Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CIYC 2014 Down Bay Cruise: Notes on the Most Recent in a 30+Year Tradition

A handful of Caliente’s most intrepid cruisers carved away 10 days from their other lives a couple of weeks ago to enjoy living on their boats and seeing the sights of San Francisco Bay.  The Green's  Southern Bell and the Page's Delta Moon left Discovery Bay on Wednesday October 8th, a day ahead of the formal launch of the cruise.  They tied to the docks at the Pittsburg Yacht Club that night.  The following day they joined up with the Lyman's on Happy Clown heading for Benicia.  

On entering Suisun Bay all three were immediately hit  by the worst that area can deliver—slamming waves and spray over the tops of the boats.  But this ended within an hour or so and far calmer water was the story for the rest of the day’s cruise.  Joined by the Curtis-Brown's Dream Catcher  a couple of hours later, all Caliente Cruisers were stearned in at the marina fuel dock by early afternoon. Fleet Captain Bill Ritter, who's Suzy Q was already at its permanent slip in the marina, assisted in the docking. Chairs were brought out, and hors d’oeurvres appeared. Afternoon naps were taken while some walked over to the Farmer’s Market and picked up last minute food, flowers, etc.  Dinner was at the Benicia Yacht Club. You could say that the basic daily routine of the cruise was in place.  All was good.

Friday morning saw another part of the daily routine set — a  9 AM Skipper’s Meeting. The Fleet Captain reviewed the docking plan at Treasure Island, the next destination.  All the skippers checked in with their experience and warnings from earlier cruises, “watch for 40 mph ferries,” “stay out of the restricted channels,” “don’t forget CIYC’s tradition of Bloody Marys when passing under bridges.”  All was ready and the five boats departed about 10 AM under overcast skies and slightly threatening fog which fortunately never appeared. The day’s cruise was uneventful; the Bay never looked better and docking at TI was without drama.  Fleet Week air show participants practiced overhead and the Blue Angels made an appearance, leaving without a show apparently concerned with patchy fog. The routine continued.

Saturday was guest day for Caliente’s Cruisers.  Every boat had visitors—family, friends and other club members (Red and Betty Griffith  joined the Pages.)  The air show went on without a hitch, even though some of us sitting directly on the TI water front moved inland to escape a brisk breeze. That breeze all but disappeared by happy hour. The weather turned from OK to outstanding.  The Pages called for a movie night.  What could be more fun than a boat load of very happy CIYCers on Delta Moon watching the very funny movie “Captain Ron.” It was a riot even though some had seen the movie so many times that they uttered  the lines before they were delivered on screen. Finally, after earlier appearances, a near-perfect full moon appeared, rising next to the new Bay Bridge tower.

Sunday was a travel day to South Beach Marina and AT&T park. All boats were in their assigned slips around noon and folks went off to pursue their interests.  The Lymans went to the Columbus Day parade with friends, sitting at outside tables at the Piazza  Pellegrini.  The parade passed by within feet.  A couple of the ladies went shopping.  Others hung out on the boats. By the time happy hour came up we learned that we were all invited to the South Beach YC for a free BBQ with drinks on the deck as the 87 degree sun mercifully set.  Later that night a group appeared on the Happy Clown  for laughs and Dream Catcher took another group out under the Bay Bridge in the dark to take in the bridge’s light show.

Monday morning was all about boat chores for several skippers, but the Pages decided to head into an Urgent Care facility to have a wound on Janice's arm looked at by a doctor. Vern and Ted rode their bikes along the waterfront.  About 3 pm the crew gathered up for taxi rides to the Mission District home of JJ and Michelle Panzer where they and their Happy Pappy showed us around the newly refurbished, absolutely beautiful penthouse. The place is indescribably cool.  Later up on the roof garden and its 360 degree view of the city, JJ produced a BBQ dinner for all of us—sausages and hamburgers for everyone.  We all took BART back to the boats and settled in for some rest before the Giants big ball game on Tuesday.

A weather change put a bit of a dent in affairs on Tuesday but many of us watched from our dock as the USS America pulled away from its dock several hundred yards to the west ending Fleet Week.  Having been formally commissioned on Saturday, this is the newest ship in the Navy. There were hundreds of sailors in uniform surrounding the deck, flags flying everywhere, orders being shouted and Coast Guard security in action everywhere. As an assault landing ship, it has all the right stuff on board.  As it passed us by, the newest Osprey helicopters and vertical takeoff fighter jets were on deck while below were more of the same as well as huge and fast hover craft and a thousand  Marines ready to board and charge up a beach. Whatever your feelings about war and such, if this image doesn’t stir your bones you might check your pulse.

The ball game started at 1 pm under threatening skies but most of us were convened in the South Beach YC watching a huge TV, with the sounds of the crowd and the nut cases floating around in McCovey Cove very close by.  After the win, all of us had a crab feed on two adjoining boats, Sue Z Q and the Happy Clown.

The rain never did come on Tuesday and Wednesday broke with much less potential for rain. The group decided to spend one more day in the city watching the Giants beat the Cards.  Encinal YC in Alameda could wait--which was worth it because the Giants won again.  We were all in the South Beach YC again with the game and all the craziness going on right outside.  All was still good.

Thursday was get away day so off we went, up the city front taking in the sights and then across the Bay and down the Estuary.  Encinal YC had welcome signs out for us and lunch was served in the club dining room.  A CIYC margarita party occurred at poolside during happy hour.  We toasted Vern and Caro Green and their 30th year of uninterrupted Down Bay cruise participation (one year Caro called in from the hospital.) We then made our way to the clubhouse for more drinks (liver transplants on order) and dinner and watching the Giants win The Pennant. Nice!

Friday we moved again, this time to Emery Cove and Trader Vic’s. At this harbor we were spread out a bit in empty slips. Our fleet grew by one as Bob and Carolyn Graham joined us on the Tumbling Dice. They had been spending a good part of the summer at Pier 39 enjoying the city and planned to stay with us as we proceed back to home berths. The 5 pm routine was on Southern Bell where Ted recounted his meeting with his dock neighbor—the “most interesting man in the world.”  Gene is 80 and recently completed a 15-yearsolo circumnavigation in his 43’ sailboat which was tied next to Happy Clown.  This guy had fully believable stories including about pirates off Aden (downplayed... apparently all they took were some cans of Coke.)

Our last day in the Bay came on Saturday, 9 days after leaving the Delta.  The weather was as nice as it gets in the Bay Area, mid 80s and no wind to speak of.  Dream Catcher had to leave to make it back to their home port in Antioch. Most of the remaining Caliente Cruisers went to a local restaurant for lunch.

Happy hour and dinner was on Delta Moon where Janice turned out a fine BBQ chicken dinner.  After dinner we finished off the Ritter’s ice cream along with a fair amount of their Amaretto. A quick Skipper’s Meeting resulted in a decision to check in by VHF at 7 AM for a final weather check before departing the Bay for our Delta berths. 

While the forecast was seemingly benign (patchy fog,) we were almost immediately in a huge patch of deep fog with about a quarter of mile of visibility. We set a compass course for Red Rock, had Happy Clown in the lead with its electronic fog horn sounding every minute or so and Delta Moon right behind keeping the whole fleet on course with GPS and radar. This pattern went on for well over an hour basically all the way to Benicia.  It was a long morning, eventually with Delta Moon moving forward using their electronics and the rest smelling the exhaust of the boat ahead. All in all, an excellent training session for deep fog navigation.

All but Happy Clown headed in for a night at Pittsburg YC to rest up before the long ride to Discovery Bay the next day while Happy Clown headed directly for her Bethel Island berth.

The story here doesn’t do the cruise full justice.  You’ll want to take a look at www.CIYC.org and the photo tab where there must be a hundred or more pictures of the event.

PS - the following link should take you right to the downbay photos.