What I Saw – by Jackie Philpott
Sailing Out Of South Beach
Saturday Nov. 19 was a gorgeous winter day on the San Francisco Bay, perfect for a sailboat race. This race was the first of several, part of South Beach Yacht Club’s annual regatta called Island Fever. Located at South Beach Harbor, the club is next to the Oracle Park on the City’s southern edge called the Embarcadero.
The owner of a Catalina 34, S/V Crews Nest, Ray bumped me from his race boat a few years ago when he traded up for a younger, stronger crew. He’s Australian and a competitive sailor. He was only slightly apologetic when he explained that I “didn’t add value.” Since I knew this was true, I didn’t take offense. Besides, I have other friends. I also have my own boat. Can you see me shrug? I knew that the captain had invited me along only because everyone else was out of town for one reason or another. During winter, when there is no need for fast maneuvers, sailing friends are invited along for old times’ sake. Plus, I bring baked goods. On this day I brought a plastic container full of homemade cookies.
Earlier in the morning there was a lot of wind and the smog had been blown off the Bay. San Francisco’s skyscrapers looked close enough to reach out and touch.
We motored around for a while in McCovey Cove and then missed our start. Oh well. Problem was, we could see that the wind was already dying slowly but surely. We ended the race by floating along in the south bay on glassy conditions. Someone called it Lake San Francisco and we all laughed.
Looking around, we couldn’t see wind anywhere, so we started in on the cookies and lay around talking, then started in on Captain Ray’s sammiches. Ham and Havarti cheese with some kind of weird paste. Like I said, he’s Australian. A regular member of the crew, Herb Brosovsky is a cheese purveyor, so we learned all about how Port Salut cheese is made.
We only circled one of the four marks before giving up on the race, and regardless, it was a really nice day. Fifteen boats started the race, but not one boat finished. That’s winter sailboat racing for you. It’s a crapshoot.
After the race I crossed the Embarcadero to eat dinner at the South Beach Café. The proprietor and his wife speak Italian to each other and have waited on me at the restaurant almost every time I have eaten there or purchased a latte over the past ten years.
I walked back to my car beneath the huge lighted sign of Oracle Park. Delicious lasagna, salad and bread for $13, what a terrific way to end the day!
Waiting Lists At Bay Area Marinas
Before I drove over to South Beach, I went online to see how much it would cost to park at the marina. While I was on the site, I stumbled upon the waiting list for slips. The San Francisco Bay Area is an urban environment and getting onto the water is highly desirable. Boat slips are becoming more and more elusive. Waiting lists for public marinas are available to the public and that is how I learned that there is a $100 annual fee to be on the South Beach Harbor list. I counted 485 people who have paid $100/year to remain on the list for slips that measure between 30- to 60-foot long. One person has been on the list since 2003, another since 2005.
Waiting lists for slips in marinas are ubiquitous nowadays. Santa Cruz has a very long list where I have heard of sailors who sublet from the owners of large fishing boats while they are away during fishing season. Monterey? Forget it. You can sail into Monterey and the harbormaster will make room for you on a temporary basis, but the waiting list is long for even the smallest boat. I write this not to bash the marinas for waiting list charges, but to emphasize the scarcity of slips available, especially to sailors and also to owners of larger boats that won’t fit into garages.
My own boat is a keelboat and it doesn’t fit into my own garage. Truth be told, I don’t have a garage. Instead, I pay for a slip. Because I don’t have a garage, I also pay monthly for a storage unit. Storage units at marinas are a status symbol because there never seems to be enough for everybody who wants one. However, even my storage unit doesn’t hold all the endless bits and pieces that are needed for my boat. The canisters of West Marine epoxy, the stainless bling purchased at nautical swap meets, the windvane parts, the extra spinnaker and those cushions for when guests visit from out of town. In other words, all those items not welcome under the dining room table and for which a garage would come in real handy. If I had a garage. Which I don’t.
