Overnight at the Farallon Islands, September 6th, 2009.

Ken Kelton invited me to join him on a sailboat trip out to the Farallon Islands. I met Ken at Horseshoe Cove just under the Golden Gate Bridge. He had taken his sailboat out on a breakdown cruise the afternoon before and camped on the visitors dock there. He could not track down the harbormaster late in the day and was unable to pay docking fees. I arrived early in the morning (in time for breakfast on board) but still too early to find the harbormaster.

We sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and into a thick fog bank. Our plan was to head northwest and anchor for the evening in Drakes Bay. But the wind was coming more from the north and we decided to use it to cut out to the Farallons that evening. This took longer than we expected and the sun set before we got there. Fortunately the fog lifted and we could see where we were going. We anchored for the evening in Fisherman’s Bay. This is little more than a ring of rocks around a shallow cove on the north end of the South Farallons

The swell was pretty rough and breakers roared between the rocks all night long. The boat tugged at the anchor line all night making horrible noises. Was that the sound of the boat hitting a rock? Or just the anchor chain rubbing in its socket again? Thoughts like this made for a restless night sleeping but I was surprisingly rested in the morning.

We sailed most of the way around the South Farallon Islands and then most of the way back, only avoiding the northwest end where the waves were breaking and we would have had to stay far offshore anyway. Then we turned towards home. On the trip out and the trip back we saw glimpses of whales spouting in the distance, but never came close enough to get a good look at one.

On the homeward leg of the trip the sky stayed clear. I was the first to see the twin towers of the Golden gate Bridge from a distance, and the single Sutro Tower over San Francisco. Soon we were back under the Golden Gate Bridge and into Horseshoe Cove. Ken dropped me off at the visitors dock and sailed back into the bay.

All text and images Copyright © 2009 by Mike Higgins / contact