Our time in San Francisco has been, to say the very least incredibly busy and while we would like to stay longer, Los Angeles beckons us further south to warmer weather and our next destination.
I must say that trying to find a berth/slip in San Francisco was a little like trying to find the Holy Grail. It was not easy! I remember Ken Williams saying to me, “James, you are going to have a hard time getting a slip”. I thought at the time, Ken, Ken, Ken, I will get a berth, no problems at all, just you watch! Well, he was right and after months on the phone trying to secure something we finally hit pay dirt when Andy Nemier, fellow N62 owner on Infinity mentioned where he stayed when in San Francisco, which was Marina Bay Yacht Harbor.
Marina Bay Yacht Harbor in Richmond is a marina that finally had space available for larger boats. The marina itself has great security, privacy, was beautifully modern and the docks (well on G dock where we stayed) had great cleats of all sizes to tie to. It had stable 30/50 and 100amp power and marina staff who cared enough, to return my calls. My main issue with the regular marinas in Sausalito, Tiburon or San Francisco was trying to get anyone to return my calls or to not wave me off saying “Oh give me a call when you arrive and we will see if we can fit you in” which is a little like saying to a pregnant women to make her first gynaecologists appointment on the day her baby is due. Simply absurd!
It is clear that after visiting San Francisco that this place is simply not set up for boats larger than around 40ft. All their berths are small with very few berths/slips large enough to take vessels over 40ft. It’s a real shame to see a great city so incredibly underserviced with regards to marina berths inside the bay close to the city for larger vessels. Perhaps this is the reason why so many cruisers simply pass on by! Sure there is Half Moon Bay who were great and did return calls but it is a little far out. There were also a few others marinas inside the bay further south towards Palo Alto who were keen for our business but as the bay shallows these really were not solid options. So, thank God for Marina Bay Yacht Harbor is all I have to say as the marinas, we saw in Sausalito had docks that were close to falling apart with little maintenance apparent and from a security perspective were completely unsecured. The famous St Francis Yacht Club, on the third call did offer us a slip but wanted a staggering US$4,500pcm. I reminded the guy that we were a 62ft vessel and not 162ft to which is laughed and simply said “That’s the rate”. Well mate, that maybe the rate but I gracefully decline.
In short, if you are coming to San Francisco don’t bother with the regular haunts as they are either over crowed and falling apart or they are ridiculously expensive. Come out to the hood in Richmond as you will be sure pleased you did and what’s more, you will save some coin on the way through!
Now let’s talk about our current surrounds; Richmond. Richmond, for those who don’t know is one of the most dangerous places in all of America and in fact, the police here actually pay the gangs not to kill people. The place does look a little like a warzone once you venture north of the 580 (“Demarcation Line”) but it is part of America and it is as valid and real as downtown San Fran or anywhere else for that matter. While we all did feel a little uneasy the first few days we soon felt very comfortable “in the hood” and were very pleased with our choice of marina. The marina itself and Point Richmond are no go gang zones so one feels perfectly safe and at ease with multi-million dollar homes dotting the marina. Separating the marina and the warzone is one very, very large Police Station and a few miles of safe ground which is all that’s needed.
There is one thing I do need to say about Richmond and the marina’s location and that is in the months of May-August it is a little like being in a wind tunnel. Winds during our stay were pretty consistent at around 20-25kts while the wind in Sausalito was around 5kts. They say that there are 16 micro climates around the harbor of San Francisco and just our luck we were in one hell of a wind tunnel for our entire stay. The good thing though is that we had clear skies and sunshine for our entire visit as the famous fog does not get to this part of the bay.
On a brighter note, during our time here in San Francisco we did just about everything a tourist could fit in from Pier 39, Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Chinatown to seeing the famous Painted Ladies. We drove down the famous winding Lombard Street and to the Science Centre in the beautiful Golden Gate Park and even saw Mrs Doubtfire’s house and Nicolas Cage’s old digs. Had some great meals at Sausalito Bar Bocce, Salute e Vita Ristorante, Salito’s Crab house & Prime Rib and even went to the famous Yank Sing. We toured the homes of the rich and famous in Pacific Heights, went back in time to the 1960’s in the Haight and Ashbury district and the girls spent a number of days at Six Flags Roller-Coaster Park. We also went to Alcatraz, home to some rather notorious criminal figures in its day and a very popular tourist site with some 5,000 visitors per day – I am in the wrong business!
