San Francisco Bay Area kiteboarding lessons, learning and support.
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The 18 foot skiffs are in town and will be sailing off crissy all week, so i thought it might be time to post a friendly reminder that skiffs and kites are relatives and brothers in on the water insanity- but that they should not mix if at all possible.
Yesterday a kite flew too close to the natural blues skiff and got wrapped on the masthead- the skiff crashed, dragging the kite down, and the kiter was being towed behind the boat for a minute until one of the crew members swam out to the masthead and worked the kite loose.
No feelings/equipment/people were hurt, but it's a reminder to all that our vehicles can't interact.
Please be careful out there- the skiffs really are only barely under control and often only have the option of sailing a specific course (dictated by the gust) or engaging in a violent crash that endangers the crew and the boat (and whomever is in the path of that 12' spear).
Bridge to bridge is friday!
We Put Safety First at Crissy:
Please familiarize yourself with these rules of the road at Crissy so we can all be safe and have a great time.
Public beach – We share the beach with families and dogs. Please make sure no beachgoers are downwind of you during launching/landing.
Kites/lines on the beach – Put lots of sand on your kite to avoid runaways. Quickly roll up lines to avoid crossing someone else.
Kites and lines should be set up west of the main entry point to the beach near the bathrooms.
Launching – Attach your leash prior to launch. "Low and go" is the drill for getting off the beach – 12:00 is not a safe kite position due to Crissy's skittish inside winds.
Boosting – Not on the beach, but go for it on the water.
Freestyle – The shoreline hucking zone is upwind near the trees. As a courtesy to windsurfers and ingress and exit to the beach, freestyle inside of the Anita Rock Buoy is discouraged.
Plan B – Get familiar with the flood/ebb tides. "Last chance" beach is downwind of the Saint Francis Yacht Club. Know how to self-rescue and wear a winter wet suit. A hand-held Coast Guard radio is a good idea.
Thank you and have fun!
Some further important information:
Most local kiters do not rig bigger than a 12m as it may be light on the inside, but will be nuking in the middle. The wind tends to be light inside if the beach heats up in relation to offshore. If you get out and find no wind on the inside when you come in, usually the wind will pulse in to the beach in intervals, So hang out in the wind line and watch the windsock for you r chance to avoid a swim, also better to aim for Anita rock than cutting upwind in some situations.
Q: “I don't think loaded cargo ships can turn very much at all. I once saw a kiter down in the channel with a ship approaching. The CG came out of nowhere, like WAY FAST and fished him out of there in no time. wicked. Ships can see a kite in the water from way far away. Captains are trained eyes. They just can't do too much about it without time.”
The bay pilots handle the ship coming in the Gate. While they pay attention, most of the ships have the bridge at the back of the ship, which means that they have a blind spot hundreds of feet long (even 1,000’+) directly in front of the ship. I think that they are supposed to have a bow look out who can call the bridge, but I’ve never been able to spot one and I have tried.
The big ships coming in an out of the Gate are typically 100-200’ wide. If one was bearing down on you and holding its course, you would only need to sprint swim about 100’ to get clear of the side of the hull, assuming you chose the right direction. The speed limit for the big ships is 15 knots (17 m.p.h.). The big ships create a bow wave that would help push one aside and many of the ships have a bow bulb that starts that wave ahead of the main body of the ship. The downside of swimming for your life is that you may not have a kite for flotation and visibility after your swim but still a good idea if you really thought the ship was going to hit you.
The large ships coming in the Gate maintain radio communications with the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) on VHF channel 14. If there is a case of imminent danger, you can call in a warning on VHF 14 and the ship and VTS will likely hear it. You might not be able to see the name of the ship from ahead of it, but a call along the lines of, “container ship inbound under the Golden Gate, there is a disabled windsurfer/kitesurfer down dead ahead of your vessel. Can you slow or come to port xx degrees?” should convey the situation. Otherwise, emergency calls go out on VHF channel 16, which is monitored, by Station Golden Gate and the area command at Sector San Francisco on Yerba Buena Island.
