Finding religion on the Octagon

Published on January 19th, 2022

In his January column for Seahorse magazine, Paul Cayard described San Francisco Bay as “a treacherous piece of water off the otherwise peaceful Pacific Ocean. On a summer afternoon, with the current going at 2kt out the gate and the 59° wind pushing in at 25kt, what you have is the Octagon of Sailing.”

Here are some memories from fighting on this canvas:

Rob Anderson:
It was the summer of 1980. I had arrived in the Bay Area to go to school at Cal. I was fortunate enough to be asked to sail with one of my sailing hero’s … Bob “Big Daddy” Klein. Trimming the main on his venerable Amateur Hour, we headed out under the Gate into a building afternoon breeze with Mr. Ebb at full outbound flow.

Before we were halfway to Pt. Bonita, the 25kt plus breeze and 4kt ebb piled up waves like I had never seen in my 19 years! They looked like skyscrapers. The trough felt like the Grand Canyon. The crest like being on a mountain top.

As we rounded the mark and headed back to Richmond well ahead of the next boat, Bob let go a guffaw as he said to me … “I didn’t know you were so religious!” With his characteristic Cheshire cat grin, he explained that as we bashed our way upwind, every other wave, he could hear me quietly muttering “Jesus Christ!”

Until his passing (way too young), he would laugh and ask if I had seen any of those “JC waves”. I really miss Bob … and I sure miss bashing around on the bay!

Pat Broderick, former YRA of San Francisco Bay Chairman:
After 50 years of SF Bay sailing I’m still learning.

• Wind: Summer afternoons may approach near gale-force, but when the sun goes away and the Sacramento Valley begins to cool, twilight racing is usually sedate. As Kimball Livingston famously wrote in Sailing the Bay, “The ocean blows, but the bay sucks.”
• Current: Kame Richards always said, when there were commercial fishing boats, “Follow that guy, he’s saving fuel against the current.” And Kame’s famous U-2 photo of Treasure Island’s wake is a constant memory.

What a wonderful place to have spent my sailing years, so far! At 82 years old I’ll be out there again next weekend and am looking forward to some summer wind later on.

Do you have a San Francisco Bay story? Send it to editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com.

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