Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fish and Finns

"Our Side" of the Boat Ramp with Finns
Friday was a good day. SturgeUrge and I got to get a line wet. It's been a month since we got out to chase halibut on San Francisco Bay.

We got together Thursday night to catch up and watch some preseason football. SturgeUrge roasted chickens on the BBQ spit with some veggies and pineapple spears. A nice Chalone chardonnay tied everything together.

Friday morning I put together the boat lunch, packed the cooler, and checked the Outer Richmond Harbor Buoy just in case conditions weren't in the boat's "performance envelope" At 0730 the wind was South at 6mph, and Thursday at 0730 just about the same, increasing to 16mph around the time we'd be coming back in to put the boat back on the trailer at the end of our day.

So, I rolled over to the SturgeUrge Compound and we hitched up the boat, topped up our coffee and hit the road. Traffic was quite light...even for a Friday, and we made it to the Richmond Marina in great time. When we pulled up to the gate however, there was a Ford pickup blocking the coin-operated gate, and they're erected a huge white Event Tent in the parking lot...right next to the top of the boat ramp.

The pickup was a contractor's work truck, and we found the workers who moved the rig so we could pay the box a ten spot to open the gate, and get ready to launch. Inside the gate was a bustling scene that we'd never seen before.

The Big Tent wasn't for a party, it was the Finn Inspection Tent. There was one side panel left open on the corner adjacent to the top of the two lane boat ramp. This served as the entrance door to the carpeted tent. Staged outside this door were a dozen or so small racing sailboats on little hand operated trailers call dollies. The dozen or so Finn-Class racers, each on it's dolly did a bang up job of blocking one of the two lanes of our boat ramp! That would be the lane we usually use to launch and retrieve from.

We shrugged off the glitch in our usual launch routine and used the eastern lane. SturgeUrge parked the tow rig and we motored out of the marina and towards our adventure. The wind had picked up in the two hours since I checked the buoy was up to 10mph or so, but well within our comfort zone.

Of course, Comfort Zone is a relative term...once we cleared the breakwall, and enter the Bay proper, we found some big groundswell that had swells of the perfect shape to optimize the spray so it could be carried by the freshening wind onto the just cleaned windshield, and over the winshield onto us!

We had the quick "Waddya think?" discussion and decided to do one drift over Southampton Shoals, the ground in the insistent groundswells.

It was a slow slog, the swells were steep and a couple of feet tall...occasionally the boat would be deep in the trough and the bow would dip a tiny bit of the oncoming swell...SturgeUrge handled the helm with aplomb as we slowly motored south towards the Berkeley Pier. We made it about a third of the way down the Shoals before the need to fish got the better of us. We knew that we'd be doing one drift on Southampton before we'd beat our way accross the Bay to the Tiburon shoreline named Paradise. I'm sure it got the name Paradise because of the wind shadow there that makes that part of the Bay seem like Paradise on Earth compared to the churning, blustery main body of the Bay!

We were about half way into a moderate incoming tide when we dropped our baits into the Bay, so the South wind aligned with the tidal current...perfect!

Somebody forgot to tell the halibut! We finished the slightly off-kilter drift without a bite...our baits came up without a scratch on 'em, so we headed over to Paradise.

There was still some wind at Paradise, but the water was flat. We made a couple of long drifts and SturgeUrge caught a Smooth Hound Shark of the usual size...around 20 inches long. Quickly released, the shark went home and we went about our business. I made lunch...ham and swiss on a sourdough roll. The slice of heirloom tomato, "Pineapple" variety, and the thin sliced red onion made it special.

The halibut still weren't feeling special about our offerings however...usually, making lunch ensures a bite...not Friday...then the wind came Paradise...things were getting rock and roll-y now. We decided to head back and call it a day...the fish weren't biting and were were starting to feel a little beat up...we picked 'em up and began to slowly motor east towards the Richmond harbor.

Less than a mile into the beat, we were becalmed! No wind and flat water! SturgeUrge slowed the boat, and we put 'em back in. Sturge's line started doing something weird about a minute later, so he began to reel it in...he said he had some weeds caught of his rig...then he yelled: "Get the net!" The weeds were actually a fine halibut! SturgeUrge asked if it was a keeper, and asked for the Stick.

The Stick is a piece of clothes pole, an inch and a quarter pine dowel, that SturgeUrge marked with measurements for minimum legal length for the species we fish for. California Halibut must be 22 inches minimum to be "Keepers" The stick enables an accurate measurement before you net the fish. We prefer not to net any halibut that we're going to release. Halibut are very vulnerable to having their fins torn in the net, and since halibut are almost always are lip-hooked, they have low release-mortality when you don't net them before you release them. The Stick does double duty as a "Priest" or fish bat, used to dispatch any fish that "go in the box" AKA Keepers, AKA Groceries!

The fine halibut was a couple of inches short, perfectly lip-hooked, and an easy candidate for release. Done. That was it for the catching part of our adventure. It took all of 15 minutes for the wind to get back in gear, so we decided to call it a day.

It was lumpier now, so we took some spray as we beat back across the Bay. I scanned the outer harbor to find the RCMC1 Buoy on the way in. The buoy that  I thought was it, wasn't. I'll use my handheld GPS next time to get an exact fix on our friend Buoy RCMC1

We cleared the breakwater...the usual bunch of Kite Surfers were missing in action. We wondered where are all the Finns? Most of the way in, we found two kite surfers...and one Finn. We tidied up the deck, racked the fishing rods and made ship-shape for we entered the No Wake Zone a lone Finn blew by us...making a fine wake!

The ramp was a textbook example of the "Boat Ramp Follies"...we'd have to be extra-careful so as not to become the stars of this movie!

"Our Side" of the ramp and it's dock were clear from the water, the top of our lane was still parked up with Finn Dollies...there was a dolly in the water at the bottom of our lane as well...the wind was blowing perpendicular to the ramp at 10mph...gusting to 13...we needed to be on our side so we could recover with dry feet and little drama. At my insistence, SturgeUrge rolled the wet dolly out of our way, and backed the trailer down the ramp all akimbo, so we could trailer the boat...We nailed it first time! SturgeUrge pulled the rig over to the washdown lane, and I walked past the Finn Tent to the restroom to change into my shorts.

At the top of the ramp, behind the herd of Finns and dollies there were two photos freshly-posted by the Harbormaster. These pictures, printed on plain, letter sized stock showed the boat ramp. Posted one atop the other, the top photo showed the boat ramp, clear and uncluttered. Over the photo was a green circle. The bottom photo showed the gaggle of Finn Dollies monopolizing the right lane and half of the left lane of the ramp. Over the "Cluster F*ck" photo the International Red Circle With a Slash Symbol for "Do Not"

SturgeUrge was pissed off with the whole scene...the Finn sailors weren't any help...most were French and Italians who didn't (or wouldn't) speak any English. They were clearly ignoring the rules in every language.

It turns out that the Event in the Finn Gold Cup. It runs all week. It's not the America's Cup, but it is a Big Deal. The Tent is really the Scrutineering Tent, where the boats are inspected to make sure they're within the rules. These sailors are Olympic Class Athletes...they obey the rules in the Tent and on the the Boat Ramp? Not so much.

No comments:

Post a Comment