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Winehaven

It was unusually nice outside this weekend, like in the low 70s, so I took the drone out yesterday in search of a new place to fly. I ended up in a weird little area called Winehaven.

Flying drones is tough out here. You have to find a wide open area (rare) that isn’t a state or federal park or protected area, a county park, a regional park, or a city park that’s particularly paranoid about drones. Then you need to be in uncontrolled airspace, not near an airport. And then you need to not be around people. There are message boards to scour through, but it’s mostly a lot of detective work.

Winehaven (here) is a weird little protuberance in Richmond, right before you hit the Richmond bridge on the way to Marin. All I really knew was there’s a small park named Point Molate right on the water, and it’s in redevelopment hell, so it’s not part of the regional park system. I read up more on this later — it used to be the world’s largest winery, from right after the big earthquake (1907) until prohibition. The main building at Winehaven is a giant castle, which is bizarre. Also lots of other small worker’s houses pepper the area, all boarded up and fenced off now.

Winehaven went bankrupt during prohibition and sat unused until the Navy scooped it up and turned it into the Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot. From the start of WWII up until the late 90s, they ran a big tank farm on the top of the hill. The castle building became either fuel barrel storage or a barracks (not sure which) and there was a small village of cottages for officers, which still stands but is a ghost town. (See this article for some great pictures.)

Like most BRACed military land around the bay, Winehaven and Point Molate has gone through the usual development rumors and attempts and failures. As expected, the Navy dumped anything and everything into the groundwater and kicked the can on later remediation. The Pomo Indians wanted to build a multi-billion dollar casino there, and spent a decade in the court system before it was stopped. (I’m simplifying this; the history is more involved. Don’t sue me, wikipedia is your friend, etc.) In 2019, stuff started moving again with SunCal to redevelop the area. The usual catch phrases were thrown around: adaptive reuse, live/work space, pedestrian-friendly, open space areas, mixed-use retail, blah blah blah. Not the best time to start work on this, but maybe they’ll do something in the next economic cycle.

Anyway. Drove out to the Point Molate beach park, and it was 200% full, some super-spreader event going on and no parking whatsoever. I decided to drive around just to see what else was up, and found the castle and the ghost village. About a mile past that, I found a bunch of dirt turn-offs where fishermen usually park to fish the shore there, but only one guy was out that day.

I made my first mistake by taking off from the dirt. Once I got over the water, I started getting gimbal errors and the drone was violently shaking, or looked like it was. I immediately returned, and after a very panicked landing, I took a look at the gimbal and camera. The gimbal is the motorized thing in the nose that holds the camera and can rotate, turn, and raise/lower in three dimensions. It’s a very touchy piece of precision mechanics, and it looked like when I took off on the dirt, some sand went into the gimbal. I blew it out and very carefully rotated it by hand, and that was definitely the problem.

Round two, and I mostly flew over the water. The former tank farm, now a fenced-off remediation dirt pile, was behind me. I wasn’t terribly interested in exploring that, because I wasn’t sure of the power line situation. (Those kind of construction sites are notorious for temporary power lines in odd locations that aren’t on Google Maps.) That little bay is framed by the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on the horizon, the castle further down the coast, and some bits of ruined pier. I wish I would have hiked further south, past the castle, because there are a few shipwrecks down there.

Aside from my nervousness about the gimbal and flying over water, this was the first time I’d flown with any amount of wind. It was mostly still, but I’d get occasional 5-10 mph gusts coming in toward the shore. The Mavic Air 2 is more powerful than some base-level drones, and it’s constantly auto-adjusting the four props to keep it steady, but there were times it got a bit wobbly, which scared me. It was also the afternoon, so I had the sun to the west and in my eyes, and bringing the drone above about 40 feet made it vanish into the sun, which wasn’t great.

I did some speed runs across the bay, which was fun. Got some nice camera footage zooming over the water towards the shore at an altitude of twenty or thirty feet for that Miami Vice intro look. The MA 2 has a top horizontal speed of about 42 MPH in sport mode, which is three or four times faster than the toy drones you get at the mall. I had it locked in normal mode, which is capped at 12 m/s, or about 26 MPH, which was still fun.

Here’s my shot of the castle. I didn’t get too close, so I’m going to have to go back soon, maybe either in the early morning when the sun’s behind it, or catch it during the golden hour, if I can ever time that.

