I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over ten years now, and yet I’ve never written about a sailing experience in depth despite the fact that I’ve been out on the Bay’s dramatic waters more than a dozen times. Part of the reason is that when you live somewhere, you rarely see your own background as a “destination” even though the City by the Bay is renowned worldwide for its beautiful views, eclectic culture, the Golden Gate Bridge, access to wine country, nature and great restaurants.
Getting out on the water is always magical and even though you can easily do that by motor boat, ferry or tour boat, hanging with friends on a 35 foot yacht is certainly a blissful and relaxing way to take it all in.
Sailing the Bay Area Waters
San Francisco is known for its misty fog that engulfs it often regardless of the time of year. Oddly enough, summer often tends to be worse. People often joke about the quote that Mark Twain apparently never said (or it can’t be verified anyway), which is: “The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent was a Summer in San Francisco.”
There’s some truth to this, so much so that we often try to retreat to the East Coast during the summer months or anywhere else but the city. We got lucky on this particular July Sunday — the sun came out, the wind was gusty at times but not enough to dampen the mood or experience, a l’il Prosecco was poured and snacks were plentiful. Let’s just say that we breathed it all in all afternoon and we were in heaven.
The skies were clear with dancing white clouds and plenty of other boats around us were enjoying the same glorious afternoon in the Bay. There was much better visibility of the East Bay Bridge than the Golden Gate Bridge given the fog, but there was still no shortage of breathtaking views. I think it’s even more lovely from the water than the views from up above.
The Ruby, an Icon on the Bay
We spotted the infamous RUBY, which is an icon on the Bay. The boat was designed by her Captain and the hull was constructed by the Millerick Brothers. RUBY was the first sailboat on San Francisco Bay to be granted a passenger license by the Coast Guard and has been active since 1981. She is an ocean going vessel and has apparently made several cruises to Mexico.
Whales in Sight
We managed to see a decent sized whale who seemed to be “playing” between a half a dozen or so yachts, including ours. He’d emerge for air every few minutes or so but sadly I didn’t once see his tail.
Okay, so our crew was a combination of friends and new faces, all with varying degrees of sailing experience, from expert to novice and everything in between. What an amazing crew they were especially during those higher knots at mid-afternoon.
Heading to Angel Island
It’s remarkable that I’ve lived in the Bay Area as long as I have and never been to Angel Island. When Mark, our skipper and friend, suggested we make a stop, we couldn’t be more excited.
Angel Island offers expansive 360° views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin County Headlands and Mount Tamalpais. You can hike around the island in around 2.5 to 3 hours and the trail is relatively easy going. I’d add that you can also tour the island by bike, which is worth doing if you love to bike and want to make the effort.
Below, us coming into Angel Island to dock.
Below, one of the views from the top of the first little hill you get to if you only want to opt for a very short hike instead.
Dramatic Skies at Sunset
As the day wore on, the skies produced a sunset with vibrant hues of pinks and oranges that albeit a little over edited below, you get the idea of just how spectacular they can be on the Bay. Warm skies not only warm my heart, but my breathe is better, my concentration is better, my mood is better and my sense of gratitude is even more enhanced.
Below, Anthony and I while docked at Angel Island.
Views of San Francisco
Aside from the 2 famous bridges, the horizon, other boats, whales, seagulls, and other birds, you can look back and give a nod to the City by the Bay from a myriad of directions — even better later in the day as the sun begins to set. Isn’t she glorious?
The South Beach Yacht Club
We took off from the South Beach Yacht Club where our friend has a membership and also moors his yacht. Apparently there’s a ten year waiting list to get in, largely because there’s only so much space and it is so centrally located, giving you quick and easy access to the Bay right off the Embarcadero. It couldn’t be more convenient for city dwellers who want to get out on the water frequently.
It’s the second largest yacht club in the city after St. Francis Yacht Club and has been around since 1988, touting around 500 members. It is also an all-volunteer club which is known for an active racing program that draws over 50 boats during the summer and a growing junior sailing program that spans five weeks.
We had drinks and burgers after our sail here and the skies just got more and more dramatic as the day finally retired.
If you don’t have friends with a yacht or know how to sail so you can rent your own, Viator offers a number of cruises, sailing and water tours – we’ve yet to try any of them, so can’t speak to them, but hope to take a few of their tours sometime this year, so stay tuned (we’ll review what we do). There’s also a number of SF sailing meet-ups as well which you can check out.
See my recent article on Vision Jet which shows some spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area from a private jet. The route goes from Oakland to Napa, flying over the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge up and back.