After spending May and June ashore, we decided it was time to cast off—not on a big luxurious cruise ship but on our own boat. Mana is a Krogen trawler and has been our home for the past 24 years. We are docked in Sausalito and have enjoyed years of cruising San Francisco Bay and surrounding areas. Since there is a marina right at the Giants baseball park, we have gone to hundreds of baseball games not to mention playoffs and World Series games. Having access to the city by boat affords us great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge. It is easier to get a boat slip in San Francisco than a car parking spot. We have gotten to know the neighborhoods, each with their unique character and hang out in Japantown or Chinatown when we need an Asian fix. We have seen plays, visited museums and dined at Fisherman’s Wharf. We have taken trips up the Napa River into the heart of the wine country as well as into downtown Petaluma. We like to use our boat to explore all that Northern California has to offer. One of the lesser known boating destinations in
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this area is the California Delta.
The Delta was formally a huge watery marshland which stretched from the Bay Area up to Sacramento and over to Stockton. In the 1850s about 1100 miles of levees were constructed by Chinese immigrants resulting in the formation of 70 islands. The lush reclaimed soil produces bountiful harvests and is an important stop for migratory water fowl. The Delta provides water to two-thirds of the population of California. The 700 miles of inland navigable waterways allow ocean going tankers and container ships to travel all the way up to Sacramento to off load their cargo. This former mosquito infested swamp is now a fantastic recreational outlet for boating and fishing. Now in every slough and byway there are marinas, restaurants, honky tonk bars and country towns.
To begin our boating vacation, we loaded up the fridge, checked the engine and set off on a cool, foggy July morning for the Delta. Unlike our cruises on the fancy ships, this one would have no room service or casino. We would have to make our own bed and fix our own meals. On Mana we are captain and crew, chef and chief engineer. Since
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we cruise at about 8mph, it takes us several days to reach the heart of this inland waterway. We downloaded a new app on our iPad which has all of the NOAA navigational charts of the United States. We used to buy the paper charts for about $20 apiece. For this trip we would have had to buy 10 different paper charts. The app costs $8 for hundreds of maps and is constantly updated. We also installed a ship identification app for free which allows us to keep track of all of the commercial shipping traffic here and throughout the world. We love all this stuff and an iPad is the perfect gadget to aid in planning our trip and guiding us through the maze of channels and sloughs that make up the Delta. So our new iPad is our navigational tool and GPS, our phone and internet connection and our camera. We can check for marinas with pools or find the closest Chinese restaurant or track the lowest fuel prices on Steve Jobs best creation.
As we were backing out of our slip in Sausalito, a river otter swam by our boat. This is an unusual sight here
in our salty bay, but maybe he knew that we were heading up to river country and wanted to hitch a ride. Before we got out of Richardson Bay we saw many harbor seals hauled out on a low-lying dock. As we rounded the corner into Raccoon Strait, we came upon a single bottlenose dolphin eying us between dives. It is a virtual aquarium here. We passed under the San Rafael/Richmond Bridge and entered San Pablo Bay. This is usually a busy thoroughfare for container ships heading to inland ports. But today it was just us and a few ferry boats taking tourists up to Six Flags in Vallejo. We passed several oil refineries and the C&H Sugar Cane factory. We also cruised by the SS Golden Bear. This is the ship that Kevin sailed on from Japan to San Francisco in 1971 after his tour of duty in Viet Nam.
We pulled into Benicia Harbor and secured a slip for the night. Benicia was California’s capitol for several years before eventually being moved to Sacramento. Benicia is located on Carquinez Strait and can be an extremely windy place. This day it was warm and sunny…just the weather we
were searching for after several weeks of fog and drizzle in Sausalito. The main drag is just a few blocks from the marina so we took a stroll into town. A charming place filled with antique shops, sidewalk cafes and days spas. We checked out the old Capitol building and picked up a few things at Safeway. We have found when boating it is a good idea to not pass up a grocery store because you never know when there might be another one within walking distance.
When we returned we noticed that an old friend had left his business card in our cockpit. So we gave Mike and Nora a call and they came over for dinner. They live half of the time on their boat in Benicia and the other half in the Sierra Foothills. We all belonged to the Northstar Yacht Club and we spent a nice evening reminiscing about mutual friends and past cruise escapades. Then we hit the hay to get ready for an early departure up the San Joaquin River.
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