Monday, June 28, 2010

Sailing on the Bay

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Yesterday, I went sailing on San Francisco Bay with my father on his boat. It felt great to get out on the waves again and I spent a good part of the day at the tiller or trimming the mainsail as those westerly winds picked up in the afternoon. As you might imagine, I’ve been reading a lot of nautical-type fiction and non-fiction lately, including Two Years Before the Mast and Mutiny on the Bounty. Interestingly enough, I find that when I read a nautical book it often dovetails nicely with something new I encounter when actually sailing.

For instance, Jack London’s Tales of the Fish Patrol (another favorite of mine) describes London’s sailing adventures on San Francisco Bay back during the turn of the century. It’s neat to find some of the same shore-side landmarks, the same seasonal wind variants, and tidal peculiarities described in his books still very much a part of the character of the bay. Although a lot has definitely changed since his time, the spirit of sailing that he captures in his stories remains the same when you’re actually out there on the water.

In Richard Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast I was surprised to hear such descriptions of the bay before the Gold Rush that paint a portrait of a much wilder bay area. A land of wooded islands, native Indians, a tiny Spanish mission, and Russian fur trading vessels all converging on the bay. Upon first sighting the bay, Dana accurately predicted that this location, because of its unique geography and large, navigable bay waters, would someday become a major maritime center within the growing and prosperous territory of California. I’ve actually seen quotes from this book engraved in some of the shore walkways along the peninsula where a portion of his historical descriptions of the bay are listed in the same, albeit modern-day, settings. All in all, it’s been fun putting some of my reading into practice so-to-speak, and who knows…maybe it’s still something worth writing about too.