What I Saw – by Jackie Philpott

Pacific Sail & Power Boat Show May 4-7

Before I write anything else, be advised that there WILL be a boat show this year. The San Francisco Bay is no longer a boat show desert. For years sailors in the South Bay have moaned and complained about the location of the boat shows when they were held at Jack London Square and then in Richmond.

“The traffic is so awful on the weekend!”

“It’s so far to come! I hate driving 880 all the way to Oakland!” and then,

“It’s so far to come! I hate driving through the Maze to get to Richmond!”

Oh, puhlease. Cry me a river.

Well, my dear friends from Los Gatos and Saratoga, and you know who you are: It’s in your neighborhood now. So, come on over to Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City. There will be boats in the water and on trailers. It’s a beautiful venue and this magazine will have its very own booth where you can meet and say hi to some of the staff. Come by, Ty is sure to share his chair to take a load off your feet while you consider what beautiful boat or boat bling to see next. Save up your pennies and arrange for that line of credit against your house so you can buy something really special. I don’t have a list of the vendors yet, but all will become clear as the date approaches and also in this magazine next month and online at www.cyba.info where the show website is currently being worked on.

The Three Bridge Fiasco

Last April I wrote about the Three Bridge Fiasco, a race that has been held on the last Saturday of January every year since 1984. This year my friend Kees Gispen sailed it with me. It’s a long race, measured at 21 nautical miles. Of course, it is only 21 nautical miles if you are able to sail straight as the crow flies ‘round each of the three marks, except that you can’t sail straight to a mark on a sailboat unless the wind and current in San Francisco Bay cooperate. I will tell you right now, they never do. So, the nautical miles you sail in the Fiasco will be many more than 21. And when it’s really cold outside those miles seem especially long. This year only 64% of the 309 registered boats finished.

Circle Blackaller Buoy to Starboard! Photo courtesy of Larry Baskim.

Starts for the Fiasco are staggered according to a boat’s rating, or PHRF, and it is called a pursuit race. That means all the boats in turn start after the first boat, the slowest one, then second slowest, etc., all in pursuit of the slower boats ahead, which start first according to their ratings. Get it? I suppose, for those of you who think sailboat racing is an unreasonable waste of time, it is now clear as mud and you don’t much care anyway. But bear with me for just a few more paragraphs.

Boats at the start of the race.

For this particular race, participants get to choose which way to go ‘round all three of the marks, which are: Blackaller buoy (a teeny tiny little yellow buoy) near the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, Red Rock just south of the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, and Yerba Buena/Treasure Islands. Those three marks can be circled (or rounded) either clockwise or counter clockwise. In sailor talk circling something clockwise is referred to as rounding to starboard (the right side of the boat faces the mark) and circling counterclockwise is referred to as rounding to port (the left side of the boat faces the mark.) Now, isn’t that just as clear as mud? That’s why it’s called the Fiasco. This year there were 315 boats registered and 40% of them were new to the race. It’s always an impressive scene with so many boats on the water at the same time, and this year’s weather only added to the weirdness. It’s even more impressive when the boats congregate at the same place at the same time.

Boat approaching Alcatraz in the fog.

When we motored out of Potrero Reach over in Richmond the fog was so dense it was a drizzle.

We couldn’t see the City ahead, but were pretty sure it was over thataway somewhere. We couldn’t see Alcatraz. We couldn’t even see Angel Island, which is quite a large land mass.

Fred Paxton and Arnie Quan left the harbor ahead of us in Fred’s Alerion, the S/V Zenaida, so we just followed them. Sometimes we could see them up ahead, sometimes we lost them in the fog. I had a handheld compass so I wasn’t too worried. The race would start at the Golden Gate Yacht Club and I knew that it was ahead of us, somewhere over there to the south. As long as we didn’t run into Alcatraz we’d find it eventually.

Kees Gispen at the tiller.

There was a tanker moving like a small island through the fog toward Richmond. The key to crossing a shipping channel during dense fog is to not get run over by a tanker. We did not and neither did anyone else. I do think participants in the Fiasco tested the patience of some of those captains of big ships because I heard horns over the course of the day. On the upside, I didn’t hear the five horn sound of impending death even once.

San Francisco at night from the water.

The race started with very little wind and the water was glassy, which meant that the boats starting earliest hoped that an ebbing current would carry them across the start line. And for the most part, that happened. The rest of the day unfolded relentlessly and the wind built enough for most people to stick it out for awhile. There were a lot of sailors from the Richmond marinas who headed home after circling Red Rock. It was so cold and home was just thataway! There were also lots of sailors from the Estuary marinas who headed home after circling Treasure Island. It was so cold and home was just thataway! That left only the coldest, most resolute of sailors on the course. Sailors like us.

