What I Saw – by Jackie Philpott
Opening Day On The Bay 2023
Readers of this magazine know more than I do about this, but I’m pretty sure Bill Wells has covered Opening Day on the Bay for a long time. How do I know this? On April 30 I showed up at the Corinthian Yacht Club, shook hands and introduced myself as a writer for this magazine. Although they were very courteous about it, every other person looked over my shoulder and politely asked me when he would arrive.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this year Mr. Wells stayed in the Delta for Opening Day on the Bay. He was celebrating Opening Day at the Stockton Yacht Club. I understand this now: Bill loves Opening Day, just not on this Bay and just not this year. Deep down? He’s a Delta Rat. Needless to say, I did the best I could under the circumstances.
When I drove over to Tiburon from Oakland I parked in the CVS parking lot and paid $5 to park all day! What a sweet deal, and only two blocks from the ferry, the little shops, Sam’s restaurant and the gelato at Caffe Acri. Yum yum. Before I got back into the car I stopped in at CVS and bought the sorts of things we all buy at pharmacies: shampoo, ibuprofen and orange slices.
This year Corinthian Yacht Club provided an elegant morning service and breakfast ceremony to celebrate the 106th Annual Opening Day on the Bay. Commodore Kevin Roesler welcomed everyone, the flag was raised to a bugle call and we all stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Then Sharon Kahn sang the National Anthem and most of us sang along.
I arrived at the Corinthian slightly before 8 a.m. and saw that people were milling around on the upper deck. Below them, Aurora V was tied up at the guest dock with her engine already running. Gerry Kamilos leaned out from the cabin to greet me. He grinned and said, “I thought it would be a good idea to make sure the engine runs.”
Gerry had brought Aurora V over to Tiburon from her slip in Emeryville. Launched in 1969 by John Trumpy and Sons, she is a 58-foot classic wooden yacht. He had offered her up as the on-the-water vessel for the 60th Annual Blessing of the Pleasure Craft.
It had been really windy during the previous evening, more than 20 knots coming straight through the Golden Gate Bridge into that narrow channel that exits Emeryville. Gerry had to motor straight into that wind before turning into Raccoon Strait. Was it my imagination or was he still a little wildeyed this morning? He laughed and told me that he was grateful to a friend, Tim Ballard, who had motored over with him the evening before. Mr. Ballard, staff commodore of the Corinthian Yacht Club and his wife, Kimberly Ayers, served as experienced crew aboard Aurora V all day.
First off, there was a ceremony on the CYC deck overlooking Raccoon Strait, the northern face of the City and the Golden Gate Bridge. Chairs were set out in rows filled with people who wore blue blazers and white pants with the sun directly in our faces. Very few people wore hats. I don’t know if it was a faux pas or not, but I had a hat and I wore it. Mimosas were being served and gallons of champagne.
The blessing of the fleet was presided over by three ordained members of the clergy, Cantor David Margules, Deacon Ed Cunningham and the Reverend Phil Rountree. Each member of the God Squad started his presentation with a joke, perhaps with the premise that a crowd of people in blue blazers needed to loosen up. Someone mentioned a cartoon showing Adam and Eve being driven out of paradise with the caption: “Easy come, easy go.” The crowd was already in a good mood, prepared to have a nice time. We all laughed. Cantor Margules’s son, Benny Margules played the guitar and sang the song made famous by Louis Armstrong, “It’s a Wonderful World” while a member of the club accompanied him on trumpet. The sky was clear and blue, there was a gentle wind and it was the perfect song for all of us lucky enough to be sitting on the deck of a yacht club in the sunshine.
Then we were invited inside for a buffet breakfast and the presentation of burgees to guests from the sparsely inhabited and exotic local island of Yerba Buena. Yes, Corinthian Yacht Club had invited two Coasties: Captain Taylor Lam, Sector Commander and his Master Chief Travis Cutler. It was so nice to see them sitting with their wives, who seemed also to be relaxed and having a nice time. Larry Maynes, current commodore of PICYA presented a burgee to Captain Lam who then described the responsibilities of the United States Coast Guard in this very critical Sector San Francisco. Captain Lam is a remarkably impressive and persuasive speaker. If you are interested in learning about the crucial role that the local Coast Guard plays in keeping us all safe from harm, a bit of insight can be found here: https://www.pacificarea.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/District-11/District-Units/Sector-San-Francisco/Area-of-Responsibility/factSheet/
The buffet breakfast was superb and I was suddenly delighted that my colleague at this magazine had sent me in his place. Food for me and not for thee, Mr. Wells.
Before we left the dock aboard Aurora V, Captain Kamilos advised us of safety issues which are almost the most important details to know before leaving the dock aboard an unfamiliar boat. There was a three-foot high pile of life jackets available to us and he reminded us of the steps to take in case someone went overboard. Then, of course, we were told about how the toilets work.
