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Tomales Bay

There is so much to see and explore in Tomales Bay. The more time you can spend in the bay the better. An early morning departure leaving from Sausalito is the best, as in making any passage North along the California coast.  Rounding Point Reyes before the afternoon wind picks up is no exception.

Point Reyes with Drakes Bay in the background.

Getting away from San Francisco Bay before 7am will make an enjoyable passage into Tomales Bay by late afternoon.

This is the basic layout for a cruise, Sausalito to Tomales Bay and back to Sausalito.  My favorite way is to go out on the ebb. With a good ebb, you don't necessarily want a lot of wind, it just makes the waves even bigger. 

So an early morning ebb it is.  Going out on a flood is just going to make a long trip even longer.  I would recommend a earlier departure. It will be calm, making it easy to power out the Gate through Bonita Channel and maybe up as far as Duxbury Reef. 

By the time you get out to the Potato Patch there should still be an ebb going. This ebb, is also going to get to you through the Bonita Channel. Which is between the Potato Patch and Tennessee point.  GPS way points have gotten me through here in the thickest of fog.

Duxbury Reef is really not that a big deal, provided that you do go to the west of the marker, except for all the boat traffic. It is very popular amongst the fishing boats. Just a matter of keeping a close look out if there is any fog.  Up to this point the sea conditions will have been very disturbed, with reflections off of the mainland and the current from the bay. With the seas started to settle down and Point Reyes blocking all the big rollers, this area between Duxbury Reef and Point Reyes is a great place to sail in 10 to 20kts of winds. By the time you get up here the wind should start to fill in and you could kill your motor.

Tacking in and out along the beach is very pretty from Bolinas Point, along Limantour and into the Drakes Bay anchorage.

This time of year in the Drakes Bay anchorage should be pretty calm. For an open anchorage any way, there will be a bit of swell coming around Chimney Rock. If you choose to stop, find and open space in about the boats. I wouldn't anchor in anything less than 15 feet because of the tides and occasional roller that may come around the point.  This first leg will have taken five to seven hours. From here it will be three to four hours to the Tomales Bay entrance.

Point Reyes is like all the other major points up and down the coasts of North America. Like Point Conception, Point Sur and Point Arena, sailors have some good horror stories to tell. This is another great place to pass when the wind is light. This can be a very pretty bit of coast to travel along,
between Chimney Rock and Point Reyes itself. At Point Reyes I have brought my boat into almost touching distance of the rock face and still had 50 ft. of water under the keel. If all goes well with your schedule, you will be here about midday.
Once you're around the point, the wind is no longer on your nose and if you are good, you will be able sail close hauled to up to Tomales Point. For the first part of this leg, there is a reflection wave off of South Beach so it can be a little bumpy.

Tomales Point extends under the water quite a ways to the north. Just going around the marker, coming from the south, can sometimes be a little alarming. On your depth sounder you will see the bottom coming up very sharply and sometimes with the big rollers coming from the northwest, it gets a littl
e interesting.

Once around the Tomales Point marker, head for the Tomales Bay marker, "TB" on the chart. Sometimes there are two green cans at the first bar. If you go to the right of these, you will get in. If the first green can is missing, sometimes it gets washed away by storms in the winter,
sight a line from "TB" to the second can and stay to the right of that line.

If there are large rollers, do not turn around if seeing the bottom come up toward you is frighting. Your boat will make it across and you could be VERY surprised half way through your turn.

Now, like you, I have also heard a lot of people talk about this entrance. But I'm not sure about the particular perspective of these stories. Since this whole area is very popular with smaller trailer type power boats that are used by the fishermen, I could see how some of these conditions could be rather terrifying and you could get into some pretty serious trouble. But, for a comfortable size sailboat that is maneuverable at low speeds, I think it is relatively safe even under some of the more severe conditions. The area is quite protected by Tomales Point and the current never really gets that strong. It takes some good size rollers and a max ebb to get breaking waves all way across the bar.

I suppose if you wanted to say there was a good time of year and a bad time, I would guess that might mean the bad time would be in the winter and spring when we get the large storms up in the Gulf of Alaska which generate very large rollers. These large swells could create some good size waves at the bar. I have come in and out of here when the Bodega offshore buoy was reporting 20 ft. seas and 14 ft. wind waves with winds of 35 Kts. I certainly did not want my motor to die at that point or for the boat to go sideways to the action, but I wasn't in any danger. I think if people pay attention, they will be just fine. Like any situation, you have to apply commonsense.

After I come around the Tomales Point marker, I usually sail all the way down to the anchorage. So everybody should be relatively OK and there is plenty of room and time to get out of any trouble if you would happen to get into any. From here on, it's relatively straightforward.

Once inside Tomales, there is a dozen great little coves to anchor in. Just take your pick. Some of my favorite are, White Gulch, Pelican Point, Tomales Beach, Marshall Beach, Sacramento Landing and Indian Beach.  When I leave my boat here for the week, if I am making a two weekend trip, I anchor in Marconi.  This is about as far south as you can go with a large boat. The bay just starts to get too shallow.

Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay is a shallow, rocky inlet of the Pacific Ocean on the coast of northern California in the United States. It is approximately 5 mi across and is located approximately 40 mi northwest of San Francisco and 20 mi west of Santa Rosa. It is formed by Bodega Point and Tomales Point. 
Bodega Harbor is on the North end under Bodega Point. It is an eight hour motor by sail boat from Sausalito.  Five hours to Point Reyes and another three hours to Bodega Point.  There’s still controversy as to who was the first explorer to dock his ship in Bodega Bay, but long before the settlers came, the Miwok and Pomo Indians harvested clams and mussels from its shores.  Firmin Candelot founded the town of “Bay” in the last 1800s, which later changed its name to Bodega Bay in 1941.  Although most settlers were drawn here to jobs in the lumber mills, in time, locals shifted their focus to harvesting fish instead of lumber, establishing a thriving fishing industry.

Bodega Harbor

Bodega Bay is a quaint little fishing village of Bodega Bay.  Is an important commercial fishing base and, in season, an active sports fishing and recreation harbor
.  During salmon season more than 500 fishing craft either anchor just outside in the shelter of the N part of the bay or dock at the numerous marinas inside the harbor.


The town of Bodega, a five miles inland from the harbor, shares the source of its name with Bodega Bay, thought to be named after Lt. Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra.  In 1843, Captain Stephen
Smith claimed title to Rancho Bodega, a huge tract of coastal hills, settled and started a family.  He built the first steam-powered saw mill in California with parts brought by ship.  Bodega suited him well with its abundant source of wood and nearby bay for shipping.  The town grew to its largest size around the turn of the century.  Most famous for its role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” Bodega still attracts visitors to see Potter School
House and St. Teresa’s Church.

Tomales and Bodega Bays
Google Earth TrackTomales_and_Bodega_Bays_files/Tomales%20Bay.kmz
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