There are a many reasons people go sailing. Some crave the adrenaline rush. Others just enjoy leaving terra firma, with all of its complications, behind.
"When you get out on the ocean, people open up," said Rich Crumley, who gives tours on his 33-foot sailboat, the Entropy II, out of Bodega Bay. "It gets quiet, and people start thinking about their lives, and the couples start reconnecting."
The 52-year-old sailboat captain, who started sailing as a young boy growing up in Southern California, launched the Bodega Bay Sailing tours in 2006. The idea took hold after he was asked to take a friend's family out for a ride, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
"There was zero visibility, but when the sky opened up, my friend's brother-in-law said, 'This is the best day of my life!'" he recalled. "That's why I started doing it."
Sailing also helps subsidize Crumley's boat maintenance costs and fishing habit. He often throws out a line during a tour, and when salmon season opened in early May, he landed a 12-pounder.
"I love sailing, fishing and exploring," he said. "I live for salmon season."
Crumley, who lives in Sonoma and works full-time as a park ranger at Doran Regional Park in Bodega Bay, can take up to four people on the three-hour sailing tours. The tours take place in the morning, so he can get to his job by 1 p.m.
Bodega Bay Sailing averages about 80 sailing trips a year and draws a clientele from all over the world.
While he does not give sailing lessons per se, Crumley will let passengers steer the boat and help him tack (make a windward turn).
Along the way, he also shares lessons in local geology, history and the animals that hatch, feed, migrate and spout in the rich habitat of Bodega Bay.
"In the spring, everything comes to life here," he said. "The osprey are raising their young."
On a recent sunny, calm morning, Crumley excitedly pointed to a flotilla of tiny Dungeness crabs swimming past the boat pier.
"This is an important nursery for baby crabs," he said. "They can get fat and big here."
Before heading out, Crumley always shows passengers a chart of the unique waters where they will be sailing.
"The San Andreas fault goes up through Tomales Bay and right through Bodega Head," he said. "The Pacific Plate and the North American Plate come together right here."
As part of the boat's safety equipment, he carries two VHF (very high frequency) radios, an orange lifesaving ring and life jackets for each passenger.
"Everyone wears a life jacket because the insurance I have does not bring people back from the dead," joked Crumley, who has sailed the California coast and from Hawaii to San Francisco.
While motoring through the dredged channel of the bay, Crumley pointed out the black fins of a school of feeding manta rays. A flock of Caspian terns flew in tight formation over the water, white and blue herons fished in the shallows and Brant geese fed on eel-grass on their way to Alaska.
"This is a rest stop for migrating birds in the spring and fall," he said. "The Brants will be gone in another week."
Once out of the bay, the Entropy II passed by two abalone divers and headed toward Bodega Rock, a noisy landmark crammed with barking harbor seals and sea lions. Nearby, the arched back of a gray whale broke the ocean's surface, then spouted a greeting.