And then? Something very impressive occurred, and that was before the blessings even got started. When we stepped aboard the Aurora V she was facing east. Captain Kamilos did a 270 degree turn to port WITHOUT BOW THRUSTERS! Wow. Forward, reverse, forward, reverse, and there we were, facing the empty fairway without hitting anything. The two top Coasties, their wives, the God Squad and all the rest of us: We were safe under his watch.
After leaving the CYC dock, we were anchored in Raccoon Strait by 10:30 a.m. Then we were open for the Blessing Business. The line was long, boats coming over from the parade along the City Front, slowly approaching, circling along the north side of Angel Island then turning to port in a long loop in order to motor past the Aurora V for a blessing. There were lots of families, children and dogs aboard the more than 250+ boats that participated in the parade. There was every kind of boat. The biggest contingent was from the San Francisco Yacht Club, led by Commodore Madeline Morey on her sailboat S/V Lonestar. Boats slowly approached in a line, circling along the north side of Angel Island, then looping to port. It was perfect weather for a boat parade with just enough wind so that all the sailors, after motoring by the God Squad, could then raise canvas to catch that breeze and sail away, confident in their blessedness.
Sailors and powerboat owners alike; people were happy and smiling. Everyone was appreciative of the blessings, others seemed surprised by the seriousness of the language. When the Cantor sang, at first they laughed, then they became sober and looking up, thanked him. Everybody was positive. There was a boat carrying a woman in a mermaid outfit and the Episcopalian minister sang the song from Little Mermaid. In response to rock music on other vessels he sang a couple of rock and roll songs and rolled them into his blessing. Holy men with senses of humor: It was fun.
Retired Episcopal Reverend Phil Rountree suggested we call him Father Phil. Father Phil and I took turns accidentally activating the big rubber anchor buttons on the bow of Aurora V. He stepped on them, I sat on them. The chain rumbled down. The chain rumbled up. Gerry remained unfazed and waved his hand in dismissal. We had so much chain out it didn’t matter to him.
Deacon Ed Cunningham from St. Anselm Catholic Church in Ross was there with his wife, Cathy. Deacon Ed had taught high school in San Rafael High for years, then he changed careers and went to seminary school, graduating in 1999. He and Mrs. Cunningham knew each other in grade school. How about that?
Then there was Cantor David Margules from Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. He’s a very good story teller. He and I talked about the remarkable physical beauty of the San Francisco Bay Area and he told me this story: He persuaded his wife that a canoe trip in Maine was the way to experience the beauty of the outdoors. His wife was skeptical. Nonetheless he made arrangements for them to be driven deep into the woods of Maine and left alone in the wilderness. They were meant to travel by canoe for five days. He told me about the size of mosquitoes in Maine, describing them with his fingers spread inches wide.
According to Cantor Margules, he and his wife lived to tell the story only because they were saved by a troop of boy scouts on the second day of their trip. He spread his arms in a wide arc over his head and said, “We live in North Marin! It’s gorgeous here! What was I thinking?!”
Our guests from the Coast Guard were Captain Taylor Lam, Sector Commander and his wife, Cindy Lam. What does Captain Lam’s role entail? Well, I looked it up. The Sector Commander works as Captain of the Port, Federal Maritime Security Coordinator, Federal On-Scene Coordinator, Officer-in-Charge of Marine Inspection and Search and Rescue Mission Coordination. Also, guests from the USCG were Master Chief Travis Cutler, Command Master Chief and his wife, Frances Cutler. Officer Cutler’s position is described in this way: The Command Master Chief is principal advisor to the Commandant on all personnel matters. So, now we all know. Those are remarkable responsibilities.
Both officers looked like members of the secret service with their sunglasses and dress uniforms, only better because they smiled a lot and seemed to be having a relaxed time. I asked what their guardsmen are called and was told “Coasties” or “Stewards.” Their wives were very nice, smiled a lot and sat out on the foredeck the whole time. The officers wore their dress uniforms and looked very handsome and impressive. I hope they remember that they invited us for a tour of the USCG station on Yerba Buena Island because I would really like to write about that for you readers. I’ll send a copy of B&D Yachtsman magazine, to jog their memories. I will be pushy on your behalf.
We sat there for a couple of hours while boats streamed slowly past. Whether the blessing is a superstition or a genuine belief, people seemed to appreciate the gesture. Next year, if you want to hedge your bets regarding the afterlife, come on over to get blessed in Raccoon Strait during Opening Day on the Bay.
Apres Opening Day On The Bay
After spending the morning at the Corinthian, I drove across the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge toward home in Oakland and what did I see? On this side of the Bay my route led to the exit for my own Richmond Yacht Club where Opening Day on the Bay hors d’oeuvres awaited me. Breakfast seemed so long ago. So, I drove to port and followed the road through the Point Richmond tunnel.