Especially because of that mast issue, we sailors have particularly limited options as we look around for a slip among the increasingly rare choices in fast disappearing marinas. Quick! Grab one while you still can because they are indeed at risk. I am lucky enough to have a slip for my own boat and that is one of the purposes of this article, which has somehow drifted from its purpose. I’ve written about the loss of Svendsen’s boat yard in Alameda. Not only boat yards but increasingly boat slips have become scarce in the Bay Area as marinas become silted in or erased in favor of new condominium communities.
If you have a powerboat that fits on a trailer in your garage you are probably feeling pretty smug as you read this. When you bought your power boat, chances are that you carefully considered the purchase so that it was small enough to fit into your garage. Maybe you even have a partner who doesn’t even mind your boat on its trailer taking up space next to his or her car in the two-car garage. Before you bought that boat, maybe you were smart enough to consider where you would keep it?
Or maybe you weren’t so smart after all and fell in love with a big shiny cabin cruiser that you were positive the whole family would enjoy. Maybe you yourself enjoy it very much, but no one else quite shares your joy. Whatever kind of boat you own, whether it has a stick or not, that might be why people who keep their boats in the Delta think they are smarter than Bay Area boaters. As boat yards and marinas disappear, it’s beginning to look like maybe they are right.
At the Classics at the Corinthian event in October I met Shakti Om Shanti. A member of the Glen Cove Yacht Club, her friends introduced Shakti to me as the woman who owns a 50-foot dockominium at the marina there, but no boat! Shakti was unfazed by their gentle abuse. She is a business woman with long-term investment plans. She bought the dock because she can see into the future. When she finds the right boat, Shakti, says she’ll buy it. In the meantime, she’s renting her slip to someone else. More about Shakti and her idea of the perfect boat in a future column.
Fleet Week 2022
Since 2009, on the Friday of Fleet Week I have sailed over to the area just south of Angel Island aboard my sailboat. The Blue Angels fly on Friday and the Bay is relatively empty on that day. Hove to and bouncing on the waves in the inevitably windy conditions, it is such a powerfully visceral experience when they finally fly overhead! I wait patiently and there is nothing… nothing… nothing but the sound of the water against the hull… and then – THERE THEY ARE!!
There is that supersonic sound of high-performance Navy fighter jets as they zoom in from the north over Angel Island. They fly away across the outer avenues of the City where they reconnoiter and circle back again and again. Every year I am newly impressed by the power and precision of our Navy’s aviators. Did you know that United States Navy pilots are called “aviators” while in the United States Airforce they are referred to as pilots? Yup.
Last year I changed course and sailed over to Angel Island instead where I tied up at a slip there. Boats full of people were arriving all around me, most of them power boats of one kind or another. Angel Island is a state park, so I paid the ranger $15 then walked to the top of the island. I was part of a large movement of families, many with young children who were pushing their little bikes up the hill. Very few of them were whining, which surprised me. Parents pulled wagons with picnic baskets, fathers and mothers carried small children in backpacks. They were all moving purposefully to the top of Angel Island in order to watch the air show. I turned off to my favorite place where I can see the most sails on the water, sat down under a pin oak tree and ate a chocolate bar while the fighter pilots swooped and rose.
The view from the top of Angel Island is spectacular. Boaters sail or motor over to Ayala Cove by water, others ride over on the ferry from Tiburon. It is a popular destination for charter boats. If you are any kind of a hiker it is not a difficult trip to the top, but there is also a trolley that circles around the whole top of the island. I rode it with my mother a few years back and it is certainly the leisure option.
This year I decided to try watching the show from Marina Green, which is just east of Crissy Field on the northern edge of the City. I drove over from Oakland in late morning on Friday and parked on the grass of Crissy Field. There was already good wind, and it was cold. Karl the Fog was beginning to sneak into the Bay ahead of the Parade of Ships. Parking is still free at Crissy Field which delighted the person who parked next to me. It delighted me too. I was also happy that I had worn my down jacket and wool hat.
All morning I walked around watching people, talking with military personnel who were there to represent the various branches of the military and families who had brought their children to the huge festival that is Fleet Week in the City. I would describe it as one big, massive and well-behaved party spread out primarily along the waterfront of San Francisco. There were security checkpoints at every entrance to the large lawn full of booths and equipment run by remarkably polite personnel.
