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South San Francisco Bay Charter's Handbook - When to Plan a Cruise
By Bob Diamond

When to Plan a Cruise

During most of the season, you can count on the afternoon northwest wind in the South Bay and wind coming more from the west in the North Bay. The other significant variable is the tidal current. The ideal plan is to have the current going with you in all directions but that's not always possible. If you can just plan to have the current in your favor at the critical times, you'll have a great advantage. There are places in the Bay where the current is stronger than elsewhere. These places can be seen in the current charts of San Francisco Bay. There are also days every month when the current is stronger than on other days. When the tides are the most extreme, it's called "spring tides". The least extreme tides are called "neap tides". The tidal current is of course strongest during the spring tides. Tide and current tables are available on the web and in booklet form at Spinnaker and many other marine facilities.

If possible, plan a cruise so the current is favorable or at least not too unfavorable when you're going to be passing through areas where the current is strongest. The tides and currents tend to be in opposite phase every week. If it turns out the current is going to be unfavorable for your passage one week; you can expect it to be favorable the following week. That's assuming you plan for approximately the same departure time. Modern cruising often involves a lot of motoring. Accept the necessity of motoring, especially if your going to start early in the morning before the wind comes up.


The inboard Diesel powered boats carry enough fuel for just about any cruise of a few days duration. More fuel is available at the many fuel docks located north of Redwood City. The outboard powered boats normally only carry enough fuel for 3 or 4 hours of motoring. Spinnaker can provide an extra container of fuel upon request, and if necessary, cruisers can purchase more gasoline along the way. If "50:1 outboard mix" is not available, outboard users will have to mix the new gas with outboard motor oil to make the proper mixture required by outboard engines. Charterers are given a full tank of gas upon departure from the charter base. Any additional fuel required is at the expenxe of the charter.

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Bob Diamond has been head instructor at Spinnaker Sailing since 1984

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