The only upside of being blinded by apocalyptic search light – three times – is that I rowed so far onto the bank of San Pablo bay that I found myself in flat water and surprisingly, in better current flow.
You can see from the chart of my HR, how my HR increased during and after the experience of being terrorised by the search beams of the big ships.
My row through the gap between ‘The Brothers’ islands and Point San Pablo is uneventful. The wind has yet to pick up. I have never been so delighted to see Richmond Bridge. It was a relief to get out of San Pablo bay!
Halfway between ‘The Brothers’ and the bridge, I realise the tide has turned against me. It gets worse. The tide begins to flood. 1.5 knots of boat speed, becomes a knot at best. ‘If I can just get to Red Rock, I can anchor there until the tide turns.’ But I’m tired. I’ve been rowing for 8hrs.
All the piers to the east are semi-derelict. My tired brain thinks that if I can just lasso a piling, I could hang off it for a few hours. ‘The tide will stream me away from the piling,’ I tell myself. I am so achingly close to Richmond bridge, yet really so far from it that I don’t want to give up the mileage I’ve rowed and beat a retreat somewhere else. Also, where is there to go?
I decide since the piling is wood, to give it a go. The activity I am about to attempt isn’t a good idea and I know it, but my desire to sleep is at this point greater than my power of logic.
I expect the current to lessen as I get closer to the pier, but the water is surging in and out of the pilings. There is a sign on the pier which says NO MOORING. I would get bumped against the pier anyhow because my fenders are round and the ferries keep whizzing by leaving giant wakes. Also, I don’t fancy the idea of getting squished against the pier by an oil tanker, not that I’ve ever seen the pier in use, it does look derelict, but the sign is pretty clear. NO MOORING.
At the end of the pier are a couple of free standing pilings. I spot a ladder and manage to row close enough to get a rope through one of the rungs. The current doesn’t push me away. The current is spilling round the piling rather than ripping by and so attempts to wrap my boat into other pilings. Great. I climb on top of the solar panel and straddle my legs to fend off. Fended. ‘Dumb idea Lia!’ I pull the rope to release my hold on the ladder and the rope being a braided line gets stuck. My bow is once again pulled towards the piling. I jump back on the solar panel and fend off with my feet. My boat is simply too light to hang off anything.
The night was dewy and my solar panel was covered in dew. My pants are now soaked through.
I am free of the piling, there is no damage to my boat and I should quit at this point. But what do I do? I have another go. My will to sleep is great than sense.
There is lone piling a few meters away. And really this might have worked if I had more than one set of hands. The only way to get close enough to put a line round the pole is to glide side-on to the piling. For a few moments I manage to fend off and work my rope round the pole, but then the current shoves my bow harder onto the pole and there is contact. ‘My poor boat!’ Adrenalin gives me a boost and I yank my rope free and shove off from the piling thankful that it was wooden. I drift as I lean over the forward cabin to inspect the contact point. Thankfully the contact was at the rub rail, which is a hard wood. The rub rail did what it was designed to do. I brush off the tar and consider myself lucky. And there was I thinking that lassoing a channel marker might be an option if desperate. Let’s just scratch that from the option list.
Directly across the bay is the channel leading up to Loch Lomond Marina and the San Rafael Yacht Club. I ponder aiming for either, but calculate that the approach is 3 nautical miles away and the incoming tide will set me upstream too fast to even consider it.
The idea of anchoring off The Brothers, the twin islands of which one has a B&B is too daunting. I’ve seen a power boat anchored there, but the boat had an engine and the captain was probably not planning to disappear inside and sleep for 4 hours. A supply ship was anchored immediately round Pt San Pablo. This seemed the most practical option.
Rowing there with the tide took no time at all and back into San Pablo bay the water was flat and the wind non existent. I threw in my Danforth and took a bearing on a tree, waiting to see if it would dig and turn the bow. Success. I promise myself sleep.
I am just about to climb into my cabin when I look up and see ‘Marjorie’ the classic boat skippered by Tracy, usually at the SFYC. We had arranged to have breakfast together and he must have got worried, probably after watching my piling shenanigans on the tracker.
If I sleep until the tide turns, I still have a 4-5hr row to get back to Tiburon or Sausalito. I decide that 20 hours of rowing in 48 hours is probably enough. ‘Hey Tracy, do you think you can tow me with your boat?’ Tracy seems to think he can. ‘I’ll row over to you. Don’t come in here, I’m anchored in shallow water.’ Before long, Tracy has me under tow behind ‘Marjorie’ and we’re off to Sausalito. My ocean rowboat is trailing nicely behind his classic boat. I lie down in my cabin and close my eyes.
At least if you’re going to get towed home, you might as well do it in style.