The parameters of the exhibits were clearly marked by soft and low, obviously temporary fencing. Rather than feeling fenced in, they suggested being in a safety zone. Plus there were all those law enforcement uniforms. There were sheriffs from Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, police officers and firefighters everywhere. Fire trucks were parked along the edges of the field and police officers directed traffic along the Green. There were watchful eyes everywhere. The Marina District was the safest place in America during Fleet Week.
Inside the cordoned Marina Green every branch of the military was represented except the Air Force. I don’t know why the Air Force wasn’t in attendance. Maybe they didn’t get the memo. Regardless, I had a wonderful day. Part of the joy of Fleet Week is not just the spectacle, although it is that, but also the purposeful pleasure gotten by the parents of the children.
I was reminded of a woman I knew years ago. She and her husband had four beautiful young children, all at the same time. Quadruplets. Kathleen and her husband used to take their kids to boat shows. They bought each child a life jacket and let them go wild, climbing all over on the boats. Imagine the boat brokers tearing their hair out!
“I didn’t know you were boat people,” I remember saying.
“Oh, I’ve never been on a boat in my life,” said Kathleen. “But it wears them out and at the end of the day they go to sleep early and sleep all night long. During the winter we go to recreational vehicle shows. Same thing, but they don’t wear the life jackets.”
Fleet Week would have been the perfect venue for that family as it seemed to be for every family on this day.
I enjoyed myself all day while talking with the soldiers, every one of whom was incredibly gracious to us civilians. After asking permission from parents, I took photos of kids climbing up into huge armored vehicles. Encouraged by the soldiers, most of whom were not much older than the kids themselves, the teeniest of children leaned on the horns and revved the engines, tried on helmets and seemed to be having a splendid time. There were thousands of people there and we even saw some glimpses of the Blue Angels’ show. Those jets go so fast and my fingers were so slow! I couldn’t figure out how to focus my camera fast enough!
Every military person seemed genuinely pleased to be in San Francisco on this lovely day. I spoke with Naval Petty Officer Dalton Blackstone from Hepzibah, Georgia and asked how he and his colleagues were chosen to come up from the Navy base in Coronado to participate in Fleet Week. He told me that there was an open invitation and he volunteered. He and his fellow enlisted men and women take turns year after year until everyone has had a chance to travel to San Francisco. At 4 p.m. on this day they would all be off duty and planned to share a night on the town.
I asked Petty Officer Blackstone if he enjoyed living in Southern California. He told me that one of the first things he did when he arrived in California from Georgia was to buy a surfboard. He explained that he bought a short one because he has a small car, but realized that he should’ve bought a big one which would have been easier to learn on. I started to laugh and he laughed, too, saying, “Well, it seemed like a good plan at the time.” He’s gotten better at surfing, he said, and is now able to paddle around on his stomach without falling off.
When I asked Petty Officer Blackstone whether he missed Georgia this was his response: “Yes, ma’am, I’m a country boy and I want to go home.” He was such a nice man. I enjoyed our chat and took a photograph of him with Samuel Schwab of State College, Pennsylvania. They are both members of the same Naval construction battalion.
There was a huge truck in the middle of Marina Green. All day long a long line of little kids and their parents waited to climb up into its cab. Two Marines worked in shifts to patiently make sure the children got up safely and didn’t fall out. This little girl dressed in pink is Hannah Andrade, who visited with her father, Daniel. Mr. Andrade told me that this was the sixth year he and Hannah had attended Fleet Week, travelling up from San Jose.
Helping Hannah and the other children up into the truck was Corporal Quincy Segraves from Addison, Michigan. Corporal Segraves also intends to go home to Michigan when he’s done with the Marines. Corporal Antonio Cervantes was in charge of the kids once they sat behind the wheel of the truck. I watched as he encouraged them to explore every switch in the cab, even showing them how to stretch their legs further in order to push the fuel pedal and make more noise. Those kids? They were having a blast thanks to Corporals Cervantes and Segraves.
I walked over to the Army National Guard STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) exhibit. On this day Specialist Daniel Ogbanna was in charge of the Army National Guard’s program. I watched as Specialist Ogbanna helped Isla Rose McCarthy and her sister Violet, manipulate a robot. He offered up a tissue for Ida Rose’s robot to pluck from the grass.
