Summer season is upon us and everywhere around the United States thousands of people are taking sailing lessons for the first time. Lots of sunshine, mild wind conditions and no currents to worry about can make sailing a blast in places like Lake Michigan. However here in SF Bay, summer means something else. With a typical summer afternoon wind forecast of 15 – 25 knots and 2 – 4 knot currents, sailing in SF becomes a challenge even for the most experienced sailors.
During America’s Cup last year, Tom FizGerald of the SF Chronicle said the following of the San Francisco Bay sailingconditions:
“For the sailors, the bay is a tricky maze of powerful currents and winds that range from strong to treacherous. In an ebb tide, the winds coming through the Golden Gate form waves that would make racing on smaller crafts a battering experience.”
Perfecting your tacks, jibes and crew-overboard drills in these conditions can be exhausting and may even turn you off from sailing altogether. Here are a few tips to help you succeed in the summer months.
Tips for beginner sailors in San Francisco Bay:
- Know yourself. Are you and adventurous type? Do you enjoy other outdoor sports? If you answered yes, thensailing may be for you. If you are more of a cautious type (not that there is anything wrong with it), you may want to trysailing another time or in another place.
- Dress for the occasion. As with anything, you want to be prepared. Not being dressed for the occasion can take your experience from an exhilarating afternoon to a miserable outing. Chances are you’ll go through multiple climate zones when you are out on the water. When you are covered by Angel Island, you’ll likely be comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. But when you are beating west to the Golden Gate Bridge you’ll need to have your foul weather gear handy. You’ll likely get wet and the last thing you want to do is end up being soaked-through on the verge of hypothermia.
- Ease into it. The good news about SF weather is that it’s highly predictable. Although sailing conditions in most afternoons are rough, conditions in the mornings tend to mild and even pleasant. We recommend starting your sail early in the morning and calling it a day when the weather starts to build up – usually somewhere between 11am and 2pm. It’s a good idea to be close to home port by this time as conditions change quickly. Timing the currents becomes important, as you wouldn’t want to get stranded on the other side of the bay.
Remember, one bad experience can turn you away from sailing for life. If the conditions are more than you can handle, you can always go sailing another day.
What has your experience been like? Share your tips in the comments below.