Farallon Islands

Low Speed on the rocks – Farallon Islands

When I moved out to northern California from Virginia in 1995 one of my first interests was to learn how to sail performance sailboats out on the Pacific Ocean. We’ll its been over 17 years and many different types of sailboats that I have both crewed on and skippered as an owner. I have also sailed up and down the California coast in small raceboats and in 2001 was lucky enough to race to Hawaii on 52 foot racer.

Now adays, I sail less, but still love the sport and being out on the ocean on my 25 footer Calico. So, yesterday when I learned of the tragic loss of a racing sailboat off the Farallon Islands off San Francisco. It really sadden me, and I know a few of my other sailing mates. We all felt compelled to talk about it, what a tragedy…a real bummer. After reading more about the tradegy and learning more about the circumstances a couple of thoughts stood out for me that I wish I did not feel compelled to put down.

From personal experience I have skippered a similar but smaller race boat in this same race in 2005. I remember being very nervous about it the night before. I was racing one of the smallest boats in the fleet…and I had never sailed this challenging ocean race before. It was a 60 to 70 mile out and back loop around the Farallon Islands 25 miles offshore.  Fortunately, we had an incredibly good and exciting race that all of us will remember.

So…when I learned that the boat had sailed close to shore I wonder if to sail a shorter course around the islands. These islands are big, sharp, mean, meanicing rocks that look like they take the greatest of pleasue in smashing small race boats upon its jaged shores. From a sailors point of view, finding yourself in the water is very frighting experience. Especially in the waters off San Francisco. These waters and the Farallon Islands are home to the largest concentaration of great white sharks on the US West Coast. You do no want to find youself swimming in the waters anywhere near this island. It is also freezing cold water.

Next thought, why are crew washed overboard?  Because they are not clipped into the boat. In my opionion, it does not matter how calm the ocean ‘looks’ and ‘feels’ out there…you can get hit with a big 10 foot breaking greeny ‘on top’ of the cockpit and roll the boat at any time. If crew members are not clipped in, they are washed overboard – perhaps unconscious. My advice is to take long way around the island and always be clipped in out there.

Our Antrim 27 – Luna, San Fransciso

Continue reading “Farallon Islands”

Farallon Islands

Death Valley, California

Over Spring break we decided to take a 4×4 trip across Death Valley, CA. The inspiration for the trip came from plane fights to Las Vegas from San Jose and looking out the window at the Mojave desert below and thinking….some day I want to go drive across that desert.

Well, it’s was even cooler than I had hoped. Standing 250 feet below sea level in a dried up salt lake that 20,000 years ago was 600 feet deep, I really did feel like being at the bottom of a dried up ocean. We luckily made it through 90 miles of open desert dirt roads over two days. I have never seen so many colorful rocks and mountain formations. Some day soon I would like to return to Death Valley.

Death Valley, California

Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley

I just returned from a 4×4 trip to the Mojave desert in Southern California.  More pics to come…. One of the many highlights of the trip was that I hitched my dirt bike to the back of our truck as a plan B if we got stuck out in the desert.

At sunset on two evenings I was able to take it for a ride down old Stovepiple Wells road, which is a super sandy, dead straight, eight mile sand track that leads out to an old stovepipe from the 49er gold rush.

After going several miles into the desert I found myself riding over snakes on the track every 30 to 40 yards…and with the sun setting quickly…no flashlight, gps, cell, and with no one having a clue where I was…or was going….

I thought I would stop and take a few pictures of this beautiful desert and enjoy the moment.




Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley