Merced County Times Newspaper
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Gone Are The Days When Sailing Ships Ruled The S.F. Bay

John Derby Headshot
Times Publisher John Derby

It was not that long ago when we first stepped onto our own sailboat in Alameda, and sailed out into San Francisco Bay.

The year was 1994.

We had only sailed Lake Yosemite, and the move to San Francisco Bay was scary.

We had just bought the Flying Dutchman, a 24-foot sloop made by Bayliner, to be the sailboat to meet everyone’s sailing requirements.

It could sleep five, in a pinch, but we had four people on board many times, and our usual crew was made up of my brother, my wife and I.

The boat had a galley and an enclosed porta-potty with standing head room, which was very unusual for a 24-foot boat. It also could be hauled on a trailer, but we did not own one at the time.

Our dock was at the Alameda Marina, the same marina where the 32-foot Day Dreamer now is docked.

In the early days the docks were full of excitement with a dozen men and women working on their boats every weekend. Some sailors even lived on their boats and they were in a class all to their own.

Who would have thought that one day we would sail out the Golden Gate and all the way to Mexico and back?

Our plan was actually to sail around the world. To our surprise we fell in love with Mexico, and when we sailed around around the tip of Baja Mexico, we did not stop until we were far up the coast of the Sea of Cortez.

That was 23 years ago, and we still sail the Flying Dutchman down in Mexico, and it is perfect for the area, since larger boats face the Hurricane Season and must sail further north to be safe. The Flying Dutchman can be put on a trailer for the Hurricane Season and taken to safety.

We sailed the Day Dreamer back to San Francisco Bay after four years in Mexican waters; however, we found that it was not the bay which it had once been.

Now we are at the whims of developers and publicly elected officials who decide the fate of sailors. The dirt and dust covers our boat as condos are being built, taking the land which once was reserved for sailboats.

Government generally feels that sailors and sailing boats are not a priority and housing is king.

The fact that the housing obstructs the view of the water for everyone, does not seem to matter.

Alameda still has some of its docks, but little by little, the sailboats are being forced out.

They are only toys of the rich, some people feel.

And the legacy of San Francisco Bay, as the bay which was once a mecca for beautiful sailing ships, is slowly being forgotten.

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