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Friday, September 6, 2002

Sailing with the Tall Ships

By Ron Henggeler (sfbison@pacbell.net)

On August 28 I sailed outside the Golden Gate, on a 100-foot schooner from 1812, and came back in with a regatta of tall ships from all over the world. It was the largest gathering of tall ships since the bicentennial. I had fifteen rolls of film for my F3 Nikon, and I also took my video camera with plenty of extra tape.

The day was more exciting than anyone had expected. Two hours out, and ten minutes before sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge (which kept appearing and disappearing in a thick fog), in 35-knot winds and driving hard straight into six-foot swells, the jib boom cracked and snapped off at the base (18 inches in diameter). In violent winds, the foresails collapsed and hit the water. All hands were brought out on deck to take in the canvas. Losing our tack, we missed hitting another craft by just four feet. The captain considered limping her in to Sausalito but we finally continued on under engine power. We went four miles outside the Gate and came back in behind the Europa, a three-masted German lightship from the 1910s. Our cannons fired off a salute as we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge. The BOOOOM that echoed and echoed and echoed off the bridge's belly is something I will never forget.