Q: “Are the CG tired of fishing out kiters? I mean they save people's lives but I am curious if they are tired of it.. any one ever have an open-ended conversation with any of them? I think that those guys are incredible.”
I deal with the crews at Station Golden Gate regularly through work with the SFBA and the Coast Guard Auxiliary. They signed up to help people and like to be out on the boat doing rescues. There is some frustration when the need for a rescue was pretty clearly based on a clear lack of judgment, but the Coast Guard deals with this issue all the time, whether it is a boater who run out of gas, a boardsailor who is over their head or a kayaker who lost their paddle in the middle of the Bay. There was a rumor that used to circulate that you will be charged for a rescue. That is absolutely untrue. If you sail within your limits and are outfitted with reliable gear and a rescue kit, you won’t catch an attitude if gear failure or a major weather change leaves you needing help.
If you want to sail out into the shipping channel and up toward the bridge, you should seriously consider a VHF radio and a strobe light unless you can faster that 4 knots (4.6 m.p.h.). You should also mark your gear with your name and phone number, especially the kiteboards which are more easily lost. There have been numerous all day search and rescue (SAR) operations at Crissy when a sail, kite or board was found and could not be correlated with a sailor. In every case I’m aware of, it later turned out that the sailor was safely onshore mourning the loss of his gear while the Coast Guard was out searching. If you lose your gear and your number is not on it, call the station to let them know - (415) 331-8247 (For Sector which would cover USCG emergencies area wide, call (415) 556-2103). If your number is on your gear, you may prevent a SAR case and also may get back gear that would have otherwise found a new home.
Most kitesurfers and windsurfers have figured out that is best to steer clear of powerboats. The big ships have right of way because they are commercial vessels confined to a channel. Smaller powerboats might be obligated to yield to a sailing vessel in a generic setting, but when they are dealing with 15-20 windsurfers and kitesurfers going in different directions, all they can practically do is moderate speed and maintain a steady course. In windy conditions, small powerboats often take spray over the windshield and they generally have a poor view forward at speed because the bow rises up, so don’t count on them seeing you. If you are very close to a boat, your kite may be at a high angle where they won’t notice it without actively looking up, so you may be counting on them spotting a body and kiteboard when they are looking for boats kites , and sails.
Ferry boats and some of the big fishing boats that run up to the bridge are carrying tourists. There are typically a lot of people standing up on these boats. If a captain has to throttle back quickly to avoid a collision, it is very easy for people that are standing (including elderly and people holding kids) to be knocked down. I’ve seen a few windsurfers cross very close in front of tour boats lately and if they fell for some reason, the captain would have lost sight of them below the bow and would have had to make the choice between a crash stop or trying to guess which way to steer to miss them. Even if they never fall, the captain of the boat shouldn’t have to repeatedly experience that same feeling you get when some guy comes flying up behind you on the freeway and only really slows down when he is 2’ off your back bumper.
This safety hand out is sponsored by the San Francisco Board Sailing Association. www.sfba.org
"The big ships coming in an out of the Gate are typically 100-200’ wide. If one was bearing down on you and holding its course, you would only need to sprint swim about 100’ to get clear of the side of the hull, assuming you chose the right direction. The speed limit for the big ships is 15 knots (17 m.p.h.). The big ships create a bow wave that would help push one aside and many of the ships have a bow bulb that starts that wave ahead of the main body of the ship. The downside of swimming for your life is that you may not have a kite for flotation and visibility after your swim but still a good idea if you really thought the ship was going to hit you. "
thanks SFBSA for the guidelines and all the support you've given water sports over the years-
i think you need to be more than 100' athwartship to avoid the suction from the prop. if you get into the bow wave, you better surf out of there- the boat is drawing water underneath it (the genesis of the quarter wake) and as such, swimming from the path of the ship is a dicey proposition.
also- if the ship blows five horns at you, it's a 10k fine. and yes, an 18 ft skiff got one of those fines last year, so now we tack early!
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