Their mother, Eileen McCarthy, told me that they had attended Fleet Week last year, which was when the girls discovered the robots. She said they were keen to come back again this year so they had all ridden their bikes from their home in the Presidio District. Both girls were intensely interested, and their mother was rightly proud as we watched Isla Rose’s careful attention and excellent fine motor skills. This year the girls knew the way to all robots on the Green.
There is an Army National Guard post behind the San Francisco Zoo. I spoke with Sergeant First Class Anthony Ayala from Sonoma who has been in the Army National Guard for 14 years. The nice thing about the National Guard, said Sergeant Ayala, is that he can live at home with his family in Sonoma and still fulfill his responsibilities in San Francisco.
Navy SeaBees builds and then take down military construction as needed in the field. I watched as Haris and Malik Selfedin were fitted with heavy bullet-proof vests and camouflage helmets, and then asked their father whether I could take their photograph. Do they look happy, or what?
Walking past the Navy Recruiting tent I was attracted to the display of free navy-blue pens, pencils and lanyards. A sailor can always use a free lanyard. A writer can always use a free writing utensil. The large poster behind the Naval goodies read: “America’s Navy: Forged by the Sea.” “Sailors aren’t born. They’re Forged.”
I made a beeline for the table, behind which Leading Petty Officer David P Awaimartins was chatting with a family from Utah.
Distracted from the bling, I listened as Officer Awaimartins asked Tyler Thomas, age 17 which branch of the military he was interested in joining.
“Only the navy,” answered Tyler. He seemed to have made up his mind already.
Tyler was visiting San Francisco with his parents and grandmother and they had timed their visit to coincide with Fleet Week. Officer Awaimartins listened carefully, then gave Tyler and his parents suggestions regarding officer training school. They all shook hands and then I asked Tyler and his parents if I could take this photograph of them.
As 3:00 approached the fog rolled into San Francisco Bay in earnest. This Bay, it’s enough to break your heart. A good deal of the Blue Angels show was obscured from view. However, everyone waited until the very end, ever hopeful. Along with the thousands and thousands of people there on Marina Green, I waited patiently for the last loud boom, invisible before us, and then we all watched as the six Blue Angels emerged above the fog and sailed away to the east. We all clapped as if the aviators could hear us. Fleet Week attendees are a polite crowd.
By 4:30 the Bay was socked in and neither the Bridge nor Alcatraz could be seen as I walked to my car on the grass in Crissy Field’s parking area. The fog was thick as cotton. If I didn’t know there were two islands out there, I wouldn’t have believed it. Families had their barbeques set up on the grass in between RVs and campers. Parents and grandparents were sitting in large circles on fold out chairs, and kids were playing tag football.
As the parking area emptied, the football field grew wider and the kids went wild chasing each other further and further from their parents.
I heard a parent call out: “You kids! You come back here! C’mon!”
Fleet Week is a quintessential family affair, even in the heart of urban San Francisco.
Recreational Boaters Of California (RBOC)
California is an awfully big state and there are a lot of people who spend leisure time on boats. I certainly do, and you probably do too. RBOC is the only organization that provides statewide advocacy for recreational boating interests. According to its website “RBOC reviews all proposed laws that affect boaters, writes beneficial laws, opposes bad laws and keeps the government from taking boaters’ tax dollars for non-boating reasons.”
RBOC objected to the state’s proposal to increase by 250% DMV registration fees. On boaters’ behalf RBOC respectfully disagreed with such a high increase, especially since there was no evidence that the money would be used for boating purposes. Due to their objection on boaters’ behalf, registration fees will remain $20 this year instead of increasing to $70. Even as the price of gas, diesel, food, heat, electricity and everything else will continue to go up, the registration fee of $20 for your boat will remain the same, at least for this registration period. If I were assured that the money went to boating improvements I might agree with the increase.