After circling Red Rock I myself looked hopefully toward Potrero Reach, but Kees had flown all the way from Mississippi to sail in this crazy event and he wasn’t going to quit.

He shook his head: “Oh no. Don’t you even think about it.”

So, on we continued, able to see our breath because it was so cold, and then we finished the race in front of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, in the dark with only 16 minutes to spare. As we motored home to our slip in Richmond we marveled at the beauty of the Bay in the dark.

The Three Bridge Fiasco is part spectacle, part experience. Lots of people, like us, weren’t in it to win it. We were just happy to finish before the deadline of 7 p.m. Our teeth were chattering, but we were happy campers.

Point San Pablo Yacht Club

A couple of months ago I was in line to buy a tube of engine grease for my Oberdorfer water pump at Whale Point. Whale Point is the Ace Hardware store across from KKMI boatyard in Richmond. I could tell that the fella ahead of me was on a mission: He was wearing grubby clothes and buying stuff that a DIY (do it yourself) boater buys.

Point San Pablo Yacht Club.

He also had two of the three free boat magazines that can be found in the back of the store. He didn’t have a copy of this magazine. Luckily, I had several in my own bag, so I opened one to my column and handed it to him. “Here,” I said. “You’ll want to read this, too.” He was polite and took the magazine.

Then I asked him: “Where do you keep your own boat?” Jay Fowler, the owner of Whale Point smiled and shook his head as he gave the guy his change. He knows that I engage his customers in conversation. I learn a lot that way.

The fella told me that he keeps his boat at the Point San Pablo Yacht Club.

“Where is that?” I asked.

He told me. Then, because he possessed the finely developed social skills of a boater, he asked me where I keep my own boat. I told him that I keep my boat at Richmond Yacht Club Harbor.

His smile broadened. “Oh! We call that ‘the other yacht club’,” he said.

We both laughed, but I was curious: Who dares to disrespect my club? I decided to check out the Point San Pablo Yacht club, and forthwith. So, I did.

I emailed the club regarding the night of Feb. 2 and received a friendly reply within the hour from Kevin Hydes, the club’s port captain. Kevin told me I was welcome to tie up at the club’s guest dock, and that I was in luck: on the night of Feb. 2 the club would be serving its monthly dinner, cooked by member volunteers and typically attended by approximately 50-60 members.

Soleri, Penny, Calder, Greta and Akasha.

My sail out into Potrero Reach coincided with a huge wind shift and drop in temperature. Along the way I sailed past the working boats parked along the docks of Potrero Point. This area is still industrial marine territory, increasingly rare along the shores of the San Francisco Bay.

By the time I approached Point San Pablo Yacht Club there was a strong, icy wind. I was happy to see that someone was at the guest dock to catch my boat’s bow and stern lines. The wind was howling down from the oil tanks up on the hills when I arrived, so it was a relief to meet up with someone who knew how to grab the reins of my boat and wrestle her around the cleats. And who was this? It was Steve Hutchinson, who I recognized from Berkeley Marine Center. For the past year Steve has been helping to prepare Cree Partridge’s boat for the LA Transpac race out of Southern California. Here at Point San Pablo Yacht Club? He’s the Commodore of the Club, and he tied us up to the club’s long guest dock with its brand new white rubber bumpers. What a relief it is to sail up to a guest dock with pristine white bumpers!

Steve left me to it, and after coiling lines I walked up the ramp and all around the clubhouse admiring its recent paint job. This is a fine looking club from the outside. I decided to go on inside and meet its people.

First thing inside the door from the deck of the Point San Pablo Yacht Club there is a wood burning stove, lots of tables and cushy chairs. Some people were working on laptops, and the sun was shining in through big windows. It was sort of like a comfortable coffee house, except with draft beer pulls instead of an espresso machine. I moseyed on up to the bar and Suzanne came right over and introduced herself.

Suzanne is the Rear Commodore and her name tag reads Keep Your Keel Down and Bottoms UP. I realized immediately that I entered a club that was unlike any other, a club I felt I was going to like very much. A club filled with those that do not take themselves seriously as well as a clubhouse full of what seemed like dozens of little kids.

Suzanne’s name tag.

All the kids were laying around on big pillows scattered on the floor playing board games and wrestling like puppies. It became abundantly clear that this was clearly not a stuffy place.

Suzanne made me a cranberry juice and soda, then doled out Nutter Butter candy bars to the kids after asking, “How many have you already had today? Only two? Alright. But no more.” If she wasn’t their mother, she may as well have been.

Suzanne introduced me to everyone who came through the door and they were all very cordial. They also all knew each other. At first it seemed like a small intimate club, but then more and more people kept arriving and still they all knew each other. It became apparent that they had all known each other for a long long time.

