August 25, 2010

Ten Reasons


The things I don't do for Tillerman.

Yesterday, I left an innocent comment on his blog, praising the lovely sailing conditions we enjoy on San Francisco Bay, whereupon he challenged me to give him reasons that he should sail here. There's some sort of Laser race for geriatrics being held here next year, and he has been making noises about coming out to participate.

Here is the Tillerman-tossed gauntlet:

Please give me Ten Reasons to Sail in San Francisco Next Summer. I'm willing to be convinced. You could even make it a blog post (unless you are planning to write more posts about frigging flowers.)

So, here I am writing a blog post to make him happy. And a post composed of a list, no less.

I normally don't do 'List' blog posts, mainly because that is a mechanical device for cranking out a post and I'm a less structured, more freeform kind of guy. But I think the idea to create a 'List' post was itself on one of those lists about how to write a successful blog - something like "Twelve Things You Must Do To Write A Successful Blog Because Eleven Things Wouldn't Be Enough". One of those twelve things was Make A Blog Post Out Of A List. And since Tillerman is a rather, well, structured kind of guy, he likes lists.

Some people are insecure in their natural ability to know when a task is complete and feel that the artificial device of having a list and checking off its items will insure success. We all have our little crutches to get through life. Tillerman's seems to be making lists.

Mine is beer.

So, in an effort to placate He Who Must Be Obeyed and to convince him to come sailing in San Francisco next summer, here is my list of Ten Reasons To Sail In San Francisco.

1) Our Frigging Flowers. You didn't think I was going to let that little remark about flowers go unchallenged, did you? Tillerman is a very focused kind of sailor. When he gets on that Laser, he is very dialed in. It's all concentration about technique, about strategy, about timing the perfect start, finding the perfect lane, knowing the unknowable about which side is favored. I think that's why he doesn't win more often. He's too damn focused. His hiking pants are all in a knot. San Francisco sailors are much more laid back. We take time to smell our flowers, to consider sailing as part of a balanced life that includes many elements, even the flowers. We are more relaxed and philosophical, and I think staying loose and being free to adjust to changing conditions can only be an advantage on the race course. Tillerman, come to San Francisco and learn how to relax a little.

2) Our wind. No, it doesn't blow a steady 18 knots every day of the year, but looking back over any sailing season, it sure seems that way. Because of peculiarities of our local topography and how that affects wind currents, we enjoy what is one of the most reliable and predictable wind machines on the planet. Don't take my word for it, or the word of about a bazillion people who know more about sailing than I do. Try it. You'll like it.

3) Our currents. Like a good game of chess? Don't like a race course that's the same every week? Come to San Francisco! If you've mastered sail trim, timing the perfect start, reading the wind, surfing the waves, and all of that other stuff that sailors need to know about, no matter where they sail, you will still end up at the back of the pack here if you don't know how our currents work. The cool thing is that no one knows for sure how they work, no matter how long they've been sailing here. Our currents are that diabolical. In most other sailing venues, you can find out what you need to know from a simple tide chart. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! The overall winner of last year's Three Bridge Fiasco, who has been sailing the bay for at least 200 years, went out on the course the day before the race and spent all day sailing to key spots at about the times he thought he would be getting there in the race - just to see what our frigging currents were up to. Did I mention that he was first out of 300 boats?

4) Larry Ellison lives here. Tillerman, the guy bought a little fixer-upper cottage on the ocean in Newport last year, just down the road from you. He's a neighbor, right? Surely he'd be happy to see you and to take you out for a sail. I think he has more than one boat. And even if he asks you on a light air day, he has one very fast trimaran that he only takes out on light air days.

5) You can walk, jog, or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. All sailing and no play makes Tillerman a dull boy. It's great enough that we have the most photographed bridge in the world available anytime for photo ops, but even though it was built in 1936, they still had the foresight to put a walkway on it. I don't care how much of a jaded East Coast type you are, this is still very cool.

6) There are more great restaurants in the Bay per square centimeter than anywhere else on the planet. OK, this may be a tough one to support with hard data, but I think there are definitely more restaurants here than in all of Rhode Island, if you don't count greasy chicken joints.

7) This is a much better time zone than Rhode Island's. When you're going to bed in Rhode Island, we still have another three hours to party. Heck, when Tillerman's going to bed, we probably still have another five hours to party.