 

Categories
general

1/9

  • Been hard to write this week for obvious reasons. I guess I blew that “post every day this year thing” about five days in.
  • Started writing a big diatribe about that, but I can’t get into it right now. Maybe later.
  • I did not step foot out of the apartment for about nine days. I think I went downstairs to get the mail once. They put a new keyfob on the garage last Monday, and I didn’t know about it until Friday.
  • I’m on this new diet or whatever, because of the various cardio stuff last year. I wish I could be eating an entirely plant-based diet, but it’s hard for me. Getting protein but keeping a low-fat diet is the big issue.
  • (I know, “eat more good fat.” I can’t. That doesn’t work at all. Fat is fat for me. I know, some Keto magazine says it should, and it works for you. It doesn’t for me. I took a DNA test that proved this, so stop hassling me with the eating sticks of butter thing.)
  • I have been getting food delivered from Thistle. It tastes pretty good, and the delivery service is decent. It’s not cheap, but neither is a heart attack. If you’re really interested, here is an affiliate link.
  • I am not a Vegan. I’m eating basically 18 or 19 meals a week that would be considered vegan, but cheating on Friday and Saturday night, and maybe Sunday.
  • Even if I ate entirely plant-based meals 100% of the time, I would not say I’m a Vegan. This isn’t a political, environmental, or belief-based thing. I don’t give a shit what you do. There’s going to be times when I need to have a pepperoni pizza. Also see the first line above about how well I keep resolutions.
  • (I did start the Thistle thing two weeks into December, so it’s not entirely a new year thing.)
  • I went to fly the drone today at Treasure Island. First flight this year. It was also the first time I flew over water, which scared me a bit.
  • Flying a drone in the Bay Area is problematic. There’s lots of airspace you can’t fly in. You can’t fly in any East Bay, California, or National parks. The Karen situation also makes me want to stay away from people, and there are people everywhere here.
  • Treasure Island problems: birds, lots of low power lines, I’m not supposed to fly over the Bay Bridge.
  • My drone has ADS-B, which warns me when a manned aircraft is nearby. It’s a great feature, but Treasure Island is peppered with little Cessnas zipping over at low altitude, so lots of alerts. Also, every time a helicopter takes off in SF, I get a warning.
  • I don’t know where to post my pictures and videos. Most of them are not that great. I’m still getting used to flying. Also, I’m technically not supposed to post them on YouTube because I don’t have a license.
  • I bought a test book for the Part 107 license for flying drones. It’s funny because you need to know so much that is not applicable. Like 30% of the test is answering esoteric weather questions, and the rule for drones is “do not fly in any weather conditions whatsoever.” You also have to know every detail about airport traffic patterns and how to read signs on runways, but you’re not allowed to fly anywhere near an airport.
  • I’ve been trying to write random stuff each day. I’ve done this regularly, for the last few years. I sit down and try to automatic write at least 500 words. Then I sift through it later and see what to glue together, what to expand and turn into stories.
  • It’s very hard to think of stuff to write for these. It’s even harder to think of new things a million words later. And no, those writing prompt web sites don’t work.
  • I think I started doing this 500-word thing with Atmospheres. So that was six or seven years ago, seven books.
  • I think this system doesn’t work well anymore. It fulfills the need for creating every day, but it’s harder and harder to think of ideas. And then at some point, I have to stop and somehow collate things together.
  • Basically, I need a new system. I don’t know what that is yet.
  • I also feel like I need a new hobby. The drone thing isn’t cutting it, because it’s so hard to get out and do regularly.
  • My previous hobby I never focused on (no pun intended) was photography. Maybe it is pun intended, because I am losing my eyesight, and I’ll be damned if I can ever manually focus a picture. If I can see the subject, I can’t see the viewfinder, and vice-versa. And I can never see that little screen, especially in daylight.
  • I keep thinking about building a PC for some reason. I recently looked up prices, and it’s impossible. Video card speculation is rampant. You can’t buy a $200 card from four years ago that’s completely obsolete for $600 online, never mind a current one.
  • (I just checked: a $699 RTX 3080 is going for $1400-1500 on eBay.)
  • I wish I could draw, or had the patience to get back into music.
  • Maybe I should paint Warhammer figurines. Although I have no interest in fantasy games. And see above about eyesight.
  • I collected stamps when I was maybe 10. There probably won’t be a post office for much longer now. I also went through a coin collecting phase maybe twenty years ago, but we’re in a coin shortage right now. And people hoard gold.
  • I’ve been watching this Ewan McGregor thing where he’s motorcycling across all of South America on an electric Harley-Davidson with his friend. I also re-read that Neil Peart book where he rode all over the continent on his motorcycle.
  • The McGregor thing is very cool because the photography is amazing, seeing Machu Picchu and Chile and Argentina and whatnot. Lots of drone shots, BTW.
  • One weird coincidence they did not mention: they spent some time visiting some kids at a UNESCO site or something who Quechua people. In the Star Wars movies, the Huttese language that many on Tatooine spoke, including McGregor’s character, is based on Quechuan.
  • I could not get a motorcycle. I would get killed in fifteen minutes flat. I don’t have the balance to ride a regular bicycle. I’ve broken my arm twice on a regular ten-speed.
  • I’m still a bit freaked out that I turn 50 in a week and a half. Yes, I’ve priced out new Corvettes. I don’t even know where I would park a Corvette, let alone drive it. It would be a matter of when and not if on it getting stolen.
  • Big things happening on my birthday nationally, but once again, not ready to write about that, either.