With repairs and fix-its done from the beating Lazy Ka took in my
March 18th outing, and my body healed as well, I was again back at
the Grand Street ramp for what I expected to be a much more relaxed
day of sailing. Blue skies and winds in the 6 to 8 knot range were
forecast, the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain were
plying the waters of the estuary and
central bay providing some out of the ordinary sights to see, one
could not ask for better prospects for the day.
On the water
I pushed off from the dock, no motor required, raised the main
into a light breeze, and pointed Lazy Ka toward Jack London Square
where I expected to
find the tall ships. On the East side of the estuary, a half mile of
so along my way, lies the Jack London Aquatic Center (115 Embarcadero)
adjacent to Estuary Park. Through their outreach programs the Center
offers rowing, kayaking, and sailing instruction to area children.
Programs range from basic introductory classes to advanced
competition. It is here that the Oakland Recreation Department keeps
their fleet of assorted cruisers and Folkboats, among them, the
Catalina 22, Sally Marie, that I sailed on for my Basic Keel Boat
the light winds, most of my company on the Estuary was powered by
muscle. There were crews working out, rowing classes in progress, and
many kayaks taking advantage of the calm waters to poke around the
nooks and crannies along the shoreline.
Jack London Square marina, I spied the rig of the Hawaiian Chieftain
towering above the numerous power yachts moored there. The Lady
Washington was nowhere to be seen.
One real joys of pottering on Lazy Ka that
I've come to know is the ability to sail into relatively tight
confines for a closer look at the sights, or to talk with folks on
shore. I did this for a closer look at the Hawaiian Chieftain, coming
just a few feet from onlookers and the Chieftain's dock. The gentle
breeze eased me slowly along , allowing time to study the her up
close. I recall seeing the Hawaiian Chieftain on the bay several years
ago when my interest was more the Fleet Week air show than sailing.
But now, as a sailor, I find myself studying her details and making
some sense of maze of ropes and lines that used to be a total
on the Estuary, my phone rings . . . its my friend Chuck Cline. Chuck
is an accomplished musician who played the clubs of San Francisco
music scene in the 1960's, earning himself an Emmy for a documentary
music score in the '70's; today he is with The
County Line Trio which is the
only trio I know of that is made up of five members. Chuck and I talk
once a week or so, often as not he seems to ring me when I'm sailing.
We talk about music and sailing. I complain about the lack of wind
today. Chuck mentions the Giants and A's are playing at AT&T Park
(formerly SBC Park, formerly Pac-Bell Park.) I decide to set a course
for McCovey Cove for some excitement in the party atmosphere to be
conversation completed, I look down the Estuary toward AT&T Park and
the San Francisco skyline to see
Lady Washington in the distance coming up the channel under sail. Too
distant for a decent photo, I hold off taking pictures. In the light
air, I am making slow progress. By the time I'm close enough for a
first picture, at about a half-mile out, she has taken in her sails,
and is orbiting in the Oakland Inner Harbor channel.
the heck is this?
Entering the inner harbor turning basin, I see this magnificent hull
at Bay Ship and Yacht Co. To my eye she looks like a tall ship. I hail
the Skipper of a nearby vessel who tells me she is the C.A. Thayer.
I know this vessel. Retired from Commercial service in 1950, following
1957, and subsequent refitting, she became one of several display
vessels with the San Francisco Maritime Museum at the Hyde Street Pier
What an impressive
site! The last time I was aboard the Thayer was close to 35
years ago; a year or so after returning home from the service. I
recall that she seemed rather small, if over 200 feet could be
considered small. But looking up at her from Lazy Ka with Lady
Washington over my shoulder, I got a whole new perspective on her
can imagine that when the project is completed the Thayer will be
seaworthy once again, and we will be treated to views of this historic
vessel sailing on San Francisco Bay once again.
From my vantage I could see balloons on
Thayer's foredeck, and bunting draped across her bow. It appeared
that festivities were in store. As I approached I could hear bits and
pieces from the speakers for the day's rededication and launch. I
continued to ride the light breeze amid the gathered flotilla of
sailboats, rowboats, canoes, and others, which offered more
opportunity for close-up photo passes on Lady Washington. It was on
one such pass that I was advised that they would be firing a salute to
the Thayer. I moved around to set up an angle that allowed me
to catch both vessels as the volley commenced. The first four
were made from Lady Washington's port-side, the fifth and last coming
from her starboard in my direction.