8) Two words - No Frostbiting

9) San Francisco - not London, not Portsmouth, not Fowey, not Grumbleywicket on Tyne, not even frigging Dublin - was the birthplace of Irish Coffee.

10) Now that I've dispensed with the tedious device of compiling a list, may I make a plea for what is really the reason that you should come to San Francisco?

Have you ever awakened earlier than usual on a crisp, fall morning, when things were yet clear and still, and felt a sense of both inner peace and energetic anticipation to get on with the events of the day?

Have you ever felt, at the end of a long run, a sudden pulse of energy that you weren't expecting, that gave a certain lightness to your step and drove you to the finish in a rush that made you forget all fatigue?

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks, shaken from a tedious routine or from a frenetic dash to get somewhere you didn't really need to be rushing to by a single sound - a child's laugh, the cry of a gull, that made you realize there might be more in that laugh or cry than in the busy entirety of the rest of your day?

Have you ever watched the sun drop stoically into the sea at the end of a long day of work, more tired than you ever thought you could be, only to discover it was a good kind of weariness for what you had accomplished that day?

If you've felt any of these things, then you know a tenth of the joy and anticipation and fulfillment we have whenever we push our boats out from the harbors, out from the marinas, out from the launch ramps, out from the backwaters of San Francisco into these tender and terrifying waters that we so proudly call home.



  1. What about the fog?

    Tiff, Llandyrnog (and no, i didn't just cut and paste my CAPTCHA, it's where I live)

  2. Tiff, you're absolutely right.

    The eleventh reason for sailing in San Francisco - the fog!

    Learning to sail in the fog puts hair on your chest, which may explain why many women don't like sailing in the fog.

  3. Well, IMO, you left out that the best sailors in these United States are found in the Bay area. But this is just a new development, only since the days of Jack London, so Tillerman may not have kept up with that. He may not be up to that, either, but that's another question.

  4. Peace, love, and groovy tie-dye. And don't forget the flower in your hair.

  5. Wow. You actually did your assignment. 10 out of 10 for effort!

    Let's see...

    1. Flowers. Tillerwoman likes flowers so that's a good reason to come. She can smell the flowers while I sail.

    2 and 3. Wind and currents, always fun.

    4. Larry Ellison? You've got to be joking.

    5. You do have a pretty bridge. A few years ago Tillerwoman and I spent a pleasant sunny week in Napa Valley. We had rented a convertible. We spent some very happy days cruising from winery to winery with the top down on the car. We thought that the most romantic way to end our vacation would be to drive back to the airport across the Golden Gate Bridge with the top down. But when we drove down to the bay we discovered the whole bridge was shrouded in fog and it was frigging cold and damp. So we stopped the car and put the top up. GGB no longer holds any romance for us.

    6. Restaurants are always a selling point. Tillerwoman and I both like to eat.

    7. You stupid boy!

    8. Kind of irrelevant if I come in the summer anyway.

    9. Geeze, you were really scraping the barrel for reasons by now, weren't you?

    10. OMG, and then you go all poetic on me. Don't you know by now that I'm a cold-hearted logical bastard?

    So what are we left with? Wind, currents, flowers and restaurants. Not bad. I guess I have to come and sail there at least once so that I have some experience and facts to argue with you and Joe about sailing in SF for the rest of my blogging life.

  6. You had me at Oleanders. I love you, O Docker

  7. Emily Titesphinker8/25/10, 7:59 AM

    You had me at "things I don't do for Tillerman." I love you too, O Docker.

  8. Tillerman (and Doc)

    I think Doc makes a good point that I missed. Some of the world's best sailors have started out here. Not that the other coasts haven't bred a few luminaries, too, but you're bound to see some sailors here you haven't raced against before, even though these national and international Laser events may draw most of the best, no matter where they're held.

    My point about the bridge was that you really do have to get out of your car and do it on foot (or bike) to get a different perspective. I was hoping you, as well as Tillerwoman, might be 'smelling the flowers'. The last time we biked the bridge, it was foggy, but that made it a little more romantic for us, not less.

    A theme in this post was opening your eyes to new things. San Francisco did that for me when I experienced it at the ripe old age of 20. It encouraged me to be more tolerant of the new and the different. It made the foreign not something to be feared, but to be explored.

