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  • Writer's pictureJaclyn

Around Mendocino and Onto San Fransisco! Sailing Down the West Coast (Part 5)

September 2, 2023

Finally! After a week of fun in Eureka, we had a weather window to round the infamous Cape Mendocino and were ready. Or were we? 

Mendocino is the pointiest part of the West Coast. It’s also where several underwater benches (???) meet. This combination produces weird weather patterns, usually solid winds, waves, and significant currents. We’d received some good intel from locals on how/when to cross, and we’d been studying the wind and waves to make the passage comfortable. Before we could burst out into the ocean to tackle this passage, we needed to cross another bar. A logistical challenge for sure.

We checked the tides, and the evening slack tide would work with our timing for rounding the cape. So we tidied up the boat and prepared to shove off at 8 pm, in the dark. Even Tater Tot was happy to see us leave, and he gave up his pillow from our dock lines so we could untie and get going.

“Hey. Our depth sounder isn’t working”. 

“Weird. I bet it’s just a connection issue. I’ll go below and check it. Just keep us on the deep parts of the charts.” 

No problem. Mark went below to check the electrical connections and hoped it was just a glitch. No dice.

“Soooo, it’s not working. I will reset the whole system to see if that’ll work.”


“Just follow the channel markers.”

Cool cool. Cool. Did I mention we left in the dark? Did I mention that it was also foggy, so visibility was limited. Thankfully, I could make out the markers and was reasonably confident we were in deep enough water. 

Phew! The chart plotter and radar are back on! Awesome. The depth sounder isn’t. WTF. 

“Well. It’s broken. We’ll have to go without”. 

So onward, we went in the dark fog, assuming the water was deep enough towards the bar crossing. The shallow bar crossing. Really shallow. Getting into the bar requires a 90-degree turn into the channel, where we took the swell right on the beam. It was a non-issue, but the whole boat was rolled to one side. Once in the main bar channel, we just plodded our way out into the foggy abyss and onwards to that pointy piece of land.

Mark and a tuna
Caught a tasty fish along the way!

It was uneventful. As with what would become every cape, Mark slept through the entire thing, and I motored around it and watched for the “impending doom” we were warned about. It never came, the sun rose, and we were well on our way to San Fransisco.

We rounded the corner into Drake’s Bay and set the anchor. It was too late in the day to continue on to San Fransisco. We wanted to head over in the morning so we could cross under the bridge in the daylight hours….and hopefully get that iconic picture of the bridge.

Pretty Drake’s Bay

After a restful night at anchor, we started out towards San Fransisco. And we saw endless whales. There were so many that we both agreed we’d be happy not to see any again. We dodged our cetacean pals for hours until we could see the Golden Gate on the horizon. The camera came out, and we urged the boat to move faster.

The wind complied with our request, and we had some of the best sailing of the trip right under the bridge. An excellent 15 knots from behind and, miraculously, no shipping or boat traffic on our way through the bridge. We took eight million photos of the bridge and ourselves sailing under it. We did it! We made it to what we felt was a huge milestone - San Fransisco.

Two tired but very happy sailors!

We cruised into port, dropped the anchor and got ready to explore what would be our home for the next week or so.

NM Sailed: 248



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