Living on an edge is a must for me. Something to do with my Viking ancestry, no doubt. I was born and raised in Florida, lucky to have a warm beach to walk every day after school or work. When I moved to San Francisco 20 years ago, I fell in love with the Marina at first sight. A lot of people live in The Marina; I live IN the marina.
My piece of San Francisco is 39’ long by 15’ wide. In this slip lies my sailboat, a 1968 Islander 37, designed by renowned yacht designer and naval architect Bruce King. Though she’s a fiberglass sloop, her classic exterior lines, swoopy stern, ample beam and teak bits give her the air of a more traditional wooden boat. Down below, her salon is warm and cozy. I sleep here, lulled by the foghorn and the rhythmic thrumming of the halyards against the masts. It’s best when raindrops join these to create a hypnotic symphony. The salon also serves as a reading room, home office, and when friends come to visit, an intimate wine bar.
On sunny days, the view from the boat’s cockpit rivals that of any of my land-loving neighbors. Look left, there’s the Golden Gate Bridge. Swivel right and the sky is filled with kites above Marina Green. Gaze across Marina Boulevard at the barrel tile roofs against the sharp blue sky, it’s easy to imagine being in my beloved south of France.
While the boat herself gives me as much pleasure as I can stand, my little marina ’neighborhood’ has its own tempo, which changes depending on the day of the week. Weekdays are special to me since they are typically quiet—there are boat owners who go out during the week, but they are few. Most Monday-through-Friday action comes from the intrepid guys who don a wet suit and tank and brave the murky harbor waters to scrub boat bottoms, or the occasional marine electrician or refinisher out to fix bad wiring or refinish someone’s teak.
Weekends, though, the marina is a Happening. Boats wander in and out all day. Friends bring their friends to share an afternoon on the bay, a trip to Angel Island or maybe sail over to Sausalito to dock at Sam’s for lunch. Kids learning to sail brave the distinct possibility of capsizing to work on their mastery of this most enthralling sport. We have periodic festivals or exhibitions or film crews on Marina Green-and those ubiquitous kites. Volleyball games here, regattas there, those funny little yellow rent-a-scooters navigating the traffic—it’s an extravaganza starring all of us who love being by the Bay.
Marina Boulevard, our very own parade route, draws tourists and locals looking for views, views and views. And maybe a flat place to run, walk or bike. The runners run, from sun up long into the evening, weather be damned.. The wide sidewalk that extends all along the waterfront lures locals to pedal and tourists to rent bikes—Blazing Saddles must be doing box office, since every rental bike in the Marina sports its signature Blazing Saddles handlebar bag, complete with a trusty map. Segway tours pass often-I shouldn’t but I have to giggle every time I see these clots of peoplemovers, since they do look kind of silly and the mandatory helmets and vests are so matchy-matchy, and I still don’t understand how those things stay up anyway, so I watch and wait, expecting a brutal Segway pile up at any time.
Park, who works in the Harbor Master’s office, pops out every few hours to check on the boats, or to get some fresh air—he has worked in the office at least as long as I have. Park is a wealth of local knowledge. He told me about the weekly emergency alert signal one day when I was passing by him, it blared, and I shot several feet straight up. He gives me the skinny on the jumper situation when there are emergency rescue personnel at the marina. Most importantly, he knows who belongs in the marina and who does not: our one-man security force and guardian angel.
I love to walk to Greens for a cup of soup or a cookie, up to Chestnut for coffee, down to Crissy Field, along the beach and the warming hut at the end of the path. I belong to a boating club that is close by also; I’ve made so many good friends here. There’s something special about people joined by a mutual passion. Walking from the boat, I can be alone or with friends, in the middle of urban or at the end of the world within minutes. Where else can you do that?