    Maybe my attempt at the poetic has failed, but it was the bay's magic attraction that led me into sailing in the first place. The magic works on some, but not on everyone, I guess. Living back east for 33 years, I wasn't in the least curious about sailing until I saw and felt this bay. I've been sailing it ever since. If you're already a sailor, it's waters may help you discover things in yourself that you never knew were there.

    Or, it may just make you thirsty. If so, please stop by O Dock. I have a remedy for that.

  9. Panda, while I may no longer have enough hair to hold a flower, I think I will always be a groovy kind of guy - for better or worse.

    Baydog and Emily, San Francisco is the city of love, much to the chagrin of the local health authorities.

  10. "Attempt at the poetic failed"?
    Not on me.

    And there seems to be a theme of love in the cities which you have lived.

  11. O Docker, I do have to admit that the lure of sailing in San Francisco transcends the purely logical. There are some excellent Laser sailors that hail from there, (though I do see many of them at Laser Masters Worlds wherever they are held.) I have enjoyed many long runs around the city in the early morning when I have visited there before (though not yet across the bridge.) I agree that it is a unique and special place that offers many different sensations and I have always enjoyed my previous visits there. Other things being equal, then I would certainly relish the opportunity to come there for the Laser Masters Worlds next year.

    The problem is that Joe Rouse has been turning me off the place with all his dismal posts about how miserable the weather has been this summer.... fog, drizzle, rain, cold... he just goes on and on whining about the place. And Rhode Island has just experienced one of the hottest, driest summers on record. So "other things" are not being equal (this year.)

    In spite of Joe Rouse, the attraction of sailing SF Bay is strong. I have heard so much about it that I probably won't be able to resist the pull. And I must make sure I don't get in a rut!

  12. Bonnie hasn't logged in here yet, so I'll proxy for her -

    the sun sets over the ocean in SF.


  13. Fab list, though Re. 8: are you sure?

    I heard it was pretty cold waters and if you're in something tiny like a Laser you're bound to go for a dunking at some point.

    Also 9... no, that's too big a topic, will have to come back to that one.

    Great sunsets and seafood are a real plus - wouldn't mind another visit if there's a client with travel budget out there ;)

  14. Tillerman, as we say in the newspaper business, "Never believe what you read in the blogs."

    MichaelB, maybe I should have named this post 'Twenty Reasons'.

    JP, our waters are perpetually chilly, though they never go hard and crinkly as in some locations, so I'm sticking with number 8, if only on a technicality.

    I've never quite understood, though, why one would want to persevere with a boat that is endlessly trying to throw one off, like a rodeo bull. I sometimes think the gun at the end of a Laser race is shot off as tribute to the winner for having remained mounted for the duration.

    Come to think of it, they don't use a gun for most Laser races, they use a horn, just like at a....

  15. What? Did someone mention my name?

  16. Joe, where have you been?

    I'm holding the fort here, all by myself.

    Somehow, Tillerman got this idea that it's foggy in SF. How did that happen? We're going to need a lot more pictures of people basking in the sun. Do you have anything like that?

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  19. I assume the Bay is getting the fog out of the way this summer so it'll be nice and sunny next summer when some special sailors might arrive at the Bay. So, when are the dates for the masters of Lasers to sail the Bay?

    From what I've heard, other details about the Bay might be...

    15. Some of the yacht clubs are having membership specials this summer and waiving or reducing initiation fees.

    14. The Potato Patch is not a place to do your vegetable shopping from your Laser. "You want fries with those breaking waves?"

    13. You can ask the South Tower Monster to punish bad sailors.

    12. People are quite concerned about illegal immigrants in a state where the governor has a pronounced foreign accent.

    11. San Franciscans might feel sorry for sailors if the city messes up on the chance to host the Auld Mug race.

    10. Keelboat owners can choose to keep their boats in fresh or salt water.

    9. Fish tacos are a legitimate California achievement.

    8. One of the most active Etchells fleets sails out of Brickyard Cove.

    7. You can anchor in the south bay and try to catch a baseball.

    6. Marina slip rentals in many areas (east or south bay or delta) are much cheaper than in LA or San Diego or other major cities.

