crying as her emotions finally had time to catch up. Marie felt a sense of relief. As for Dick, he felt it was just another day sailing on the bay!

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