I also noticed that the property tax on my sailboat increased 18% this year. I have a 43-year-old sailboat and I’m quite sure that it didn’t increase in value at all. How about your own boat? Did you notice that increase on your fishing boat? On your houseboat? Our representatives at RBOC did. This is an important advocacy organization for people who own any kind of pleasure boat, sail or motor. Again, if I were assured that the money would go to recreational boating improvements I might agree with the increase. These are the sorts of issues that RBOC addresses. The organization keeps an eye on the extent to which taxes and user fees for the recreational boating community are used to improve boating initiatives such as dredging and invasive species, improved ramps and access to the water.
The Delta Conveyance Project
On Oct. 22 I walked up to the clubhouse at Richmond Yacht Club because I was interested in what two representatives of the RBOC had to say at the monthly Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association (PICYA) meeting. Jerry Desmond is a legislative advocate in Sacramento, a lawyer who represents recreational boaters through the RBOC. He spoke at the Richmond Yacht Club about the Delta Conveyance Project.
Readers here might well ask, “What is the Delta Conveyance Project?”
It is the newly re-packaged Delta Tunnels pitch.
According to its website:
Delta conveyance refers to State Water Project (SWP) infrastructure in the vast network of waterways comprising the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) that collects and moves high-quality, clean, safe and affordable water to homes, farms and businesses throughout major regions of the state from the Bay Area to Southern California.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The newly re-packaged Delta Tunnels pitch. You can read about it here: https://water.ca.gov/deltaconveyance
I would encourage you to read it. Is it long and tedious? You betcha. But some of you manage to slog through my columns long enough to suggest lots of corrections, so I think this might be your cup of tea. If you love the Delta, you might consider getting involved in one way or another, whether you support the Tunnels or not.
This is what Jerry Desmond had to say about it and other issues: “The Delta Conveyance Project continues to be a priority with this government’s administration. Even in the construction phase, it will have an extremely negative impact on navigation and long-term water flows not only for boating but for other recreation and for the community. We’re very verry concerned about this project.
“If you look at the past year, we at RBOC continue to be engaged in a variety of specific issues that touch almost every aspect of boating. You all pay registration fees, property taxes and fuel tax dollars if you’ve got an engine on your boat.
We’ve been working for a year and a half on how that money is spent by the state and where it goes, whether it even goes to programs and services that benefit boaters. There are all kinds of acronyms used to describe where your fuel tax dollars go, where your registration fees go, what is funded with this and what might be the improvements to that.
“Where do the fuel tax dollars go? Most people don’t know that over $100 million a year in motorboat fuel tax dollars are spent by boaters in California. Only 14% of it supports boating interests like loans and grants for infrastructure, boating law enforcement subventions, invasive species prevention, boat operator certification cards, boating education, aquatic safety centers, vessel pump out facilities and more.”
After Mr. Desmond stepped aside, Debrenia Madison-Smith spoke. Ms. Madison-Smith is a member of the RBOC Board of Directors and also a member of Treasure Island Yacht Club. She gave a brief history of RBOC:
“The reason RBOC was started in the first place was because voters like you got together and said – excuse the word – ‘we’re being screwed here’. What can we do about it? We can get organized! What happened in ’68 was voters like you and I got together in north and south California to create an organization to watch the legislation that comes out in California that deals with boating.
“We’re going to look at it, analyze it and if we don’t like it, we’re gonna go up to Sacramento, talk to those legislators. We’re gonna tell them: “We have all this money invested in California. We’re boaters and we pay for all these things regarding our boats and we should be recognized and have a say in the legislation that you actually pass.”
Ms. Madison-Smith is a very persuasive person and I agree with her conclusion: “The RBOC as an organization has boaters’ interests in mind and it deserves to be supported.”
If you are interested in supporting RBOC, here is their website: https://www.rboc.org/friendssignup
In December’s column regarding the Classic Yachts at the Corinthian Yacht Club, I wrote that John Trumpy and Sons… built yachts from 1909 all the way to 1973, making the transition from wood to fiberglass along the way.
Gerry Kamilos wrote to correct this statement. Instead, it should read:
John Trumpy & Sons’ board of directors decided not to make the transition from wood to fiberglass hulls.
Stay tuned to this station and thank you for reading. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have anything you would like to share. Enjoy your time on the water and let’s all be careful out there.