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Old 02-18-2016, 11:54 AM   #1
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An unplanned trip to the Farallon Islands

It started with a trip across the San Francisco Bay to spend a warm long weekend in Sausalito, CA. It ended with an unscheduled trip to visit the Farallon Islands and a rare opportunity to take a tour of an island closed to the public.

At the beginning of February I signed up to be a skipper with the Farallon Patrol. This group provides transport for scientists and supplies to and from Southeast Farallon Island where Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) has maintained continuous observation of wildlife since 1968. My first planned round trip was scheduled for May 28.

On Friday night an email went out to skippers requesting a volunteer to make a run on Monday (Presidents’ Day) due to the bad weather that was going to prevent the scheduled run on Saturday. I assumed that another skipper would step up and so continued with my planned cruise to Sausalito where I met up with a fleet of sailboats with whom I have been sailing for 15 years.

We had a great weekend in Sausalito that included a tour of the Matthew Turner – a 1860s design wooden ship currently under construction. By Sunday morning not only had no one volunteered for the run to the Farallons, but one of the returning scientists had sent out a sad email plea to be reunited with his valentine.

At breakfast on Sunday I turned to one of my friends and asked “how do you fancy a trip to the Farallons tomorrow?” With the other sailors there I was quickly able to put together a crew of 3 for the trip and sent an email reply volunteering for the run. The outbound scientists were notified and made their shopping trip for two weeks of provisions for them and the other scientists on Southeast Farallon Island. We met them at 0700 on Monday morning and were loaded up and underway by 0730.

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The predicted weather was for 3-5’ wind waves on top of 7-8’ swell. With a 2.5kt ebb tide things were a bit lumpy exiting the Golden Gate, but nothing too alarming. The seas flattened out a bit as we escaped the typically confused seas that occupy the Golden Gate. By 1100 we were picking up a floating line to tie up at a buoy on the east side of Southeast Farallon Island (SEFI).

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The crew disembarked in shifts onto a skiff that was skillfully lifted by a crane (passengers and all) out of the water and onto the island. From there the crew and I were taken on a wonderful tour of SEFI while my boat was unloaded and reloaded with trash and other items making the return trip. We didn’t get to visit the lighthouse but it will be top of the list on my return visit at the end of May.

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We returned back to my boat with two scientists who were headed home to the mainland for a 2 week break and slipped the buoy line at around 1300. The seas had continued to flatten and we had a fairly smooth ride home assisted by a flood tide through the Golden Gate. We tied up in Sausalito at 1730 and unloaded the scientists and their return load.

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After a quick bite to eat I had to depart again for my home port of Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City. Departing at 1815 made for another 4 hour trip, this time at night and singlehanding. I pulled safely into my slip at 2230 tired but very satisfied after a fascinating unplanned conclusion to my long weekend cruise.

I can’t wait for the next run.

Richard
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Old 02-18-2016, 12:00 PM   #2
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wow! thank you for sharing, and for your volunteer work! sounds like a fun long day and weekend!
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Old 02-18-2016, 12:01 PM   #3
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Greetings,
Mr. B. WOW! Thanks for that!
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Old 02-18-2016, 12:11 PM   #4
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Richard

What a treat you and crew had. Good you made it happen.

Had you done this trip about 12,000 years ago you would have walked on dry land all the way. That is how quickly the West Coast is moving apart.

Who sponsors the group you ferried out? Did they offer up any Great White vs Orca stories? Was this the same island where a few years ago during a sailing race a S/V went aground with lives lost?
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Old 02-18-2016, 12:58 PM   #5
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Richard

What a treat you and crew had. Good you made it happen.

Had you done this trip about 12,000 years ago you would have walked on dry land all the way. That is how quickly the West Coast is moving apart.

Who sponsors the group you ferried out? Did they offer up any Great White vs Orca stories? Was this the same island where a few years ago during a sailing race a S/V went aground with lives lost?
The scientists are from Point Blue Conservation Science. They run the research operations on the Farallons. We heard some stories but none about Orcas vs Great Whites.

Yes - it's the same island where that tragic accident happened.

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Old 02-18-2016, 01:24 PM   #6
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Good on ya for volunteering. The Karma you built by volunteering gave you the opportunity to explore the island. Ain't paybacks great some times
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Old 02-18-2016, 01:43 PM   #7
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Great story, thanks for sharing. Have always wanted to go onshore there but never had the opportunity, but it was always fun just circling around there on a beautiful day like that. Lucky you!
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Old 02-18-2016, 02:20 PM   #8
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Wow great trip! We could see the islands as we turned north to take our boat up to the Columbia River in 2013. Did realize you had to have special permission to visit them.
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Old 02-19-2016, 01:06 PM   #9
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Fantastic photos, thanks for sharing your experience and for volunteering.


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Old 02-19-2016, 03:47 PM   #10
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Thanks for sharing the story and pictures, most excellent!
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Old 02-19-2016, 04:46 PM   #11
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Did they pick up the fuel cost? I've gone out many times in the fall looking for the famous great whites, never had the privilege of seeing them. I have seen and spent time with Orcas out there. Actually had a pod threaten my boat by repeatedly changing course from several hundred yards to pass under my boat . We were at least three or four hundred yards away each time they approached. One finally slaped my boat as it went under the hull. I got the point and left the area.
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Old 02-19-2016, 05:46 PM   #12
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Had you done this trip about 12,000 years ago you would have walked on dry land all the way. That is how quickly the West Coast is moving apart.
The plates aren't moving that fast! That's sea level rise.

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Old 02-19-2016, 05:58 PM   #13
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What a great little adventure. I wish interesting missions like this would pop up more often. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 02-19-2016, 06:49 PM   #14
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Mark, the current owner of the original Diesel Duck now docked on the Napa River, came by yesterday to inspect the Coot to consider its windows and wet-exhaust for possible upgrades on the Ark. ... Regardless, he says he's ferried to/from the Farallons. It's a small world.
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Old 02-19-2016, 06:51 PM   #15
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Thanks everyone for the nice comments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scary View Post
Did they pick up the fuel cost? I've gone out many times in the fall looking for the famous great whites, never had the privilege of seeing them. I have seen and spent time with Orcas out there. Actually had a pod threaten my boat by repeatedly changing course from several hundred yards to pass under my boat . We were at least three or four hundred yards away each time they approached. One finally slaped my boat as it went under the hull. I got the point and left the area.
There is no covering of costs - it's all volunteer. However I am going to the skippers' dinner next month

We did see some whales in the distance - none came close enough for us to feel at all threatened.

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Old 02-19-2016, 06:54 PM   #16
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Mark, the owner of the original Diesel Duck now docked on the Napa River, came by yesterday to inspect the Coot to consider its windows and wet-exhaust for possible upgrades on the Ark. ... Regardless, he says he's ferried scientists to/from the Farallons. It's a small world.
Very interesting. Yes, I see Ark on the list of boats. Perhaps I will get the chance to meet him at the dinner next week.

Richard
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