About The Bay - February 2019

I wonder if I hadn′t said anything about the diesel forced air heater working so well would it still have crapped out during the coldest spell we have experienced so far this winter? Did I jinx the heater by praising it?

After trying repeatedly to get the heater to fire up from the thermostat and failing, it was determined that our diesel forced-air heater was destined for yet another journey north. Sweetie reluctantly went into the cramped engine room to disconnect the tangle of wires, ducting and hoses, cursing and swearing the entire time. Once the heater was disconnected, he immediately drove it over to the local UPS store because the sooner it gets onto the repair bench in Washington state, the sooner it will return, although no ETA was provided by the repair shop. Anyway, the damn thing is on its way to Seattle to be repaired, again, for the 5th time and there is ice on the docks. See you sometime in March or April, you slacker!

The cold, rainy weather brings out the worst in old boats. Not only did the big heater take a dump but, with the first big rain storm of the season, we discovered a major leak directly over the bed, thankfully on Sweetie′s side and not mine. Turning over in the night, I discovered feet where a face should have been. Curious, I located the talking end and asked what the problem might be and Sweetie replied, “There′s a leak.” This should have been obvious to me from the feet and the large metal bowl resting on the mattress that was sounding out the water torture song, plink… plink… plink… ad infinitum. Since we use the guest berth on this boat as a storage and hanging locker, the only other option Sweetie had for a good night′s sleep was to go upstairs and sleep in his recliner or go to the serious effort of lowering the dining table which converts into an extremely uncomfortable single (we have never had an overnight guest make a return engagement). Instead, he opted to sleep upside down. Meanwhile, I bundled up the wet comforter and carried it upstairs to dry near the electric heater, covered Sweetie with dry bedding, secured the water torture bowl so it would not tip over and finally got back into my dry portion of the bed.

As I was laying comfortably in bed and unwinding after the water torture dilemma, a scary boat trip memory popped into my mind. This adventure took place years ago when we were still on the sailboat. We were traveling in the company of friends who, because of their work schedules, were not able to make the trip when the tides were right for moving upriver. Riding the current makes a huge difference when taking long voyages saving two precious commodities; time and fuel.

The first leg of our journey was to China Camp and, as Neptune would provide, it was raining. Despite the weather we decided it would be best to leave China Camp around 03:00 to catch and ride the flood, not realizing how incredibly dark it can be on the water, especially when it is overcast with no moon visible. After raising the anchor and getting underway, we were soon motoring along on a strong flood tide following the lighted channel markers but staying just outside the channel. Just off Point Pinole we were surprised by the appearance of several of those big metal floating balls used as anchor markers for maritime construction projects. The cockpit on the sailboat was close to the water so when I say that these things appeared, I mean they came upon us like menacing, looming sea monsters, LARGE and very, very close. They were unmarked and unlit and totally surprised us. “Holy Cow! Did you see that?” Sweetie inquired as we flew past the obstacles on the ferociously flooding current.

A few hours later it had stopped raining, the sun peaked through the clouds and we continued our trip upriver grateful that we had not violently collided with one of those ugly metal marker balls. Things that go bump in the night are best left to the professionals which got me thinking about a mariners′ best friend, the lighthouse.

In the mid-1800s, ship traffic from San Francisco Bay to the California Delta increased exponentially due to the discovery of gold at Sutter′s Mill. The construction of the Navy′s first base on the West Coast at Mare Island was also responsible for increasing traffic along north bay waterways. Anyone who has transited these waters at night understands the necessity of lighted aids to navigation. I can only imagine how dark it would have been back in the 1800s when there was little or no ambient light from the surrounding shoreline.

The first lighthouse was built in 1873 to mark the entrance into Mare Island, well after the shipping traffic to the gold fields had increased in 1849. Not long after constructing the Mare Island Lighthouse, the Lighthouse Board realized that a beacon positioned nearer the junction of Carquinez Strait and the Napa River would better serve navigation in the area.

