One of Marin’s best-kept-secret views of the Golden Gate Bridge is through the windows of an unassuming-looking building that sits behind the Discovery Museum on the shore of Horseshoe Cove at Fort Baker.
The building houses the Presidio Yacht Club, an exclusive-sounding name that’s utterly misleading because the club couldn’t be more egalitarian. It’s open to the public, the drinks are cold and cheap, rock-and-roll bands play there many weekends and, of course, it has that glorious view of the bridge, stretching from high above the quiet cove to the far shore of San Francisco.
For all this—except the bridge—we can thank the U.S. Army, which constructed the yacht club building in 1942 during World War II to support an antiship and submarine minefield just outside the Golden Gate. At the same time, the army built the breakwater that protects the cove.
After the war, the army phased out the facility, but personnel stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco got permission to use the building as a yacht club. The first commodore was appointed in 1959. In 1995, when the army vacated the Presidio, the U.S. Air Force took over the supervision of the club and it is still operated by Travis Air Force Base.
Today, the building has two main public areas. The ground level—in the former carpenters’ shop—contains a dining room that can be rented for wedding receptions, parties or other special occasions. There’s also a kitchen for caterers (or the club can provide a chef). Upstairs is the casual lounge called Mike’s Place. Named in memory of Mike Stipic, the club’s chief steward for many years, the lounge is open to anyone of any age. Patrons can order a drink and a burger (regular, cheese, turkey or veggie) and take in the amazing view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. The brief menu of inexpensive fare also includes hot dogs and sandwiches.
The walls and ceiling are decorated with burgees of other yacht clubs brought back by voyaging members, as well as with club memorabilia and photos of the club’s parade of commodores. The room holds an ornate pool table said to have once been in the guards’ break room on Alcatraz. Legend says the table made its way from the Rock to the Coast Guard in the mid-1960s and then to Fort Baker when the Coast Guard relocated its base there.
Although membership is limited to active or retired military personnel, federal civil service workers and members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, you needn’t be a member to enjoy the club’s facilities. But, says Jack Machun, a retired air force pilot and one of the club’s governing members, if you have a hankering to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary, doing so isn’t too difficult. “They augment the Coast Guard in patrolling the Bay,” he says. “And they require a security background check and dues, of course.”
Parking at the club is easy and if you’re spending the day at the Discovery Museum, the yacht club is a short stroll—or stroller push—away.
PYC membership: 415.332.2319
Mike’s Place is open Fridays 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
More information at presidioyachtclub.com