Schooner SEA RAVEN approaches the Farallone Islands from the North

It’s an hour and a half after Sunrise, November 3, 2017… The 21 ton William Garden designed schooner SEA RAVEN rests at anchor in Drakes Bay, California, half mile inside of Chimney Rock, and a quarter mile from the beach.

The crew is a mix of newbies and sloop sailors lead by a mate who is a seasoned schoonerman. They are still a bit groggy after coffee and and warm blueberry muffins, as they struggle into their foulies. The drizzle which came in with yesterday’s southerly has now stopped veering to a Northwesterly with blue sky showing to the West.

We have 100 feet of 5/8 chain out on our 45 lb. CQR plow in 3-1/2 fathoms, which has held well in the sandy bottom even with the wind shift overnight.

“Shall we just sail off the anchor?”

This will be a new maneuver for the crew, and only their second time hauling chain, and that single time was with the motor easing their hauling.

“Aye”….”Let’s do it”

“Hoist the staysail and leave the sheet out” the order is passed, while the helmsman resists the temptation to start the diesel.

“Heave short on the rode…and sing out when she is up and down”.

The chain rattles in through the hawse pipe.

“She’s up and down sir”, the bosun cries from the foc’s’tle.

“Very well…Port Watch break her out, starboard watch back the staysail to port”. the order is passed.

The bow begins to cant around to Starboard off the 8 knot wind and onto a reach….

“Starboard watch hoist the fore….. and as soon as she is up and we have boat speed we’ll gybe”.

She is gaining headway on a port broad reach and will soon clear Chimney Rock.

“The hook is catted sir”, the bosun hails from the bowsprit.

“Stand-by to Gybe”

“Ready” says the mate

“Gybe ho”……The fore boom and staysail go over and are swiftly trimmed to a starboard broad reach, while the helmsman steadies up on 174o magnetic.

“Hoist the main”

Shortly she reaches her hull speed of 8 knots, as the breeze freshens up to 12 knots when she clears away from the cliffs of Point Reyes.

The sun is smiling from behind the receding clouds and she is headed for the Farallone Islands, This mystical isles 28 miles west of the Golden Gate, just east of the sunset, but still a territory of the City of San Francisco.

“Thar she blows”, cries the lookout as a pod pf Mink whales breeches to port an eighth of a mile off our beam.

The day continues with the schooner circumnavigating South East Farallon and Main Top, and witnessing Stellar Sea Lions, a thousand sea birds and vast herds of seals.

But, it is also humbling to know that we are among the very few who will ever ship before the mast on a traditional sailing ship. This excellent “old school” evolution preformed by tis crew who are all in their late 20’s and early 30’s with day jobs in high tech, bio-tech and medical tech, has been for themselves alone….. no sport fisherman, no “round the boys sloop sailors” not even a tourist to witness it. The only witness to their excellence has been the grizzled old skipper, with over 50 years at sea. But, for them it is an achievement which keeps alive the knowledge of traditional sail.

It has all been worth it, the cold lonely bow watches, falling by to varnish on Sunday afternoons that you could have spent at the pub; pumping the bilge underway, getting smoke of burning grease tinged with diesel in your eyes as you struggle to produce a gourmet breakfast in the rolling pitching galley, and the new muscle you have put on heaving in the anchor and repeatedly hoisting 1000 sf of sail by hand.

For a fun professionally edited 1.5 minute clip of this cruise on youtube go to this URL