Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cooling Off

What a difference a day makes!

SturgeUrge and TruckeeDave spent a fine day on San Francisco Bay Friday. We launched the boat at the reasonable hour of 9AM and motored out of the Richmond Harbor, past the site of the Kaiser Shipyards.

During WW2, Liberty Ships were built at breakneck speed in Henry Kaiser's three Richmond Shipyards. Although it's "Rosie the Riveter" who we think of when pondering the Liberty Ship Builders, the reason the Liberty Ships were such a big deal is because they were Welded Ships not Riveted. "Wendy the Welder" worked at Kaiser in Richmond. Today, you'll find the "Rosie the Riveter World War II-Home Front National Historic Park" near the marina.

It turns out that Kaiser was the Henry Ford of ship building. His scheme to build ships in a modular fashion revolutionized shipbuilding and the method is the standard today. Kaiser recruited workers from all across America, they came to Richmond in droves...they swelled sleepy Richmond from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand people in three years.

Of the 2710 Liberty Ships built during the War, only two are still operational. The SS Jeremiah O'Brian is based in San Francisco. Although she was built on the East Coast, she belongs to us now, and she makes a few cruises every summer for history buffs, and hosts other events. Next Saturday August 22nd, 2009 she's cruising San Francisco's "Barbary Coast" for an afternoon history seminar.

The O'Brian was the only large ship that participated in the D-Day Landings at Normandy, France of June 6th, 1944 that returned to commemorate the 50th Anniversary. It was the O'Brian's eighth crossing, the first seven were during WW2. After languishing 33 years in Suisun Bay's "Reserve Fleet" (known locally as the Mothball Fleet) volunteers restored her and she began her second career as a floating history museum.

As we left the "No Wake Zone" and throttled up, we passed another Liberty Ship, the USS Red Oak Victory. She's part of Rosie's National Park and is undergoing restoration. She was built in Richmond, and served during WW2, Korea and Vietnam. This month two of my favorite WW2 Movies are being screened on board: Casablanca and Mrs. Miniver.

The other operational Liberty Ship, the SS John W Brown is ported in Baltimore, MD

Our plan for the day was to blast south from Richmond to Alcatraz Island and get a few drifts in before the Small Craft Warnings forecast to begin at 11AM kicked in...reports from Thursday had many large halibut taken there and around neighboring Angel Island.

It was not to be. Turning onto the Bay itself, we were greeted by a fresh breeze and sheep as far as the eye could see. "Sheep in the Meadow" is just one cliche for whitecaps on the water. Going to Plan-B, we slowly beat our way across the Bay to find shelter in the wind shadow of the Tiburon Peninsula. This fishing spot goes by the name: "Paradise"

Most of the Thursday Fishing reports I saw online mentioned 30 knot when we got to Paradise we had the place to ourselves. Once we settled in, and got our baits into the water, we took a look around and saw a little "Plastic Navy"...four hearty kayak fishermen drifting in close. As the day wore on, we gathered more boats here to stay outta the wind, and maybe catch some halibut.

We drifted several times thru usually productive water to no avail. The wind was allied with the barely perceptible tidal current, and we ventured deeper into the center of the Bay each time we began a new drift. Right at 11AM the wind really started to howl...Nice going NWS! The guys who put together the early AM Marine Forecast couldn't have been any more accurate...Score one for the Weatherman.

There wasn't much of a "Swing" between Low Tide and High Tide, so the current wasn't able to overcome the wind. Fortunately, with the wind and current aligned, the movement over the bottom looked the same to our quarry, and about an hour after the bottom of the tide, we started getting bit. First up was a good take-down on my rod...the fish screamed away and I stood up to pump it in. It telegraphed none of the usual halibut signatures...I knew it was a Bat Ray... I played it in, and SturgeUrge cut it've got to be careful releasing these guys. This year we're seeing them curl up their bodies so they can lash out with their stingers while you try to pull the hook...we took the hint and just cut them loose now...they head home with new jewelry, a lip piercing if you will, that'll rust away in a few days.

Next up, SturgeUrge gets in on the action...he's says: "I feel the head shake!" I get the net. Urge gently brings the fish to his side of the boat...I hand him the measuring stick...yep, legal enough! I carefully dip the net into the Bay behind the fish, and into the net it goes...Gotcha!

High fives and a couple of quick snapshots and into the fish box! A short chorus of atta boys, and we reflect on our angling prowess...On each and every trip we've taken on a Bay this season, we've hooked gamefish and gotten them to the boat...or at least close! Last time at Paradise, SturgeUrge was hooked into a really nice Halibut and just about the time the fish was going to see the boat, disaster! A failed leader ended SturgeUrge's joy for the day...we went home empty handed. We consoled ourselves: You can't land 'em until you've hooked 'em! Amends were made Friday.

When I dropped my next bait, I must have hit the fish on the noggin with the sinker. I hooked up just when the rig hit bottom...Urge put the net on my Halibut, and the twin went into the box! Hey, these guys are good!

We enjoyed a very nice day on San Francisco Bay...the day was warm enough that I never put on long pants...unusual for August on the Bay...sunscreen and shirt sleeves ruled the day...not your typical summer day on the Bay.

We brought home the bacon, the weather Gods were kind, as were the Fish Gods.

It was Cool.

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