Dr. Heineken's Tide Rules

Dr Heineken's Rules for

Sailing the San Francisco City Front

Assumption: The wind is from the west.


• Don't believe the tide book, believe your eyes.

• Look at every stationary mark whenever you sail by.

• Whatever the water is doing on this leg of the course, the next one will be different, usually predictably different.

• Smooth water is moving in the same direction as the wind.

• Rough water is moving against the wind.


• Sail upwind in ugly, rough water.

• Sail downwind in smooth water.

• Whenever you cross a current line, decide whether the new current is favorable. If it isn't, change course.

• Sometimes you have to sail in bad air to get to the favored side of the course.

Current Relief:

• Along the whole SF City Front, the shallower water near shore slows the current.

• There is more current relief, in a wider band, west of the Club, especially west of Anita Rock.

• The harbor east of the Club offers significant relief.

Flood Tide Upwind Tactics

• Prior to the start, stay close to the starting line.

• After the start, head for the SF shoreline.

• Short tack up the shoreline.

• Observe the width of the lane of current relief.

• Play shifts and pressure differences within that lane of relief.

• Over-stand the weather mark to adjust for the current.

Flood Tide Downwind Tactics

• Sail away from shore into smooth water and good pressure.

• Enjoy it.

Ebb Tide Upwind Tactics

• Stay further from the starting line so the current doesn't push you over.

• Set yourself up so that after the start you get onto port tack, out into the current.

• Tack short of the starboard layline and let the current take you to the mark.

Ebb Tide Downwind Tactics

• Sail in maximum pressure. Although there is more relief near shore, for a planning boat or sailboard, pressure is most important.


• Slack current does not exist. The water is always moving.

• Generally the current changes at the SF shoreline first and then moves north across the Bay.

• The City Front current change generally occurs about one hour prior to what the tide book calls slack. But this is variable, believe your eyes.

Flood to Ebb

• Upwind, continue to sail close to the shoreline, but the lane gets progressively wider.

• Downwind, again, sail in maximum pressure.

Ebb to Flood

• When the flood starts at the City Front, there is often remaining ebb out in the Bay.

• Look for rough water and the movement of other boats to make that decision.

• One more upwind leg out into the Bay may be successful.

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