Last of her kind, the lovely Balclutha is a fascinating ship full of history, and has one of the best, most realistic interpretive displays we’ve seen. There are even bags of grain in her cargo hold.
Summer has arrived on the old Sockdolager. We’re in Sausalito, right in front of Galilee Harbor, where the contented quacks of a pair of resident jet-black ducks wake us up each morning. Behind us at low tide are visible the bones of an enigmatic old 132-foot brigantine named Galilee. She was built by a famous shipwright in 1891 for the South Seas trade, and later converted to a 3-masted schooner for fishing in Alaska, where her condition deteriorated. In the early 1930s she was bought by a Captain John Quinn, grandfather of our Port Townsend friend and poet Peter Quinn. Captain Quinn and his wife brought the Galilee to Richardson Bay and converted her to their home, the first “house-boat” in Sausalito. They lived aboard her for many years. There were some efforts to preserve her because she qualified for National Historic Landmark status, but her luck ran out and here she lays in a salt marsh, kept company by the ducks, a yellow-crowned night heron, and some crows. Click here for the story and here for a photo of the ship in her sailing days at the turn of the century. A community of houseboats, artists, and, later, hippies, grew up around the Galilee. Colorful houseboats and equally colorful liveaboards are a fixture in Sausalito now.
Ruins of the once-beautiful brigantine-schooner-houseboat Galilee
A Bit of Nostalgia: While Jim has been here several times before, the only other time Karen was in Sausalito was in 1976, and she headed straight for the docks. Coming upon a stout seaworthy 28-foot sailboat, she stood quietly admiring it. Suddenly the bearded owner popped his head out the companionway, and Karen who was fairly new to sailing at the time, said, “Sorry to have bothered you, I was just enjoying your boat.” The owner smiled and said, “Why don’t you come aboard? Annabelle’s just made cookies and we’re having tea.” Astounded at such friendliness to a perfect stranger, Karen went aboard the good ship Amøbel, and for the next two hours listened to tales of the sea spun by Gordon and Annabelle Yates, who’d just sailed to San Francisco from Europe via the Panama Canal. Holy mackerel, did Karen ever enjoy that. Only much later she realized what mentors this couple had been to sailors whose writings she was reading in books and magazines.
The other day we were walking the docks and stopped to admire a stunning wooden 8-meter named Yucca, with perfect lines, an incredible double-ended fantail stern, and obvious racing pedigree lines. The owner saw us and invited us aboard. He’s had her for 46 years and three masts (each dismasting an interesting story), and he is still madly in love with his boat. There’s something about Sausalito…
Sunrise in Sausalito as seen from our companionway.
Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easier: This is the first real summer weather we’ve had in a long time, and wearing T-shirts, shorts and crocs is a novelty. The chilly damp we’ve had up to now had coated everything in the boat with moisture—so much that a spreading glaze of mildew had to be vinegared off the woodwork. It feels good to dry out. We’ve actually rigged an awning for shade! Summer does not seem to have arrived yet across the Bay in San Francisco, but we know where to find it now. Karen is nearly delirious with joy at the sound of palm trees rustling in the wind.
Visiting with our Japanese friend Dai, who has solo sailed his Morgan 32 down the coast from Vancouver, and is headed next to Hawaii. Dai makes no secret of his physical handicap, but that hasn’t stopped him. He has also ridden a horse across Japan, and skydived.
Wonderful San Francisco: Still, the foghorns, cable cars, steep hills, Chinatown, and the fascinating waterfront in San Francisco with its Maritime Museum are not to be missed. We hung onto the side of a cablecar as it went clattering up the hill. No straps, no safety bars, just hang on or you’ll fall off like roadkill—amazing, they don’t protect us from ourselves! “Watch it on the left!” calls the Gripman (driver), as an oncoming truck’s mirror threatens to scrape off a few riders. He’s not kidding, and everyone scrunches in, saying “S’cuse me” to the seated riders we crowd. How is this little thrill still possible in our litigious, safety-crazed world? The Gripman operates a brake lever that makes the cablecar stop by pressing a piece of pine onto the street. Not walnut or teak, they’re too hard and get too smooth, but pine, which stays rough with the friction. Is low tech beautiful, or what.
Safety sign for cablecars. Karen is on the middle left.
A Mechanic's Hog Heaven: At the top of the hill is what they call the cablecar museum, but really it’s more like Grand Central Station. Here they let you lean over a rail and look down on spinning pulleys, corner gears, and miles of steel cable that run under the streets to pull the cablecars along their routes. You can go down some stairs and see a corner section in operation under the street, too. There are over 10 miles of 1 ¼ inch cable, and it must be replaced every 75-180 days. To make a loop for, say, the Hyde Street run, you need 16,000 feet of cable made into a loop with (please sit down, rigging and tugboat friends) a wire splice that’s NINETY feet long. The whole place hums and smells like hot grease.
A Chocoholic's Hog Heaven: Oh yes… do not fail to visit Ghirardelli Square’s shameless tourist-trap chocolate factory, where they hand out little squares of free chocolate at every entrance (and there are FOUR separate entrances, heh heh) where you can slurp down a lifetime’s worth of chocolate dopamine in one frosty Nob Hill Chill. Your waistline won’t thank you, but your brain-freeze-happy taste buds will.
Inner workings of the cablecar system. Now if someone could invent a wheel system made of chocolate...
Conversation with a passerby on the dock who’d just learned our cruise is open-ended:
Passerby: How long are you going to be out for?
Jim: Depends on how long we live. (Cue jaw drop.)
Later, in the dinghy, as we go from the boat to a beach bar:
Karen: Do you think there will ever come a point when we’re tired of this?
Jim: Could be.
Karen: When do you suppose that might that be for you?
Jim: Oh, maybe twenty years.
Karen makes a pilgrimage to the famous City Lights Booksellers, near Chinatown. It was started and is still owned by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who once shipped out during World War 2 on one of the “Coastal Picket Force” comandeered private sailboats that patrolled the US east coast for enemy submarines; the coincidence here being that Karen once co-owned the Schooner Windsong, one of those patrol boats.
A treat for the senses: Karen’s friend Tilikum R. alerted her to the fact that seven Polynesian double canoes, or vakas, would be sailing into San Francisco from Hawaii, on a 15,000 nautical mile journey to raise awareness of the health of our oceans, especially the Pacific. They're from all over the Pacific. As we watched from the breakwater ashore, the canoes sailed together under the Golden Gate Bridge, the sail colors of five of them matching the Bridge's orangey hues, and if you closed out the other distractions, it was possible to imagine being in another time.
We happened to be walking on the beach at Aquatic Park when five of the vakas came sailing in and ran right up onto the sand in front of us!
Three of the vakas on the beach. Later, we went aboard the Hine Moana from the Cook Islands for a tour and to help them raise the sails. It was unbelievable how the ship came alive with the sails shaking in the wind. They were happy to take us with them, but since we had no way to get back across the Bay to Sockdolager, we reluctantly got off and watched them sail away.
They left for Monterey and points south, and we hope to see them again along the way, including back in Polynesia.
Finally, news of Karen’s belted-out rendition of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” while sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge was well-received. Thanks for the song suggestions for this newly-established tradition for entering harbors. Here are enough to get us a few more miles south, but the rest of you had better get busy.
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Cruz”
“I got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day, and When It’s Cold Outside, I Got Monterey”
“Santa Barbar-bar-Bar-bar-bra Ann”
“Do You Know the Way to Marina Del Rey”
And really finally, everyone needs their very own "Demented Helmsman" photo.