We were also fortunate enough to catch up with many friends we have here in San Fran which was a real bonus. From Palo Alto with Google HQ and Stanford University in the south to Napa Valley and Sonoma wine country in the north there was no ground left unturned as the Ellingfords went about exploring what is truly a remarkable city. Did San Francisco have the same pull for us as Seattle, no! San Francisco is a truly great city with beautiful architecture and a city that will long remain in our memory but we wouldn’t live here? Simply too cold, windy and foggy!
For SF locals I can’t recommend Napa Valley Bistro at 975 Clinton Street highly enough. We had a truly wonderful lunch there with the standards on par with anything we’ve had before. A little good food gem tucked away in Napa that’s for sure! Unfortunately no view but the food sure made up for it.
As the map below shows we believe in going slow, abiding by local laws and enjoying the different places we stay – time to smell the roses – for us what counts, is the journey and the places and the people we meet along the way. Our dock buddies in Richmond were the most entertaining and helpful Jeff, Flo, Juaquin and Jezzabella who were great and made sure we knew the lay of the land from day one. To travel by boat allows one the convenience of having your home with you allowing you the freedom to kick back, explore, relax and take it all in.
Here is a link of Pendana actually going under the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Click HERE
While here in SF we were able to join in the Fourth of July celebrations and as such invited a few friends over to witness the fireworks from Pendana as Richmond City puts on a fireworks display every year from a barge which was anchored just in front of our berth. As it turned out we had front row seats to what is a very popular show. With some 10,000 people viewing the fireworks from shore we sure were lucky to be where we were!
No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a factory tour of the wonderful ABT-TRAC factory which is located in Santa Rosa, just north of San Francisco and David Wright, God bless him, flew down from Seattle to make sure that it happened.
Not sure what I expected but what I did see was way more, on just about every front. It’s so nice to see a fully functioning manufacturing facility producing products with orders on the loading dock ready to ship to locations all over the world. From the paint, metal, electronics and fiberglass areas/buildings it was starting to feel a little like the Boeing tour we did in Seattle. I never realised just how much labor, skill and knowhow goes into producing these fantastic products that keep all of us comfortable at sea.
I used to think that my ABT-TRAC 250s were big stabilizers – not compared to the mammoth 640’s.
Watching blocks of metal being turned into control valves on one of many CNC machines was pretty amazing.
While at the facility I was also able to see one of the first electric stabilizer systems in action. This new system is referred to as ETRAC. Apparently there is a real push from mainland European manufactures towards providing an electric option.
Thank you to the team at ABT-TRAC for giving me the behind the scenes tour, and in particular thank you to David Wright yet again!
The lovely Ammonite rolled into Richmond Harbor during our stay with an authority rarely seen in these parts. She certainly looked very pretty as she made her way to the dock and we spent time with Kaj aboard Ammonite which is truly a lovely vessel.
The weather for our run south is not looking ideal but as all of swell and sea state will be from behind, we plan to push on. With sustained winds of 20-25kts for most of our run south and seas to match, we all look forward to rounding Point Conception and arriving in Los Angeles. I must say, I am little concerned and have all fingers and toes crossed that we do not encounter too much fog, as fog at sea is not something any of us on board Pendana enjoy. We have been lucky so far, so let’s hope that luck stays with us on our short run south.
In preparation for the run south we have just had a diver out to give Pendana’s bottom a good clean. Hawk, did a great job and the cost of having this done compared to the increased speed through water and subsequent cost saving in fuel has always made total sense to me. If you are in the area then give Hawk a call to ensure you are not spending more time at sea than required. His contact details are: Hawk Jonsson, Phone: 510-593-8107, EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org as he did a first class job.
The girls enjoyed a little R&R in New York over the last ten days allowing me the time to quietly get Pendana prepared. Claire has fallen in love with New York which does not bode well as property prices there are truly insane!
I do have to apologise as this blog in turning into exactly what I promised it wouldn’t and that is, a travel blog. I promise that I will make more of an effort to avoid this in the future as there are far better travel blogs out there. This should be about boating! Anyway, with less than 48 hours before we depart I guess I should now be focused on other things. LA, here we come!
Finally, for those interested volume two of “Cruising Conversations – A Million Nautical Miles and Counting” is due for release mid-August, just in time for Christmas! “Cruising Conversations, Volume Two” is the second in a series of books which covers interviews with current and retired global cruisers. This book is an editorial treat as it glimpses into the lives of others who share their actual real life experiences – both the good and bad – of cruising at sea. With hundreds of full colour high resolution photographs this books really does enable the reader to join in with the journey as if you were actually there.
“Cruising Conversations, Volume One” is available now CLICK HERE.