The differences between the two clubs couldn’t have been more stark. Dozens of people had spent the day at RYC learning how to drive the club’s power boats in order to support the many sailing regattas that RYC hosts. I arrived to find a crowd of people hoisting our support boats out of the water after using them all morning long. Everyone was sweaty and tired, but good sports to a person wearing their grubbiest foul weather gear. One volunteer, following safety precautions was wearing a bright pink hard hat and controlling the hoist, lifting one of the Boston Whalers.
I walked over to take photographs and a friend looked me up and down, then gave his opinion of my blue blazer. He told me, “You dress funny.” So, there you have it, readers: The East Bay vs. Marin Yacht Club dichotomy. If you are trying to decide between them, be so advised.
Sail GP Practice On The South Bay
A week later I sailed south to Westpoint Harbor for the 2023 Pacific Sail and Power Boat Show. After sailing under the Bay Bridge I passed the northeast corner of the City and couldn’t visually locate the Ferry Building tower. Then I realized that it was completely shrouded in black.
Then, just ahead, the Sail GP foiling catamarans were practicing in the South Bay for their races on the water during the upcoming weekend. I watched them speed up – and I mean, REALLY speed up – then stop, dropping back down into the water. Their sailors seemed to be having discussions with each other. They seemed to be having a good time. Dura Mater and I hung around, staying out of their way and I took some photographs. Then we continued south and not one of them was able to catch up with us.
Pacific Sail And Power Boat Show
At the boat show I had a nice chat with Rowena Carlsen and Robb Walker. They are a few days away from leaving for Sweden where they keep their second boat, an Omega 42, the S/V Notsuko, which in the Japanese language means Little Girl. There is a large fleet of Omega 42s in Sweden and their skippers all cruise around to islands together. Boy, does that look wonderful to me.
This magazine is generally perceived as read by and advertised to powerboat owners. I know this. I am reminded of this in the nicest way. It has been suggested that I expand my social circle to include people who own powerboats.
“People who own powerboats are nice, too, Jackie. Maybe one day you’ll make friends with someone who owns a powerboat?”
“Jackie, maybe one day you’ll write about someone who owns a powerboat.”
In case you wonder whether I have made friends with any people who have powerboats – why yes, I have.
At the boat show I spent a half hour with Wayne Goldman, Chief “ahi” broker for Atomic Tuna Yachts and his friend Tim Chow. I also admired their dogs, a grey sheepadoodle named Bella and her doggie friend Trixie, a mini goldendoodle.
Tim lives up river in the Delta and owns a fishing boat. It is a Grady White 26-foot Farallon model. In addition to fishing in the Delta waters, he also goes out The Gate to the Farallones and Duxbury Reef. Tim told me, “Every time I turn the key on my boat it’s at least a couple hundred dollars.” He gets 1.2 mpg. The boat we sat on is a 2020 True North 34 Outboard, with two 300 horsepower Suzuki engines. Each engine gets about one mpg.
Tim told me that in many modern outboard engines 200 HP and greater, they all have different technology applied to help conserve fuel. They are expensive and cost $36,000 each. There are diesel outboard engines, too that cost approximately $60,000 each for 300 HP four-cylinder with V8s. They last forever, that’s what you are paying for. See? I was paying attention and scribbling furiously. And now? When one of those powerboats motors past me on my sailboat and causes a big wake? I’ll be more impressed.
Aqua blue Atomic Tuna hats were everywhere at the boat show. They were the coolest hats on the docks. Even though I have a pile of billed caps already (don’t we all?) I coveted that aqua blue hat. So, I went in search of Atomic Tuna and that’s how I finally found Wayne and Tim. Wayne only hesitated a nano second when I asked for a hat. Those hats were probably for potential customers and Wayne probably has a really good radar for potential customers. Nonetheless, he gave me one. If you’re interested in buying a very cool boat that goes very fast, here’s the source: Wayne Goldman, Chief Ahi @ 510-759-8481. Wayne@atomictunayachts.com
Please tell him I sent you.
Vance Sprock And His Cabin Cruiser
Imagine my surprise to meet up at the boat show with a sailing friend who raced in the 2016 Singlehanded Race to Kauai. As a member of the 2016 race committee, I was there to greet him. I remembered him primarily because, once he had dropped anchor in Hanalei Bay, he immediately asked about access to a shower. And then he used it, emerging fresh smelling and shaven while the other sailors lay around on various couches and chairs, in no hurry to clean up, snarfling like those sea lions over on Angel Island. No No. Vance was not like that. He is a gentleman through and through. It is no wonder that he currently lives aboard a swanky cabin cruiser in Westpoint Harbor.
