Sunday, May 27, 2012

USS Iowa Photos

SturgeUrge and I launched the F/V SturgeUrge from Richmond's Marina Bay Yacht Harbor around 0900 Saturday morning. The winds were around 5 kts out of the south, identical to the NWS forecast. We idled out of the No Wake zone and accelerated into the main channel.

We hung a right into Ford Channel where the Iowa was berthed. We were the only pleasure craft on the waterway. Iowa was attended by two tugs, one standing off while the Tractor Tug was alongside Iowa's bow passing lines and rigging for towing. I snapped some photos and we headed out to San Francisco Bay.

SturgeUrge and I were going halibut fishing. According to the schedule printed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Iowa would leave Richmond at 1100, so we had time to do a couple of drifts on Southampton Shoal. An 11 pound halibut was caught at the south end of the Shoal Friday near the Berkeley Pier, and a 28 lb flatty across the Bay off Paradise mid-week. Though the tides weren't favorable for halibut, you can't catch halibut if you're not halibut fishing.

The Bay was a little lumpier than we expected for 9AM so we elected to forgo the trip all the way down the Shoal to avoid some pounding and to keep an eye on Iowa as the tow would begin after the bottom of the tide.

After an hour or so I noticed Iowa beginning to move. They were backing her down Ford Channel. We ran south and east for another drift though our baits were completely unmolested. Iowa was approaching the main channel, and we could see her getting close to the Liberty Ship Red Oak Victory that's berthed across Ford Channel at Ferry Point. Even though we were a mile or so away, I snapped lots of know, history and all...

Ferry Point lay of the land: General Warehouse, Whirly Crane, Red Oak Victory, and Iowa ready to turn towards the Bay.11AM Saturday 5/26/2012
As Iowa began moving towards the Bay proper, I started rigging my camcorder and tripod.

Iowa was making way looking magnificent in her new paint with Point Richmond as a backdrop.  She looked stately as she approached the main Bay. I began rolling video.

I'd set up my tripod as a monopod so I could try to absorb the swells and keep the camera on the subject. As Iowa neared the end of the main channel, SturgeUrge noticed that the swell was laying down...exactly the opposite of the forecast, and the normal order of things on San Francisco Bay from Spring through Fall.

Iowa made the main Bay off Richmond. She was now a half mile to our northwest, and she was starting to draw a crowd. Curiously, Iowa began turning north between the Chevron Pier and Red Rock Island. We counted five tugs loitering near the Iowa, along with a Coast Card cutter, lots of sailboats and more fishing skiffs. We wondered what they were doing...was Iowa being hijacked to Stockton? Finally Iowa's 270° pirouette was completed and she was headed south towards San Francisco. The wind and swell had abated enough that SturgeUrge said "we can flank her until Angel Island"

Iowa and Potomac cross Raccoon Straits The Goldan Gate's north tower peaks over Angel Island
The flotilla was growing quickly now. As Iowa headed south, the USS Potomac, president Franklin D Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht passed the battleship heading north. Rounding Iowa at her stern, Potomac headed south to flank Iowa as she approached the central Bay. It was getting very busy as Iowa reached Raccoon Straits between the Tiburon Peninsula and Angel Island. An antique San Francisco Fire Boat took up a position behind Iowa and began blowing fountains of water into the air as tribute to the mighty battle wagon.

While I was watching through my camcorder's LCD screen, SturgeUgre's head was on a swivel. We took evasive action three or four times as Iowa passed Angel Island and turned west towards the Golden Gate. There was a new lump on the bay...not from wind or swell, but boat traffic was getting insane, and the criss-crossing wakes made the water confused. A pair of F18 fighter jets flew west high overhead, as private aircraft,  TV News helicopters, and the Hanger1 blimp joined the impromptu air show.

We followed Iowa around Point Blunt, the southeast corner of Angel Island. This was special stuff, rarely do we ever venture around Angel Island. The waters to the south of the island are directly in line with the Golden Gate, and the winds and swell are usually too much for the 17 ft F/V SturgeUrge...Saturday? The Gods were with us and the Iowa...had the large flotilla not been churning the waters, it would have been like a lake out there. We ran to the southwest corner and made a couple of drifts as the Iowa's parade headed west.

Twenty minutes into my second 63 minute MiniDV tape, the camcorder's battery died and the freshly charged extra battery wasn't working either...I pressed my digital camera into movie making, missing all the beauty shots of Iowa with San Francisco in the background.

We probably could have joined the parade and ventured west closer to the Golden Gate Bridge, but we were nearing the frontier of our comfort range on the Bay. The weather wasn't the issue, the crowed waters were. We demurred...discretion being the better part of valor and all that. The Golden Gate statistically is the second most dangerous inlet on the West Coast of the States after Cape Disappointment on the Columbia River.

When Iowa neared the famous span, they began another unexpected turn north. That's when we realized that these turns were planned photo opportunities! Bless the Pacific Battleship Center for honoring the battleship Iowa and photographers and enthusiasts!

As Iowa made her way under the bridge, we turned east and drifted the eastern beaches of Angel Island...the fish just weren't biting. With a mind to the clock, we decided to head to the south end of Southampton Shoals and drift fished home to Richmond. We drifted perfectly all the way to the Richmond Rockwall, the end of Richmond Harbor's main channel where we tracked Iowa from at the beginning of our day.

Mission accomplished...except for the halibut deal...

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