    5. Occasional earthquakes provide opportunities for urban renewal even if they can't shake up the political scene.

    4. The Ghiradelli chocolate factory overlooks a nearby fleet of historic ships.

    3. On summer days, you have a choice of sailing to several temperature zones, from chilly to hot.

    2. If you're just visiting for a short term or have a small dinghy, you can laugh at the Californians who have to pay property tax on the mud under their boats in the marinas.

    1. Most of the Great White Sharks stay well outside the Golden Gate, especially toward the Farallons, and they absolutely prefer seals and sea lions to normally inverted Laser sailors.

  20. Pat, according to the calendar on the Laser class website the Masters Worlds in San Francisco will be held from 5th to 13th August 2011.

    Qualification rules are posted here. You and Carol Anne should aim to qualify in group 3 or 4, though you might well secure places in group 5. I strongly recommend that you both start training now and attend some regattas in your area to establish your eligibility to compete.

    See you in the foggy city next summer!

  21. Pat, if Tillerman gets swept by a strong ebb out past the South Tower (13) or to the Potato Patch (14), the climate zone (3) he'll need to get ready for will be tropical, as his next stop will probably be Hawaii.

    But if he manages to stay on the Berkeley Circle, where his regatta is being held, he won't be anywhere near those evils. Nor will he likely see any of that fog Joe is always complaining about, as it usually burns off in the East Bay by noon in the summer on days that it does show up.

    On practice days, he can choose his wind as well as his climate, since it goes, pretty predictably, from howling in the slot by the city front to practically nill in the lee of Angel Island. In The Circle, the chop may be more an issue than the wind, as the fetch is across eight miles of open water and the depths rise abruptly from fifty feet to around ten there (or less at low tide).

    If he finds himself at the Ghirardelli shops (4), he won't have far to go to the birthplace of real Irish Coffee, which, I may have already mentioned, originated in San Francisco.

  22. If we arrive in the Bay by the beginning of August, I could imagine we'd be more interested in helping with RC than in competing. And if we wind up staying in a marina around Richmond that would be pretty darn convenient.

  23. Wow, that was a deep somewhat serious post.

    You missed sourdough bread though.

    Also the Ocean crossing, superblogger sails these waters.

  24. You're right, Zen.

    Sour dough bread languished in relative obscurity for years and would probably remain there today had it not been perfected by an enterprising and dedicated San Francisco baker and then brought to the world's attention by passionate San Francisco writers.

  25. I also put San Francisco sailing in my blog (but need to add the sourdough bread!), desert sea, and added a post about sailing in Northern NM and then a rant on sailing between the buoys.

  26. You still haven't mentioned the most important reason to sail in San Francisco. I see I will have to help you out and write a post on it myself.

  27. This is so passionate! i'm convinced! hey: your restaurants. Something about waiting 2 hrs for a table we outtatowners just don't get...
    Joe! where are you??

  28. Bowsprite, I agree. No food is worth waiting two hours for.

    But I think part of restaurant savvy is as much knowing when to go as where to go.

    Also, my favorite kind of place is one that has a great appetizer and bar menu so you don't have to wait for a table. Who needs a linen tablecloth when you can cover the table with drink coasters?

  29. May I suggest a new list for you?

    1. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    2. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    3. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    4. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    5. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    6. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    7. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    8. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    9. Laser Masters Worlds 2011
    10.Laser Masters Worlds 2011

  30. Well, this may not be the best time to be bringing up the Laser Masters Worlds. Team Tiverton appears to have had some rough going at the 2010 edition. I suspect there may be a word or two about this over at Proper Course when our captain is safely home.

    Did I mention that we have a pretty nice bay for sailing even if you're not racing floppy little boats?

    And, oh yeah, there's the bridge that's fun to walk across.

    And the Irish coffee.

    And the sun sets over the ocean, not over the parking lot.

  31. I saw that. Not sure I'm looking forward to hearing what happened because it just can't be good. But I think that Tillerman is a resilient, get-back-on-the-horse sort of fellow & maybe he'll have all the more desire to go to SF in 2011 to redeem whatever went wrong this year.

    Uh oh. Word verification: inguree. I hope that's not a slightly mispelled omen of what happened.

  32. oh, and ps - triple plus on the proper sunset locations. I think most people here know how strongly I feel about proper sunset design (if you don't, click the link).

  33. pps...

    oops. having just read the comments I apparently missed before, I now see that Tillerman was (quite naturally) way ahead of me on figuring out the 2011 venue.