Mooring Madness at Ayala Cove

Sometimes, boatlife is difficult. This is especially true when you untie the dock lines & take your floating home to a new anchorage for the night. There’s a long checklist to make sure is completed to prevent catastrophe while away from the dock. Depending on your boat and it’s systems, these items could include checking engine fluids, water & diesel supply - or if you live aboard like we do, it’s usually stowing personal items so they don’t fly across the boat as you encounter the remaining wake of the commuter ferries or raise the sails & “get your lean on.” Oh, and don’t forget to tightly close all your hatches - theres nothing worse than going down below halfway through sailing to find a soaked bed or cushion. This is all to prepare your home to leave the marina safely.

The next important factor is understanding your surroundings once you have left the comfort of the marina - How deep is the water underneath our boat? Any marine traffic I should worry about? Whats the wind/weather doing?

No matter how much you think you have a plan, you’ve studied charts & techniques, and consider yourself a safe & experienced boater, you will still find yourself in hairy situations now and then.

It just so happens, that this past weekend was one of those times. We suddenly found ourselves in an uncomfortable situation while trying to tie Gemini up to a double mooring in Ayala Cove at Angel Island.

Jack picked me up in the Alameda Estuary at around 5:30pm, motoring our home over to meet up with our friends, Quincey & Mitch from QM Travels, who were already moored for the night. We arrived to the mooring area just as the sun was setting, expecting to raft up to our friends, side by side. Our friends said it was too rolly to raft up so we decided we would pick up a nearby mooring ball.


Jack on Gemini, picking me up with a "touch and go" at a dock in Alameda Marina.

We had previously anchored in another cove at Angel Island, it was our first time at Ayala Cove and our first mooring experience on Gemini. Ayala cove is a tight tucked in area, so to prevent boats from running into each other, they set up bow and stern mooring balls with color coding to indicate the correct bow/stern pairs to be aligned properly. With the sun quickly escaping us, we immediately struggled to see the surrounding boats’ lines crossing around us as we tried to tie up with help from Mitch who was in his dinghy for assistance.


Diagram of mooring setup in Ayala Cove, at Angel Island

It was easy enough to loop our bowline through the mooring ball in front of us, but when Jack went to back up Gemini towards the stern buoy, he could not maneuver the boat close enough to reach it. The current was very strong & kept pushing our bow towards the moored boat in front of us, getting within feet of their stern. The combination of navigating a new mooring at night and the difficulty hearing each other while maneuvering, quickly stressed the crew out as we scrambled to sloppily attach to the mooring balls.


Once we were securely attached to both mooring balls, we realized that most of our maneuvering difficulties were due to the fact that we were dead stuck in the mud by the time we were secured. “Well that explains a lot!” It still did not excuse our lack of preparation, but looking back there were multiple things we will do differently next time when approaching this type of situation:

  1. Extra long bow & stern lines ready to loop through the mooring attachment.

  2. Have a boat hook ready - sometimes they are more of a gangly nuisance than a help but when you need to hook a mooring loop-they can be handy.

  3. Have headlamps & strong flashlights ready to help illuminate and indicate our surroundings while mooring at night.

  4. Do your best to arrive to new anchorages, marinas or moorings during daylight hours - its much easier & less intimidating!

  5. Doing a slow circle around the mooring area can work wonders for setting up a game plan & easier communication.

  6. Don’t get stuck in the mud! We “just figured” there was enough water beneath our keel, but forgot to turn on our depth gauge when entering the mooring! Silly mistakes can make for frustrating times.

After cooling down (with a calm night and a few cold ones..) we looked back on the situation and decided to learn from our mistakes & try to not be hard on ourselves for getting in this sticky situation. All we can hope is that we can improve our mooring skills & try to prevent this chaos in the future!


Gemini moored with bow/stern lines at Ayala Cove

After all, we finally released from the mud as the tide came up. We continued to pull our mooring lines tight to keep us tidy & away from other boats. The next morning, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast on our friends boat Esprit, followed by a beautiful hike up to the top of Angel Island rewarding ourselves with a birds-eye view of our boat moored below and a stunning 360 view of San Francisco Bay.


Here are a couple of photos from our day at Ayala Cove:



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San Francisco Bay, CA