The Start Of Something Big — Sailing From San Francisco Bay to Half Moon Bay

Blossom tucked into the Half Moon Bay Anchorage at first light.

Blossom tucked into the Half Moon Bay Anchorage at first light.

It was supposed to be a small weekend trip in the company of friends, but it soon became so much more. I feel like that’s how all the biggest and best changes in life come. A seemingly small moment arises that totally changes life. 

A friend invited us to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge to Half Moon Bay with his sailboat and a few others. This actually was a pretty big deal for us. While we’ve been restoring our sailboat the last few years, the golden gate became this looming event in my mind riddled with excited and apprehension of the unknown. I’ve been on fishing boats in the ocean and sailed in many lakes and bays, but never had I sailed in the ocean.

The view at dawn from the Horseshoe Bay Anchorage.

The view at dawn from the Horseshoe Bay Anchorage.

It did not help that the only time I had ever travelled under the golden gate on a friends crabbing boat, there was a 15 foot swell and very confused seas. All that aside, I am at a point in my life where the only way forwards is forward. There is nothing I want to do more than sail southwards. So, of course we agreed to the trip. It’s comforting knowing there are other boats nearby and fun to raft up together afterwards.

Our boat was far from shipshape the morning we were supposed to leave. We had to run a longer line for our headsail to reach our new winch. We had to stow my myriad of fermentation projects and the bounty of provisions we’d brought home from the farmers market. It was as if we were preparing for a month long passage! Once the tools were put away, the sun was setting.

We untied the lines and our boat backed itself out of the slip and pointed the right direction. I’d take that as a good sign. Normally it’s a bit more of a process to get Blossom, our boats name, out of her slip. We hopped on and took off across the San Francisco Bay for Horseshoe Bay, where our friends were also sailing towards.

It was the day before the full moon, but visibility was extremely low because of the wildfire smoke sitting over the bay. It was an uneventful trip and pleasantly warmer than is normal for the nighttime.

Sailing into Horseshoe Bay was nerve-racking because I have little experience being the one responsible for a safe entrance into new harbors. Being just a smidgen to the left of the golden gate means you have to time your entrance with the tide or else the current could pull you into the ocean or push you away, back where you came from.

Despite the fear I felt pulling into Horseshoe Bay, it went off without a hitch and we waited for our friends to arrive at the anchorage.

All three boats rafted together in Horseshoe Bay.

All three boats rafted together in Horseshoe Bay.

I hadn’t considered the significance of sailing from this location, but once I arrived, it all flooded back to me. About four years ago, I began my around-the-world backpacking trip from this location. I’d allowed a bit of time to explore the west coast to ponder over where I wanted to live in the future. I enjoyed San Francisco so little I bought a tent and a backpack, walked over the Golden Gate Bridge up into the Marin Headlands and pitched my tent awaiting my flight to Japan. I’d hike down to the buildings around Horseshoe Bay to refill my water supply.

We didn’t even make it to land this time, arriving so late we fell asleep quickly knowing that our 6 AM wake up call was not far off.

The first bit of sunlight was dawning when our alarms rang. We hopped out of bed, made coffee and oatmeal spiked with adaptogens and set sail. Crossing under the Golden Gate was anti-climatic. We were still rushing around stowing fenders, checking gauges and sails when I realized we were under the bridge. I yelled back to Charlie to stop doing everything and appreciate the moment. It was a big moment for us - finally leaving the familiarity of the bay and heading into the unknown.

Despite wearing everything I wore for the night sail, I was quickly too cold, so I climbed downstairs to add layers. I don’t often get seasick so I took my time but I took too much time and was feeling queasy by the time I climbed on deck. I did some box breathing and drifted off to sleep for 30 minutes which righted my stomach for the rest of the trip.

Sailing California — San Francisco Bay to Half Moon Bay

I woke to Charlie’s call of whales! Hopping up, I saw off to the right a whale leap magnificently out of the water, diving back headfirst. They continued to leap and play, spouting water from their blowspouts for several minutes. I was hoping we’d see them the whole way down but that was the totality of their visit. We did pass through a marine sanctuary that had hundreds of giant jellyfish floating in the murky red water. You can bet we were holding tight to our tethers there!

It was our longest sailing trip ever. We ate and drank little because we were nervous to go below in case it made us seasick. So we arrived tired, starving and slightly dehydrated. But so happy! 

The anchorage of Half Moon Bay is very well protected and we had no problem finding space to set our anchor. Our friends came through the channel just minutes after us and we rafted up to prepare a fabulous dinner to share together. One person on another boat was as in to cooking and fermentation as I so dinner was exciting and delicious. We had coconut curry shrimp with homemade fermented hot sauce, scalloped oyster mushrooms, beluga lentils, locally grown rice, rose sauerkraut with homemade raw honey chocolate and ice cream with quinoa sprinkles for desert.

My goodness did we sleep well that night!

The little town of Half Moon Bay as seen from our anchorage.

The little town of Half Moon Bay as seen from our anchorage.

The Golden Gate Bridge at first light.

The Golden Gate Bridge at first light.

Halfmoon Bay Anchorage.

Halfmoon Bay Anchorage.

We got our cushions and sail covers finished just in time for this trip! They make everything so much more comfortable.

We got our cushions and sail covers finished just in time for this trip! They make everything so much more comfortable.

Horseshoe Bay is surrounded by Cavallo Point Lodge, an old military based turned into a fancy hotel with a few restaurants.

Horseshoe Bay is surrounded by Cavallo Point Lodge, an old military based turned into a fancy hotel with a few restaurants.

Half Moon Bay Anchorage.

Half Moon Bay Anchorage.

sailingSarah Danu