In 1907, Congress appropriated $50,000 for a small light and fog signal to be constructed at Carquinez Strait. Beginning in 1908, hundreds of wooden piles were driven into the muddy bottom to create a pier extending from Carquinez Heights out into San Pablo Bay, a distance of over a mile. At the very end of the pier was a dock and platform structure which supported the lighthouse building. The light keepers′ quarters were completed in 1909, a spacious 28-room, 3 story dwelling that had a veranda which wrapped around the northern side. The structure was home to not just one, but three light keepers and their families. First occupied on January 15, 1910, the lighthouse was one of a chain of seventeen stations that started at the entrance to San Francisco Bay (Point Bonita) and ended at Roe Island in Suisun Bay.

A red beacon light from a fixed, Fresnel lens first shone from the new lighthouse in 1910. The nearby Mare Island Lighthouse was discontinued 7 years later. The Carquinez Strait Lighthouse served until 1951 when it was replaced by a smaller automated beacon and fog signal. Four years after being removed from service the lighthouse structure was offered for sale. The building was purchased in 1955 and moved by barge to its current location in Elliot Cove. Tragically, the tower and lantern were destroyed during the move but most of the original building remains intact and today a marina office and café are located on the véranda, which has been enclosed with windows so visitors can admire the views of the Carquinez Strait. Originally intended to be named Lighthouse Harbor, the marina eventually became known as Glen Cove Marina.

Of the seventeen original lighthouse buildings, only three others remain in existence: the St. Francis Yacht Club on Tinsley Island, the East Brothers lighthouse in San Pablo Bay (now a bed and breakfast establishment), and the Oakland Harbor Light (now Quinn′s Lighthouse, a restaurant and bar).

In 1955, the U.S. Coast Guard automated the light and fog horn mechanisms and ushered out the end of an era. So, came the end of the The Carquinez Strait Lighthouse and Life Saving Station.

Home Away From Home

We are housesitting for the last two weeks of this month. I′m delighted about having a real bathroom and laundry facilities at my fingertips, at least temporarily, not to mention HEAT! Eartha, our boat cat, has stayed in this home before and says that she is looking forward to visiting with her tap-dancing squirrel friends who live right outside the big picture windows.

Getting the boat ready to be vacated for two weeks is another thing entirely. Boats don′t like to be left alone for extended periods of time, they are like women in that regard. And then there is the personal stuff to deal with including the problem of the refrigerated food. Sweetie likes to keep a lot of food on hand, as you can maybe tell by looking at us. All that food needs to be eaten or packed and carried to our temporary digs. My intention is to defrost the refrigerator while we are away, hold that thought.

Surprise! The heater came back from Seattle in record time! The technicians there determined that a cracked housing was causing the unit not to fire. Unfortunately, after much cursing and swearing, the balky beast still doesn′t work. Sweetie has reexamined the problem and now thinks it might have been the external fuel pump ($37!). This fix is much less expensive than pulling the main unit and shipping it off for repair, but the darned part is coming all the way from China and will take several weeks to arrive. When July rolls around and everybody else is shivering in the famous San Francisco summer weather we will be cozy and warm, maybe.

Oyster Point Marina is being dredged in addition to the huge, ongoing construction project that has the roads into the marina diverted. Oyster Point also has a flooding problem that coincides with the bi monthly King Tides. Slip renters there now must deal with the dredge schedule as well as the flooding issues. Redwood City is also dredging the deep-water channel so please be mindful when you are transiting both areas.

Changes are afoot in Oyster Cove as well. A scary letter from the marina management office came to all slip renters saying that the marina will begin doing vessel inspections for seaworthiness. Let me just say that boaters here are doing everything possible to get their engines up and running, not an easy task for some of these old tubs. But thankfully most of my neighbors have boats that are mobile and able to leave their slips upon request.

