Remember Gilligan’s “three-hour tour” that landed he and his fellow castaways on that famous deserted island? Well, last weekend we decided to take our California-vacationing grandson, Tyler, to San Francisco, and part of the excursion was a trip out on the San Francisco Bay. Our own three-hour tour.
I, the adventuresome grandpa that I am, convinced the others to pass on the group of sleek, modern tour boats, opting instead to charter an antique and very much rundown fishing vessel. Honestly, the boat looked like the S.S. Minnow AFTER it had shipwrecked. It was the oldest, most dilapidated boat at the docks, but I absolutely wanted to try it, even though my fellow shipmates, Denene and Tyler, preferred a much newer model with real seats. Our seats, however, were handmade from old planks with cushions fashioned from garbage bags stuffed with foam. Their torn and duct-taped brown vinyl coverings certainly added to the charm.
But, our very able sea captain (above) guided his powerful, nearly 70-year-old boat out and through the San Francisco Bay, quite possibly crossing the paths of the convicts who made that daring escape from Alcatraz.
So, without further ado, have a seat (don’t worry, they’re nailed to the well-worn wooden deck) and join us for our cruise around the Bay.
Once the three of us were settled the captain fired up the engine, fiddled with a few things in the cabin (above) and we were off. Please notice the vast amount of high-tech equipment scattered about. For example…nothing. The brown material in the lower left is a greasy, filthy blanket that’s offered to passengers who can’t quite handle the chilly temps out on the waters around San Francisco. By the way, it was 105 at our house just a few miles away, but people on the Bay wore jackets or hoodies to fend off the cool air (upper 60’s-lower 70’s with cold salt spray).
So off we went, leaving San Francisco in our wake.
Next up…Alcatraz Island, home of, well, Alcatraz.
Please look to your left and you’ll see the area of the island where the boats delivering prisoners docked and unloaded the “cargo.”
Tyler immediately recognized this place and I was impressed, thinking that his schools were teaching detailed history lessons. However, Tyler said he’d not heard of this famous place from his studies. Instead, he’d gained his knowledge of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from a video game he’d played in his younger years. At least the graphics in the game were accurate…
In the lower right corner of the above image you’ll see part of one of the high-end seats. Also pictured is a portion of a blue five-gallon “seasick” bucket. Nothing but 1st class on this cruise!
After passing by Little Alcatraz, the rock that’s stranded many unsuspecting boat captains and their vessels, we headed toward the tiny bridge that towers above the Bay. By the way, the water was so rough our boat was tossed from side-to-side like a limp rag doll. At times we took on water which caused Tyler to panic. Not from a fear of capsizing, though. Instead, his worries were for his mega-expensive tennis shoes.
Once Tyler’s shoes were safe were able to focus on the view ahead.
As we came closer to the Golden Gate Bridge it became clear what a feat it must’ve been to build the massive structure, all while out over the rough waters.
We passed under the bridge, heading toward the open sea and were treated with a sighting of a dolphin (it was too quick to take a photo).
Finally, we turned around and made the journey in reverse, with The City in view across our bow.
A few minutes later we were back at the dock, safe and sound. No shipwrecks and no headhunters.
Firefighting in California has a definition all its own. And, unfortunately, those who battle the flames, heat, and smoke have been put to the test recently with the eruption of several large wildfires.
The smoke from the fire above (the Wragg fire near Lake Berryessa/Napa area) was easily seen from my backyard. In fact, the fire was so large—over 8,000 acres and counting—that we first saw the smoke as we drove out of San Francisco a couple of days ago.
As of today, over 1,400 firefighters are battling this blast furnace in the hills. Much of the terrain is steep and nearly unreachable, but they’re there, somehow. And they’re also fighting the fires that endanger homes and animals. This thing is massive and people have been forced to flee their homes, leaving precious belongings behind. Believe me, this is not a fire where the shiny red trucks roll up, hook a hose to a hydrant, spray water for a few minutes, and all is well. Not even close. This one is D.A.N.G.E.R.O.U.S.!
I know, sitting at your computer in an area that’s regularly dampened by wonderfully cool and refreshing summer rains, you have no concept of a California wildfire. So, here’s a closeup journey inside the searing heat and flames of the Wragg fire, courtesy of photographer Donna Forman. Notice the special firefighting equipment—air tankers and helicopters. Remember, much of the area is not accessible by vehicle.
Thanks so much to Donna Forman for these incredible photos. You can view more images of the fire at Donna Forman Photography. While you’re there say hi, and please tell her I sent you.
By the way, Donna is a retired Richmond, California K9 officer who worked two K9’s back to back. She also worked HRET, narcotics, and was the first female dirt bike Motorcycle officer.