Chris Jannini came in to the bar and measured the wall for a set of tiny wooden cubbies for members to store their club identification pins. Suzanne introduced him to me as the person in charge of the club’s workshop. Would I like to see it? Yes, of course I would like to see it!

Chis Jannini, Workshop Wizard.

And what a workshop it is! It is full of every type of equipment a boat person could ever want, and incredibly spacious with windows that extend the width of the building, looking out over the water. As big as my backyard in Oakland, the Point San Pablo Yacht Club is the best boat workshop I’ve ever seen.

Point San Pablo Yacht Club workshop.

After admiring every inch of the workshop I decided to follow my nose into the kitchen where the evening’s meal was being prepared by Erik Jacoby, Angie Byrne and Jenny Fosket. They were cooking lamb curry with spicy and non spicy versions, chicken tikka masala, Raita, Rice Kheer and Dahl. From memory and without a recipe. All that wonderful food! And what would be dessert? Indian Rice pudding. The smell of cardamom was heavenly.

I asked Jenny how they happened to be the people chosen to cook a meal for 60 people. Jenny rolled her eyes dramatically and shouted, “Our husbands offered our services!” They all thought that was very funny and so did I. We all laughed and they poured themselves glasses of white wine just to celebrate the day.

Then Jenny and Angie told me about their swimming exploits from the past year. Jenny swam every day of 2022: That is 365 days in a row in the San Francisco Bay. They enter the water from a location at the end of Buchanan Street. Jutting out from the East Bay shoreline, it’s known as the Albany Bulb. Then Jenny sent me this photograph.

Point San Pablo Yacht Club has only one paid employee, their harbormaster Glenda Linn. There is no initiation fee and club fees are $500/year. The club is full of master mariners whose beautifully maintained classic wooden sailboats float discretely to one side of the Club’s property along the shoreline. Beyond the boats are the railroad tracks for freight trains that carry new automobiles from Richmond to destinations across the United States.

Cooks Erik Jacoby, Jenny Fosket and Angie Byrne.

During the course of the evening I met Mr. Fred Legier whose family owned Legier Boat Repair in Ripon. Mr. Legier told me that there was once an expansive article about his family’s company in the magazine National Fisherman. National Fisherman magazine is the only publication devoted to covering the entire U.S. Commercial Fishing industry. I didn’t know that. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I’m always interested in learning. Then I can share it here. The readers of this magazine probably already know most of what I am only now learning.

Mr. Legier’s father also built a number of 30- to 50-foot sailboats, one of which was a ketch, the S/V Lodestone. Of course, as is typical of curious people, the word lodestone set the crowd of sailors off on opinions regarding the derivation of the word. I looked up the qualities of lodestone and read about the shepherd in Greece who realized that the nails and buckle of his boots were attracted to the rock he was standing on. The rock was a lodestone and that was in 600 BC. I also learned about Zheng He of the Yunnan province of China. Between the years 1405 and 1433, Zheng recorded his voyages across seven oceans using lodestone. The term lodestone comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “leading stone,” or literally, “the stone that leads.” The Icelandic word is leider-stein, and was used in writings of that period in reference to the navigation of ships. This is all interesting stuff.

Dolores and Robbie Robinson.

Did this crowd mention the Greek shepherd or Zheng He? No, this crowd batted around ideas and then wandered off, deeper into the bar, leaving me with the impression that vikings discovered lodestone’s qualities. The vikings were sailors. Stands to reason that sailors would give credit to other sailors, right?

I listened to lots of sailors’ stories over the course of this evening. It was great fun. Then we all stood in line and piled our plates high with delicious food, sat down and ate it all up.

After dinner there was a very cordial meeting during which club business was discussed. Then I went out to spend the night aboard my boat. It was really cold by that time, but the wind had died down. I tucked my down sleeping bag into my Coleman sleeping bag, put my wool hat on my head and crawled inside to sleep. Sleeping on water, heavenly!

Angie Byrne and Jenny Fosket.

Saturday morning I woke to the sound of hammers and saws. I stepped out into the cockpit to find dozens of people finishing up their donuts. Soon enough everyone was working to replace wooden slips as needed, and wiring in those dock lights that weren’t working.

I climbed down onto the dock and balanced along the frame of a slip that was missing its planks to where a fella was brushing donut crumbs off the front of his shirt. I asked him what his job would be and he answered:

“I do anything Jeff tells me to do. Jeff knows how to do everything.”

I climbed over equipment and piles of extension cords to where Jeff Borub was cutting away cleats with an old Milwaukee sawzall. Richard Robbins was in charge of replacing the blades as they were used up. I asked Richard what he does when he isn’t tearing up rotten boards. He laughed and said:

“I’m an accountant by day, a very bad construction worker by weekend.”