Poor boats, they get a bum rap sometimes. It is not the fault of the boat if the engine doesn′t work properly but it sure is easy to curse them for it. That is why I was so concerned about covering all bases before leaving my boat untended for two weeks. Sweetie topped off the batteries, I made some necessary changes to a frayed dock line. The ports and hatches are all closed and battened and of course the battery switch is turned to the “OFF” position. Fingers crossed that everything still works on our return.

Sailors have referred to and identified boats as female for more than 100 years. One explanation is this: like a woman, boats are unpredictable, and it takes an experienced hand to encourage and tame her. I disagree, being both a woman and a boater. I feel that boats, just like people, have personalities. A few of the more amiable boats I have known and loved are; Shadow, a sturdy Endeavor 33 that carried her owners safely to Mexico and back. Kompira, a thoroughly dependable Grand Banks 36 that kept our beloved friends Laurie and Betty Davidson boating well into their 80′s. Panache, a magnificent Hans Christian 43 that was supremely comfortable and annoyingly balky. I′m afraid Panache was just another pretty face, but we had some darned good times on her. Of course, I must mention Shantung, Mary′s intrepid Cheoy Lee Clipper ketch which is the embodiment of the definition of patience and dependability. Shantung is always prepared for an extended cruise or adventure.

Here′s my theory; when a sailor dies his soul passes into a boat which takes on the personality trait of the recently departed. If you have a cranky and disagreeable boat, chances are it is housing the soul of a cranky and disagreeable sailor. On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to have a sweet-sailing, trouble-free vessel then perhaps your boat is home to a jolly-spirited sailor who loved the boating life. Hey, it′s just a silly theory but it would go a long way to explain why some boats are a continuous source of misery while others are a joy to be around.

Now that we have been house sitting for a few days I have to say honestly that I do miss my boat. On the boat everything is only a few steps away. Here in this big house I feel like a pedometer is required to keep count of the miles I am traveling between the kitchen and the living room. I will be glad to get back home where life is more manageable and much easier to keep clean.

Aquatic Park Celebrates An Anniversary

Eighty years ago, San Franciscans, with the help of the federal Works Project Administration (WPA), realized a decades-old dream of building an aquatic playground for the residents on the City′s northern waterfront. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park recently saluted that legacy with music and special events. The event was the general public′s first opportunity to view the recently-restored, maritime-themed abstract bas-relief murals located on the building′s third floor. If you haven′t seen them, please make a point to visit. The restoration has revealed parts of the mural that have not been seen by the public in almost fifty years.

Building on architect Frederick Law Olmsted′s 1866 concept of an aquatic park at Black Point Cove, a 1930s Works Progress Administration project transformed an industrial site into a modern park with aquatically-oriented recreational facilities. Then, the Federal Art Project brought in a creative team including bohemian artist Hilaire Hiler, Sargent Johnson, Beniamino Bufano, Richard Ayer and Charles Nunemaker who crafted tile mosaics, brilliantly colored murals, sculptures, lighting fixtures and terrazzo floors into a fanciful, three dimensional homage to the sea.

Buffeted by controversy, the building was overlooked until the 1950s, when the private San Francisco Maritime Museum integrated conceptually fresh history exhibits with the building′s unique architecture to tell the seafaring stories of America′s West Coast. In the 1970s, the Museum, Aquatic Park, and historic ships at Hyde Street Pier were joined under the auspices of the National Park Service, and in 1988 the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park was established to care for the historic district and National Historic Landmark vessels.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, located at the west end of Fisherman′s Wharf, includes a fleet of historic ships, Visitor Center, Maritime Museum, Maritime Research Center, and the Aquatic Park Historic District. Parking is limited. For more information, please call 415/447.5000 or visit nps.gov/safr

I seriously need to get out on the water soon. This land living is not for me. I miss the movement of the boat and my lovely, crazy neighbors. Heck, I miss Mary coming over for a cocktail in the afternoon. I guess Dorothy Gale was right, “there is no place like home.”

If you have questions, comments (nice ones please, I′m feeling a bit fragile) or contributions, please feel free to contact me at kim@yachtsmanmagazine.com H

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