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Muddling Towards Golden Gate Page 3

They say you never forget the first time. For me, cruising offshore began back in 1976 onboard Azulo, a 20-year-old, 31-foot Mariner ketch. Three friends—Dave, Karl, and Allen—and I set out to follow the path of 19th-century writer Richard Henry Dana, up the California coast. A motley crew of four young sailors off sailing the high seas!I kept a journal during that first cruise,

I’m still not sure just what the light was. It wasn’t a flashing navigational light. It could have been a buoy, or another boat. Or could it have been something on the shore? If it was, we surely were dangerously close to going aground on that rocky coast.

With the course change we were now headed due south—exactly the wrong direction. Eventually the fog burned off in the morning sun and we got ourselves back on course, but it was a pretty hairy way to start the day—a day that ended with us anchored for the night at a beautiful and serene spot called Half Moon Bay, where we repaired the rigging.

Not long after leaving Half Moon Bay, we spotted one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. I think it was Allan who saw it first. His face just beamed; he was really excited. Our arrival at San Francisco Bay was, it seemed to us, nothing short of spectacular. Karl proclaimed that sailing into San Francisco is the grandest way to arrive, and the rest of us heartily agreed.

Our little blue-and-white boat, on a deep blue ocean and under a cloudless blue sky, was the only vessel around. We entered the waters of the bay as if we owned it, sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge with sails full and proud. The surrounding green hillsides were beautiful, and we could smell the land. All four of us, I think, viewed the bridge as a sort of finish line for our northward passage. Despite our foibles and outright blunders along the way, we had arrived.

“My first foray into ocean cruising has barely whet my appetite,” I wrote. “My clothes are still wet, and dreams of sailing to Hawaii are already forming.”

Mike Petrie has since crossed the Pacific, cruised the Hawaiian Islands, and is a member of the Ocean Cruising Club. He sails Autumn Breeze, a Catalina 27, out of Dana Point Harbor, California.

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