Benicia Bound

As the Coast Guard patrol vessel approached our tiny boat in Mare Island Strait during mid-August 2018, the captain yelled over to me “Have you ever been boarded?” My heart raced a little as the Coast Guard vessel maneuvered alongside. We were just about to turn into the wind and raise the sail at the start of our journey to Benicia.

I knew, however, that everything was in order since we easily passed our courtesy inspection with the Coast Guard Auxiliary just two weeks earlier. I yelled back, “No. What do you need us to do?” And Laurie, at the helm, added, “Should I keep it in gear?”

The Coast Guard commander yelled back, “I noticed that it looks like your CF numbers fell off the port side.” “We’re USCG documented” I replied. “I can show you the paperwork” as I pointed to our Auxiliary certification sticker affixed to the port side of mast.

Disappointed at our eagerness and apparent readiness (we were wearing our inflatable PFDs after all), the Captain opted not to board, wished us a good day, and the patrol boat headed back to their quarters at the east end of the Vallejo Marina.

We hoisted our sail and proceeded down Mare Island Strait on an outgoing tide and with a light breeze coming from the west. Soon, we entered Carquinez Strait and pointed the bow east towards the City of Benicia. With the wind coming directly from the west, no spinnaker, and no way to prevent an accidental gybe, we prudently steered a zig-zag course towards Benicia.

As we sailed under the Carquinez Bridge, we once again heard the squawk of a loud parrot. “It must be a speaker” I commented to Laurie. “But why?” I chuckled that some biologist was probably able to convince some highway engineers that the presence of parrots would keep the pigeons and swallows from making a mess of their work.

Our zig-zag course gave us plenty of opportunity to practice our controlled gybes in light wind conditions. (And, I got a good workout!) We learned, however, that even in moderate winds, we should consider a chicken-gybe (i.e. 270 degree tack) rather than the risk and effort of a controlled gybe with our massive single sail.

After dodging a few tugs and fishing vessels, we arrived at the entrance to the Benicia Marina, fired up the iron genoa, dropped our sail, and motored into the marina. Laurie carefully guided our floating home into the narrow slip, which allowed me to easily step onto the dock and tie off the mooring lines. All in all, it was a relaxing 3 1/2 hour trip!

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