The club has four volunteer working days per year and the docks were swarming with club members. These people take their tasks seriously. All the rotten wood was torn up and every rusty cleat was cut away with a sawzall. There were many many sawzall blades used on this day. When I returned later in the afternoon, the slips had been rebuilt with fresh, treated lumber, each one sporting brand new galvanized cleats, three on each side of each slip. It takes a village, indeed.

Replacing rotten boards.

Ratcheting up those boards with a crowbar? That looked like a very satisfying way to spend a day. But nobody invited me to help, so I decided to walk over to KKMI where there were lots of big beautiful yachts lined up at the docks. Next month I’ll write about the new NAOS yacht brokerage, which is located at the Maritime Centre Point Richmond. KKMI is the acronym for Keefe Kaplan Maritime, Inc.

Richard Robbins and Jeff Borub.

The word Naos isn’t an acronym at all. According to Christine Pernin, a representative of the NAOS Yacht Company: Naos once belonged to the constellation Argo Navis, a large southern constellation that represented the mythical ship Argo, on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed to Colchis on their quest to find the Golden Fleece. Naos marked the deck of Argo Navis. Argo Navis was divided into three smaller constellations – Carina, Vela and Puppis, representing the ship’s keel, sails and stern – by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century.

Nathalie Criou And Envolee

While I was over at KKMI chatting with Christine and eating free pizza, I saw that Nathalie Criou was at the end of one of the docks preparing to board her boat, S/V Envolee.

Her beautiful Figaro had just received a bottom paint job and she was explaining safety details to a group of friends. They were leaving KKMI for a sail across the Bay to Envolee’s slip in South Beach Harbor. Back in 2019 Nathalie and a crew of seven competed in the famous Race to Alaska, during which time her boat Envolee was renamed Shut Up and Drive. It was an epic challenge for which she is famous among sailors everywhere. If you are interested in watching the movie Nathalie created of their race, its title is “Nat and the Seven Dudes”, and you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BquSL4LwL1M

Lucas, Margo, Zach, Nathan and Nathalie.

She’s a remarkable sailor and it’s a terrific movie.

Once Nathalie and her friends had sailed away I returned to my own boat and we sailed back to the Richmond Yacht Club harbor.

Our course took us through the Santa Fe Channel back to Potrero Reach again. On this Saturday afternoon, the channel was quiet, empty of all the usual noise and sounds of the many marine businesses that line its banks. It was a day of rest for all the many hardworking people who usually work along the shores that surround it. The Sause Brothers boats, the big tankers there, the back and forth from Svendsen’s Bay Marine, KKMI and the Sugar Barge deep water dockage, to name only a few. Lots going on there every day, but not today. Today it was the weekend, a time to rest.

Potrero Reach, Richmond.

Whale Point Marine And Hardware And Pie Shop

This Ace Hardware is becoming known locally as the Hardware shop where you can buy lots of delicious different kinds of pies. Located on Cutting Boulevard in Richmond, just off the 580 Highway near the South Harbor Way exit is Whale Point Marine and Hardware. Since I drive to my boat from Oakland, this is where I stop first when I need anything for either my boat or home. The owner is Jay Fowler.

I asked Jay how he happened to be selling pies. He laughed, said, “Around the holidays people started calling us asking for pie. I got on the phone, said ‘We’re a hardware store. Why would we sell pies?’ They said, well the Ace Hardware in Pinole sells pies from the Pie Company in Ripon. So, I decided, ‘Well, why not?’” He looked at me and shrugged.

Jay Fowler, owner of Whale Point Marine and Hardware.

Jay told me that the Pie Company has its own fruit stand, which is in Ripon, and Whale Point is one of only three Ace Hardware stores chosen to distribute the pies. Think of them as boutique hardware stores. I asked him if he would pose for a photo and he said, “Sure,” but I had to wait while he mixed a whole lot of paint for a contractor. While I waited four more people came in to buy pies. They were all smiling like kids. Pies make people happy. One man told me that he was hoping Jay would start to sell ice cream to go with the pie. I laughed with him and his wife.

The Pie Company is located in Ripon. Where is Ripon? I looked it up on a map of California. It is SE of Manteca and NW of Modesto on Highway 99. So, now you know how to get there when Jay runs out of pies. Last week I bought two strawberry-rhubarb pies and yesterday I bought a peach pie. For research purposes only, of course.

At the end of March I’ll be travelling to Wisconsin to sail on ice. What I Saw on the Bay will be stretching its definition to include whatever Bay where the best ice can be found. Of course, I’ll write about it here. And in the months to come I’ll write about at least two boats that are being built in different neighborhoods of San Francisco. You may be surprised to learn that wooden boats are being built in both the Financial and Mission Districts. Really? Yes, really.

Enjoy your time on the water and please write to tell me about your own boating experiences. I can be reached at jackie@yachtsmanmagazine.com. Thank you for reading, and let’s all be careful out there.