The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”

– author unknown, often falsely attributed to Mark Twain.

It’s not a surprise that our cruising plans may be impacted by weather. In fact, if they weren’t it would be an indication that we were not paying Mother Nature the respect she deserves, and we’d suffer the consequences of this recklessness pretty quickly. Consequently, it’s well known that one should not set forth cruising plans on a schedule, but allow weather to dictate the specifics instead. Many a harrowing story has started with, “We needed to be there on time, but the weather didn’t cooperate,” and continues on to indicate that the journey occurred anyway and some less-than-ideal results were experienced.

Our Christmas Cruise was planned with all sorts of flexibility built in, contingencies and options to support decisions made closer to the time when we would have good information about the weather forecast. It started as a voyage to a different location each day, making the most of our opportunity to sail or motor around, and maximizing our unique destination experiences. However, as the date came closer, it became clear that the weather was going to be a bigger player than we’d thought. The forecast was for 8 days of rain to start a day after we left, and local news outlets were touting this weather event to put this year in the top 10 of precipitation years on record for the area. When we woke up the morning we left it was 39 degrees.

We huddled while we walked around in the cold

No problem, I thought, we needed to practice sailing in the rain and cold anyway. When we’re cruising the world we’ll need to sail through all sorts of weather, and it’s great to have the opportunity to gain experience and confidence in our local cruising grounds first, right? Right.

While moored without a connection to power at Angel Island in the past we’d learned that our batteries couldn’t support our minimum electrical requirements for two nights, so I’d made plans to stay at an anchorage every other night and at marinas for the others in order to get the recharge needed without having to use the diesel-powered generator. This would take us to three different marinas and four anchorages over the week. As I learned about the possibility of really strong winds, I made arrangements with the marinas for flexibility on either side of our scheduled stays so we could work around any weather we’d rather not anchor in.

Erin Skye in Clipper Cove

Our first night we anchored at Clipper Cove at Treasure Island, a new destination for us. It was a beautiful anchorage, with only two other boats giving us plenty of room to maneuver and claim our own space. We used the dinghy to get to shore and walked around the tiny man-made island to get a feel for it, noting lots of construction, traffic, and a few unique establishments like a winery, a gin distillery, and a restaurant made from shipping containers. Returning before 4:00pm when the dinghy dock closed, we spent the afternoon in leisure, practicing a variety of movements with a remote control water drone, observing sea birds, playing Canasta, eating chili, and appreciating our beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. But, we did this all in the cold.

Ethan confusing the birds with his water drone

We usually run an electric heater in the saloon when it’s cold, but without a connection to shore power, and knowing that our batteries were not in great condition, we opted not to use much of our battery power for heat. The down blankets worked pretty well overnight, but in the morning we all agreed that this week in the winter wasn’t the best time to spend at anchor in the San Francisco Bay. A few phone calls later, the rest of our week was firmly scheduled at marinas.

Cream of chicken and wild rice soup to warm us up!

So, we ended up visiting 3 marinas and one anchorage during the week. Spending more time in one location was much more relaxing than moving every day, and we got to investigate the local surroundings, visit friends, and get to know the ports we visited more than we would have otherwise. Being cruisers means getting used to changes in plans and learning to adapt quickly so we can take advantage of the opportunities those changes present. Our week was full of connection, down time, wonder, and learning, and I’m glad that Mother Nature helped us experience the opportunities we did.

The boat of our friends Wayne and Harriet showing its festive colors for the holidays


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Written by Deanna