Sail to Estela, March 3, 1999

Harry Gordon, Jon Hunolt, and David and Francesca Kautz made this 30-mile daysail in their P-15s. This was on a cold and potentially stormy day in early March, and, though everything went well, it was not a trip to take lightly -- a trip that fits right in the tradition of the plucky little P-15. (At the bottom of this story are links to several pages of photographs.)

Though we don't have a complete trip report from anyone, we are lucky to have a good pictorial record of this considerable adventure, and, a fair amount of description in email, which I have collected here. Here's Harry Gordon's short report from March 6, included in a reply to a comment of Larry Costa's:

    >O,BTW, It's actually warm outside (in the SF Bay area)!
    >Left Coast Larry
    Just between you and me, it isn't THAT warm.  We sailed three
    P15s for 30 miles on the southern Bay today, arriving back at the
    Redwood City ramp at sunset, chilled and tired but satisfied that
    we had accomplished our mission.  Jon Hunolt, Dave Kautz and his
    wife, and I visited the remains of the destroyer Thompson outside
    Redwood Creek, then ventured far below the Dumbarton bridge to
    see the old wooden ship, the Estela, stuck in the mud down there. 
    Judging by her appearance, I'm not sure that getting the ship
    back into deep water is such a good idea, but that is the plan. 

    Dave Kautz planned the trip so we had favorable currents both
    ways, which more than made up for the headwinds in both
    directions.  I was sure we couldn't go that far on a March day,
    but we did. 
    Much of the trip was motorsailing, but on the return trip we shut
    off the stinkpots at the Dumbarton and had great sailing in about
    15 knots of wind and light chop all the way back to the ramp. 
    After getting the boats secured, we gathered at Pete's for
    Larry, I know how much you love The Best Outboard Motor for the
    World, so you should know that both Jon and I were powered by
    Seagulls.  I must confess that my motor quit several times on the
    way down, but she restarted easily each time.  Apparently she
    didn't like the old fuel that had been sitting in my storage shed
    much too long.  The 10:1 had probably deteriorated to 5:1 or
    something.  Jon had ample fuel so gave me a couple of cans of
    fresh gas while we were rafted up at the Estela, and with fresh
    fuel the Seagull buzzed happily back up to the Dumbarton without
    missing a beat.  (Jon had no problems with his Seagull.)

    Hope to see you at Tomales Bay next weekend.  Sandy and I are
    thinking of staying in Inverness. 

    Harry Gordon 
    P14 #234, Manatee 
    Mountain View, CA

Harry later said in a message to me that it was pretty cold, but: "Fortunately it didn't rain, the sea was benign, and spray was negligible, but I had new foul weather gear, an old float coat, a change of clothing, towel, and a sleeping bag for contingencies."

The idea for the trip came from a short feature in the San Jose Mercury News concerning the Estela, a large turn of the century sailing vessel mired in the mud south of the Dumbarton Bridge. The newspaper story is unfortunately no longer online, but we have a scanned version of the headline and picture. Here's Harry's email Feb 17 email describing the story:

    SF Bay area Potter sailors may be interested in an article in
    yesterday's _San Jose Mercury_ (Feb.  17).  There is a 135 ft
    wooden sailing ship, the _Estela_ that is stuck in the mud near
    Guadalupe Slough, 4 miles south of the Dumbarton Bridge. 
    According to the article, the Estela has been stuck there since
    1995 (although this is the first I have heard about it.) The ship
    has changed owners since then.  The new owners have succeeded in
    getting the boat afloat, but the surrounding water is too shallow
    to allow sailing it back to the channel.  With the help of a tug,
    they hope to get the ship free on April 16, when there will be an
    especially high tide.  The ship will be taken to Redwood City for
    restoration work.  The previous owner said the ship was built in
    Spain in 1919, but the new owner believes it was built in America
    in the 1870s. 

    Harry Gordon 
    P14 #234, Manatee 
    Mountain View, CA

The idea of visiting the old ship took hold on the WWPotter email list, and plans were made. As it turned out, the route would pass by the wreck of the Thompson, a wrecked US Destroyer rusting away to nothing in the South Bay mud flats.

They left from the Redwood City launch ramp. Jon Hunolt kept a GPS track of the route, and sent us a bunch of annotated pictures of the trip. Harry Gordon took his video camera, and captured some further pictures of the wreck of the Thompson, and more detailed views of the Estela. Dave Kautz has also provided some pictures.

(Note: The above links are to pages with many photos, which will take a bit of time to download.)