Sitting on the side of the dinghy, I take a long pull from a cold beer and look out at Yahtzee bobbing just off the beach at Angel Island. White sails dot the San Francisco city front and the Bay Bridge looms over it all with the bright sun beaming overhead. Meanwhile, the boys dig a big hole in the hot sand while waves lap in and out of their creation. Then, almost simultaneously, Jill and I look at each other, crack huge smiles and chuckle with a cheers. Nearly a month later, and it’s still a little hard to grasp that we’re here, and how far we’ve come.
It was the last official day of summer, which, in previous years spent cruising the Pacific Northwest and Alaska meant we were about to dig into the long seasonal change and winter ahead. Are there things we’ll miss about cruising the offseason in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska like we did for so many years? Yes, of course, but it was time to go. Time to head south, to chase summer and keep exploring this big watery world in a way that we love. And we’re doing it.
Since arriving in the Bay Area we’ve soaked in the sights and sounds of the cities, taken time to travel for family and work, and have slowed the pace of life down so much that we’ve often found ourselves wondering what day of the week it actually is. Now that we’re about to pull ourselves away and continue the journey towards Southern California and Mexico, it’s fun to look back on what we’ve enjoyed about our time here.
Highlights of cruising San Francisco Bay:
- The weather. This is an obvious highlight for us, especially when we think about rain and colder temps farther north. September is one of the nicest months of weather in the Bay Area and we’ve certainly been taking advantage of it. Average daytime temps have ranged from the upper 60s to low 80s with nights cooling down into the 50s, and we’ve only had one or two short spurts of rain. Even a two-day stretch of 90s while we were in Sausalito was nice.
- It’s WINDY! If you love sailing, this is certainly the place for you. A sailor’s watch can be set to the sea breeze everyday around noon when the Sacramento River Valley heats up and starts drawing cool air in off the ocean and under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a thing of beauty. Day sails are fun and easy, and destinations are close, but the breeze also dissipates much of the fog and cuts through the heat a bit, especially in the east bay.
- Life’s a beach. Used to mostly rocky shorelines and beaches of the PNW and Alaska, we’ve found several excellent anchorages that have soft sand beaches to play on, swim from and lounge around. We also swim from the boat frequently and I even had a chance to scrub the waterline without wearing a wetsuit — imagine that!
- Eat, drink and be merry. It should be noted that Jill and I are by no means foodies. We still make most of our meals aboard, but also take time to explore restaurants and breweries when the time is right. A highlight was walking through China Town in San Francisco with the boys in search of authentic and delicious Dim Sum. And, compared to Alaska, we’ve been loving the variety of grocery stores and how close they are to many anchorages or marinas.
- Connecting with people. One of the things that our family loves most about cruising is meeting new people along the way. In San Fran we reconnected with old friends and have also met a lot of new ones. Whether it’s other boaters in anchorages or at marinas and yacht clubs, we’ve laughed and shared cruising tips over beers, been loaned cars and offered rides, and joined a family for swimming and dinner at a swim club in Tiburon.
- Yachts Clubs. Part of the people connection, too, is stopping at and enjoying yacht clubs. Using our Seattle Yacht Club reciprocal privileges, we’re able to utilize many Bay Area yacht club guest docks and their associated facilities at steeply reduced rates or at no cost. While saving money is a nice perk, it’s the connection with other boaters that is the most memorable. A good for-instance is the time we spent at the Corinthian Yacht Club of San Francisco where we were invited to join in several club events and met dozens of friendly, helpful and interesting people. Or at the St. Francis Yacht Club where the boys were asked to join in the leaving ceremony and festivities for the yacht Maiden, among other things. Note: We utilized other yacht clubs in the PNW as well, but with limited moorage available here, using yacht club reciprocals is almost a must and was something that other southbound cruising friends highly recommended.
- Parks galore. For starters, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is a massive playground that encompasses nearly the entire Bay Area. At 82,027 acres of land, much of which is on the water or accessible from the water, the GGNRA is one of the largest urban parks in the world. Hiking on Angel Island; exploring the San Francisco waterfront, Fort Mason and Presidio; and learning at the Bay Area Discovery Museum and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park were all huge highlights. Combine all that will the various playgrounds, green spaces and city parks we’ve played at it’s easy to see how time can fly here.