The 97th Annual Opening Day on the San Francisco Bay is this Sunday, April 27th and what better place –– by land or by sea –– to catch the vast and spectacular flutter of sails upon the bay than Marin County. So put on those Topsiders, grab your foul weather gear (there may be a bit of rain) and get nautical.
The day begins (after a Bloody Mary perhaps) with The Blessing of the Fleet from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Raccoon Straits. This is a century-old tradition that began in the Mediterranean with a priest sprinkling holy water on the local fishing boats to ensure a safe and bountiful season. It has of course digressed somewhat in modern day, and while there will no doubt be a someone of authority on board the USS Potomac blessing boats that cruise by on Sunday, there is more fire water (hooch) than holy water on board most boats these days. The official decorated Parade of Boats along the San Francisco shoreline starts at noon, and is led by the San Francisco fireboat Phoenix, and ends at Pier 39. The parade theme this year is “Visions – honor our past, nurture our present and embrace our future”; I haven’t the faintest idea how that translates into boat décor,but it is the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate International Exposition for which Treasure Island was created.
Best places to watch this festive display of vessels is along the Sausalito or Tiburon shoreline, from the Marin headlands or from Crissy Field and the Marina Green in San Francisco. The St. Frantic (St. Francis Yacht Club) and the Golden Gate Yacht Club of AC34 fame will be coveted roosts. And if you are on the bay in your own boat, you won’t want to miss the party on the leeward side of Angel Island where many vessels anchor out and raft up.
If my count is correct, there are eight yacht clubs in Marin County. All of them will have opening day festivities – BBQs, live music, dancing and plenty of adult beverages. While most of these are private clubs open only to members, on opening day many allow guests. To watch from terra firma, the clubs with the best views are the Sausalito Yacht Club, The Corinthian Yacht Club, in Belvedere and the San Francisco Yacht Club, which is also in Tiburon (not San Francisco…which has long confused legions of sailors, myself included).
If you don’t have your own boat or your own yacht club, there are loads of local charter boats afloat with parties that day, including the Schooner Freda B that hails from Sausalito and will be one of the first boats in the parade.
Remember: “red right returning” and don’t fall overboard and fair winds to all. Permission to board?