For 35 years Vance was the owner of a bike shop. Many of his clientele were serious bicyclists. Then COVID happened and everybody wanted a bike. Since COVID? Not so much. According to Vance, “The interest has waned.”
I invited myself over to his boat for a chat and this is what Vance had to say.
Vance: I bought Cupertino Bike Shop in 1989. It was an existing bike shop that was started in 1953. Unfortunately, the economics of rents down here in the South Bay got to be the point where I couldn’t afford to continue the business and still make a profit. I’ve always been interested in bikes. I’ve been a bicyclist since 1974. I didn’t open it, I purchased it. It was an existing business. I’ve still got my database of customers and all the sales history. It’s only valuable if you can find someone to buy it. Without a location it’s not as valuable.
Jackie: I see a fishing pole hanging there. Are you a fisherman?
V: I am a fisherman, yeah. I used to take my Cal 40 out salmon fishing. A few years ago I went out on Mother’s Day. I called all my friends. “Hey! Let’s go salmon fishing!” I couldn’t find anyone to go out with me so I said, “Forget it! I’m just going out by myself!”
On a sailboat it takes a long time to get to Duxbury Reef. I went out there with my Havanese dog, Daisy. I hooked a 30# salmon. It was HUGE! And then? Everyone wanted salmon! My friends called it Moby Dick. It was HUGE! It was a battle to get that thing landed by myself because I didn’t have any help. I had to get the fish into the boat by myself!
It was almost a 30-minute fight with the fish. The fish was so big! I’d reel him in and get him close and he’d look at the boat and then? He’d just swim away! He was that strong. I knew I only had one chance to get that fish. I had him at the end of the boat at least five or six times and then I’m holding the rod in the one hand and I’ve got the net in the other hand and I’m trying to get the net in the water, letting the fish drift back slowly while keeping tension on the line… finally I got it! [he laughs] I was really happy.
J: Was Daisy aboard?
V: Oh, yeah. Daisy was with me. She didn’t help. She just kinda sat there.
J: How often do you go places with this boat?
V: Not that frequently. It costs $1/gallon per mile. Fuel tank under the aft queen bed holds 275 gallons of diesel. Under the lazarette, the fishing cockpit, another 275 gallons. It takes a few bucks to fill them up. These are the two original engines. Caterpillar DT 3208, turbocharged. They are 375HP each. Brand new generator.
J: You sailed across the Pacific alone, so you know how to fix engines yourself. How much of this engine work have you done yourself?
V: I had the engines serviced by a diesel mechanic down in San Pedro before I brought it up the coast. I didn’t have time to do it myself. If the boat had been up here I would’ve done it. It cost $18,000 to do all the work. It needed that. In nine years the previous owners had only put 100 hours on the engines, but the boat had been neglected. I bought it cheaply/as is because of all the deferred maintenance. I had to get a new generator, that was $12,000.
There were things like this raw water pump here. It developed a small leak so every time they ran the engine it sprayed salt water that would hit the oil pan. It rusted through the oil pan. That’s serious neglect! Things like that. This water pump was $1000. As it turns out I had the mechanic save the old one. I took it apart and realized that there was nothing wrong with this water pump. It just needed a new gasket and a new impeller. So, I have a spare water pump.
J: Was it hard to find an oil pan for this engine?
V: It was expensive. These oil pans, a couple of years ago were a couple hundred bucks, now it was over $1000. Simply because these engines are old; 1988.
J: What are the positive aspects of living aboard a boat like this one rather than on a large sailboat?
V: There’s a lot more room. There are two heads, two sleeping areas. Granite countertops in the galley and both heads. This is called a cockpit motor yacht, a Californian 48.
J: Do you miss having a sailboat?
V: Yes. I plan to sell this boat. I’m looking for a 42- to 46-foot sailboat. Maybe a Van De Stadt design in the Netherlands. That boat has a long waterline, a moderate beam. I have a broker looking for me. Although it’s great to sit here in the evening and watch people. I just had all this glass replaced by Ray Adams in Santa Cruz. When the weather’s good the flybridge on this boat is a great place to sit and have a cocktail, check things out. There are lots of people with dogs in this marina. Five dogs on this dock alone. Westpoint Marina is a very nice place to live.
I left Vance and spent the rest of the day behind the Bay and Delta Yachtsman magazine’s booth meeting a lot of very nice people. The next morning was Sunday, and as I motorsailed out the Westpoint Slough to head north I took a photo of one of the Google campuses right next door to the Marina. It’s a remarkable contrast to sail between the modern green glass offices and the extensive and protected marshlands across the narrow slough. I’ve written it before and I’ll write it here again: I found it was very enjoyable to visit Westpoint Harbor.
Until next month, thank you for reading. Let me know by emailing me 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.