Moorings @ Angel Island

Wish there were some pictures of this past weekend of attempting to Moor at Angel Island, it’s always an adventure there.  I’ve done it a few times, not easy but was able to pull it off somehow – always with help from someone with an outboard on their dinghy.  This time I was ready with a youtube video that seemed pretty comprehensive.   Note the comments on this where someone says these moorings are the hardest.

The plan was to go out on Friday night around 5pm with a woman I met through the Women Who Sail FB site.  She works in San Francisco part of the time, lives in LA.  A few months back we took her out for the day and she was very natural sailing, we had every condition going on that day down to what looked like a black hole in the middle of Raccoon Strait between Marin and Angel Island.

Always having a plan B, I called Corinthian to see if we could dock there Friday night in case we couldn’t pull it off or the moorings were full and they never called me back.  Sailing and mooring are 2 different things, I knew she could sail to some degree.  As Friday wore on and the normal Bay winds kicked in my instinct to postpone for Saturday morning reared up.  I have 2 long mooring lines, a 100′ and 50′ that seemed sufficient.  Someone also gave me one of those mooring hook thingies.  Mostly I was worried about my communication skills, I blank out sometimes on names (i.e.: “Thingies”).

We ended up just spending the night on the boat in the marina, heading to Berkeley Yacht Club to introduce her to as many Bay Area female sailors as I could find that night, then waiting for the morning when my husband could bring us breakfast to head out early Saturday.

Angel Island is one of my favorite places to go, the docking can be tricky in there too.  Something unique to this area for sailing is that the Bay is pretty shallow, when those tides come in and out carrying about 6′ of water each way it can catch you in a nasty current.  There’s a slack tide where it’s easier to dock in a lot of the places around here, the water’s not moving.  The ferries create their own wakes, in small areas it’s like making waves in a bathtub.

With the 3 of us, I felt pretty confident I could pull it off and off we went sailing over with perfect winds getting us there in about 2 hours from Emeryville.  Put the 100′ line on the stern mooring, making sure there’s no slack to get caught in the prop – check.  OK, put it in forward letting out the slack then making sure the bow person has the mooring hook, check.  I thought I was right at the mooring with the bow, I guess I was just out of reach and out of line on the stern line.   Once you get to the end of that line with no forward momentum, the water and wind takes the boat where it will.  I did make sure that if that happened we wouldn’t be close to any other boats.   I was a foot away, tried backing up being careful to bring in the slack again then tried to get momentum to get there…wasn’t happening.

Plan B, hop in the dingy.  Being a former rower, was still a little over-optomistic I could pull this off.  There was no time to put the new electric outboard on, the seat was put on when we blew it up.  The seat wasn’t on though, it didn’t attach right.  I had to sit in the middle of it to row, or row on my knees.  I almost had it!!  The boat was heading North, the moorings are East/West, I was holding the 50′ line.  I may be strong, but not enough to get that boat over with just rowing skills.  When I tried to pull the boat it turned out that I was pulling myself towards the boat instead.

It was then that I truly fucked up, then forgot it was me that made the call.  I asked them to just give me the whole line, thinking I’d use the looped end to thread through the mooring and take the other end back to the boat to give me that extra length I needed.  Made it to the mooring, the line slipped from my hand and while I was rowing and I hadn’t noticed.  I watched my 50′ line sink while they were watching.  Usually I stay pretty calm, but I was pissed & said I should have had a heads up that it slipped out of my hand.  Ugh, my bad.

No line now, had to row back to the boat, Plan C.  Luckily I have quite a few lines on board, none as long as the 50′ er I was mourning.  Cranked the engine back up, brought the 100′ line back aboard then tried again on a new mooring – this time knowing the hook wouldn’t reach the bow line because of the length.  My husband and I were now yelling at each other by this point to give his opinion (He’s an engineer, mother nature was quickly defying all reason but instinct).  I tried his idea, didn’t work.  Once we ran out of line in the stern, with no momentum there was no steerage.  Tried again and got as close as I could, wouldn’t work because now that line was too short to maneuver at all, we put the 100′ line in front.

I hopped back in the dingy to grab that 100′ line and keep it attached to the boat this time.  With all that went on, plus just being physically exhausted, I completely forgot it was me who made the call to throw that 50′ line in the water.  The boat bow was yet again aimed North, I had it in my hand again & AGAIN I was only feet away.  It was then I saw someone hopping in his dingy with an outboard and yelled over to him to see if he could help.  He came to the rescue, while I rowed over to the mooring ball to hold on to it.  By then the currents were taking my dingy North too, we finally got it!!

After gulping a gatorade, we put the electric outboard on then I ferried them over to the island.  It’s a 3 person dingy that is really meant for one person.  At least the outboard worked really well, even charged my phone.  From there we hiked the island, ferried them back, then enjoyed the sunset and was asleep not too long afterward.

When we got home, after a long hot bath, I ordered a 150′ line.

A few things could have made that work, the longer line was one.  Having them practice the mooring hook a few more time would have been good too, we practiced it just not enough.  I can do it, but I had to steer the boat.  It’s easy once you get the hang of it, you do have to practice it quite a few times though.

The other thing was having the outboard on the dingy, but who knows??  I wasn’t going to tow the dingy with it on, it would have taken too long to get it on there by the time the boat bow went North and I really don’t think it’s a strong enough outboard to pull the boat over to the mooring.  The other guy had a gas outboard that was a lot heftier than mine.  The last is not being the only one capable of maneuvering the boat, once I’m off the boat that’s the end of having someone crank it up to move it backwards to get some speed when the 100′ line to the bow closer to the mooring while I was out there.

The easiest way was to have both lines reach while I steered, in retrospect it was the only way.  Later that day a boat pulled up to do exactly that, made it look easy.  Talking to them on the dock, they were professional crew for a company out of South Beach that takes people with disabilities out to sail.  The other boat that moored that night made me look good, they had absolutely no clue relying on 2 guys on their separate dingy’s with outboards coming to their rescue.  They came in perpendicular to the moorings and just threw the lines to them with no care of the lines getting caught in props.  If it wasn’t for that, it wouldn’t have happened for them.  Talk about relying on the kindness of strangers!!  That was my last resort, not “We’ll go over and hope for the best.”

The last trick is slack tide, without that current we would have been golden.


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