I was now a little over 50 yards from the good Lady . . . talk about
loud! The report shook me to my core.
learning more of the Thayer online, I found that her early
voyages were dominated by circuits between lumber operations at Grays
Harbor, WA, and San Francisco Bay. Grays Harbor is home port to
Lady Washington today. More on the C.A. Thayer restoration
project can be found in a brief overview
here, and Bay Ship and Yacht
maintains a detailed photo gallery/chronology of the project
here. Neat stuff!
I hung around for a few more pictures as
the Thayer was lowered into the water, and Lady Washington made
ready to depart. The crew aloft to secure her sails was an impressive
site to see. I may well have had a better perspective that the folks
aboard and along for the ride.
stern-view of the
Thayer below was snapped just as she began to
Hazards (joys) of the
All this exposure to vintage sailing was enough alone to overwhelm the
senses, but there was more. Behind me an incoming container ship YM
being turned to berth at the Oakland Terminal. These
ships appear massive enough when seen maneuvering about the bay or
tied at their moorings. But to view them up-close from the water's
surface gives them a towering presence making them appear even larger.
The ritualistic ballet of these giants and their dwarf tenders, the
tug boats, is slow and deliberate. On the other hand, the performance
all comes off quickly with the vessel neatly situated for act II . . .
On to buoy #6
Under way, again outbound for the bay into a slightly stronger breeze,
meant a series of tacks to make headway. Keeping me company along the
way was the US Coat Guard on channel 16. There was lots of activity: a
body--like in dead person--had been reported on Brooks Island, off
Richmond. Most of the radio traffic revolved around the Coast Guard
trying to get a fix on the location and then to establish jurisdiction
for a response. It must be frustrating for the Coast Guard to deal
with skippers who can't give accurate Lat. & Long. when making a
report of this nature.
I catch up with the container ship YM
Europe safely nestled at her berth where unloading operations are
already underway. No time seems to be wasted in getting these vessels
serviced, turned around, and back in transit to their next port of
call. Then it's on out into the bay beyond
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. The parklands were conveyed to the
Port of Oakland with the closing of the Navel Supply Depot in 1998.
The subsequent dedication of the land gave public access to this part
of the bay that had been denied for over 100 years.
So now I'm in the bay. This is usually the
cause for some excitement as the winds are always blowing sufficient
to make for some good and sometimes spirited sailing. Well the
reciprocal to the "never say never" rule came into play. The wind
stopped! . . . But one can always count on the winds picking up again
in short order . . . NOT! Beyond the northern San Francisco waterfront
I could see smoke blowing from the stack of still another container
ship bound for Oakland. And toward the south, fog was visible flowing
over the San Bruno hills; clearly indicating air movement there. But
here, in the bay-middle, there was nothing. Becalmed I be.
So it remains for the better part of an
hour. I relax, have a picnic lunch, watch the tall ships feigning
battle a couple of miles distant, and many other sailboats motoring by
in surrender to the conditions. As it becomes clear that my
smoke-reference container ship is headed my way, I decide it best to
get out of the channel
she gets too close, so I fire up Lazy Ka's outboard, and head
the turning basin finds the C.A. Thayer, now fully afloat,
being assisted to dock by a couple of local tugs. I again sail in
close for another intimate look at this beauty. At a distance not more
that 10 yards, I can clearly see the planking that makes up her hull.
looks brand new! Absolutely gorgeous!
A gentle four knot breeze at my back
pushes me up the Estuary toward Jack London Square once again. Lady
Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain overtaking me, offering
another good photo-op of the tall ships through the rig of Lazy Ka.
one more chance to sail in close as they are tied up for the evening.
Their flags in the picture to the left indicate the good breezes now
On the final leg back to Grand Street I am
overtaken by the slickest one-man sailing rig I seen yet. A 16'
tri-hull, the Hobie Mirage
Island has peddle power as well. Pictured here in a
stock photo; more can be found on the the company site
here. We talk as we sail, trading stories along the way. Before I
know it I'm back at the ramp. It's time to end another great day of
tall ship, the Lynx, it turns out, is sailing Monterey Bay for the
next couple of weeks before coming to Oakland for the Strictly Sail
Boat Show (April 18-22.) I have since checked
Lynx website to find that she will be in the greater Bay Area and
Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta through June 18th, when she departs for
Hawaii. The Lynx will return to San Francisco Bay for a brief
stop-over, October 5-10. We will have many opportunities to see this
beauty in action.