Trailering Magazine Archives - Destinations
San Francisco Bay
The idea of navigating a boat trailer around San Francisco's 43 hills and rush hour traffic probably isn't one's idea of a nice way to spend a few days off. However, taking a boat trailer around San Francisco Bay is another story…and a better one. This body of water has numerous access points along its 133-mile shoreline. And if San Francisco Bay is too windy or cold or-yes, foggy, more than 50 freshwater lakes with public access are within a few hours drive of this natural resource.
By the way, all that talk about fog isn't just the stuff of songs. The combination of cool waters and warm air makes the San Francisco Bay area a fog factory (18 days/year). But that's nothing compared to the Fog Capital at Cape Disappointment, Washington on the mouth of the Columbia River where 106 days/year are fog-filled (see BoatUS Trailering Magazine August 2001). August is the foggiest month on San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate Bridge crosses what is called "the fog stream" because of the speed at which the fog moves in from the ocean.
"It usually comes in during the afternoon," says Mike Watson of the Bay Area Regional Fishermen (www.calfishnet.com) who launches his boat from Berkeley Marina which is directly downwind of "the fog stream." Watson says there is good parking at Berkeley and access to San Francisco Bay is immediate. "When the wind starts pushing the fog into the bay, I'm usually returning so the wind is at my back." Watson says wind speeds of 20 knots and more are common on San Francisco Bay. Berkeley Marina has a four-lane ramp on its north side and is one of 19 marinas on the bay with launch and retrieve facilities. In the event the wind is blowing too hard, there is a 3,000-foot fishing pier just west of the marina.
Wind and fog aren't the only atmospheric events on San Francisco Bay. In the area called McCovey Cove just offshore from PACnet Stadium where the San Francisco Giants play baseball, kayakers-sailors-power boaters-jet skiers and even just folks in wet suits were gathering to catch home run balls that clear the right field wall. As of Labor day, 16 homers landed in McCovey Cove (a few of which were hit by Giants slugger Barry Bonds as he completed a season that included breaking Mark McGwire's home run record) resulting in a chaotic dash by boaters to grab a souvenir (for the record, baseballs float). But shortly before Labor Day, the San Francisco Port Commission banned the use of power boats in McCovey Cove's "splash zone." Trailer boaters with an eye on memorabilia rather than fish are going to have to find another venue for their needs. The powerboat ban carries fines of up to $1,000 and/or a six-month jail term.
History can be seen in every port. Oakland is home to Jack London Park (the popular writer uses San Francisco Bay fog in his book Sea Wolf as the cause of two ships colliding). Moored near the park is the USS Potomac , the boat used by FDR during his White House years as both an office and an escape from the office. The boat has been refurbished after having a number of owners, one of whom let it sink to the bottom of the bay. Oakland's Webster Street has a popular farmer's market every morning.
The Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1937 and attracts not just cars, but more than 9 million people a year. While the bridge crossing the mouth of San Francisco Bay is probably the city's most well known landmark, Golden Gate National Park is worth a visit as well. This includes both the north and south shores of the bridge as well as miles of national forest. On the Golden Gate Bridge, however, is a wide walkway along the 1.7 mile span for anyone in need of fresh air and exercise. Sausalito, located just beyond the northern tower of the bridge is expensive, touristy and probably best visited by the ferry which leaves regularly from the docks at Fisherman's Wharf. Visible from the wharf as well as the bridge is the island of Alcatraz (also a part of Golden Gate National Park), which is no longer a federal prison for America's most vicious criminals. Today it is a popular tourist attraction, reached only by a ferry boat. Private boats are not allowed to dock anywhere on Alcatraz.
Resident boaters warn newcomers about three things: (1) San Francisco Bay has an average depth of only 18 feet and the south bay is shallower than anywhere else. (2) The tide changes can leave an anchored boat aground and this is a common sight throughout the area. The good news is the tide will float most boats within three hours. (3) The currents in San Francisco Bay are strong and can reach speeds of 6 knots under the right conditions. Keep all of these concerns in mind when setting out and be prepared to have your docking and/or anchoring expertise tested while on the water. Fisherman find anchoring in the lee of one of the ten islands in San Francisco Bay provides good protection from the wind
If the bay is too windy or the fog is too thick, the nearby lakes are always an excellent Plan B. Three hours north is California's largest man-made lake, Lake Shasta, with more shoreline than San Francisco Bay (370 miles). Bordering the Trinity National Forest and the Shasta Caverns, Lake Shasta is considered one of the state's best fishing areas for rainbow trout and king salmon. There are 11 marinas and seven public launch ramps around the shoreline. Lake Shasta is ice free year round, reaches 517 feet at its deepest point and enforces a 15 mph speed limit after sunset.
Near the town of Napa on San Francisco Bay's north shore is Lake Berryesa, created in 1957 by the construction of the Montecello Dam. Trailer boaters will find well-kept ramps, terrific fishing and hiking trails. But be advised this is a popular destination on weekends since it's only 35 miles from San Francisco. If you can visit during the week, there will be less traffic on the road as well as on the water.
The other good thing about boating on San Francisco Bay is the fact if it is too windy or foggy or cold, there is always something on land to do. Just park the trailer before you do it.
Boat Ramps on San Francisco Bay:
Alameda Boat Launching Facility 3rd and Central Avenue, Alameda
Berkeley City Marina 201 University Avenue, Berkeley
Emeryville City Marina 3310 Powell Street, Emeryville
Oakland Airport Boat Ramp Oakland
San Leandro Marina 40 San Leandro Marina
China Basin Public Ramp San Francisco
Coyote Point Marina 1900 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo
Oyster Point Marina South San Francisco
Redwood City Yacht Harbor 451 Seaport Blvd. Redwood City
Palo Alto Yacht Harbor Palo Alto
Port Sonoma 270 Sears Point Road, Petaluma
Docktown Marina 1548 Maple Street, Redwood City
Richmond Marina 1340 Marina Way South, Richmond
Marina Lagoon Seal St. and Roberta Drive (in Parkside Aquatic Park), San Mateo
Loch Lomond Marina 110 Loch Lomond, San Rafael
Windjammer Yacht and Ship Brokers 125 Loch Lomond, San Rafael
Marina Boulevard West San Francisco
Pier 38 Embarcadero, San Francisco
Bay Point 82544 Bayside Road, San Francisco
For More Information…
FDR's Floating Whitehouse USS Potomac, Oakland 510-627-1215
Jack London Square harbormaster, Oakland 510-834-4591
Lake Don Pedro Recreation Agency 209-852-2396
Los Angeles: 344 miles
Dallas: 1493 miles
Seattle: 678 miles
New Orleans: 1938 miles
Miami: 2601 miles
Detroit: 2095 miles