Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Intermission—San Francisco

May 23-29
We pulled into San Francisco on May 23rd with a little work to do. Meira turned 13 on the 24th, and we had no gifts or concrete plans to make her birthday a special one. By the time Bryan and I spent the afternoon in town, we’d pulled together a few surprises we hoped she’d like. He picked out a new game for her and couldn’t wait for her birthday to let her open it. They spent the whole evening (and quite a bit of the night) laughing and trash-talking over the new game. 
The next morning, I spent a pleasant hour wrapping scarves around her gifts, pulling out cards our family had sent ahead, and baking her requested birthday breakfast—ginger scones with strawberries and lemon curd. When I couldn’t wait any longer, I woke the rest of the family and we greeted her with a birthday song. 
After breakfast and gifts (though last-minute, she was quite pleased), we rowed to shore and set off on a hunt for some internet. 
We spent the morning just the way the birthday girl had hoped—setting up a new Facebook account. Bryan helped Meira with her account while I sat down the bar with Hannah doing the same. Soon, messages were flying among our various devices as the girls tried out their new toy.
For lunch, Meira had requested dim sum in Chinatown. We walked the few blocks up and spent quite a while looking for the restaurant we’d eaten at when we visited in October. We couldn’t remember its name or what street it was on, and we’d come into the district from a different direction. Construction further complicated matters. We were all pretty hungry, but no one got snippy as we worked to piece together a community recollection. We were just about ready to give up and walk into the next open doorway when we spotted it. Whew! 

We all enjoyed the dim sum but Meira had really come for the green tea ice cream. She savored every bite and I promised to look up a recipe for when we have a freezer again. We considered finding a bakery we’d discovered on our last visit too. We were afraid we were really pushing our luck, but after only a few more minutes of purposeful wandering, we turned up the right street. This time, we made a note of the cross streets so we could come back later for more of the cheap, delicious buns and pastries. 
We walked back to the waterfront, grabbed some chocolate and wi-fi in Ghirardelli Square, and rowed back to the boat. Meira challenged Bryan to a Star Realms rematch and once again, they stayed up late, laughing while I laid in bed listening, so grateful for our 13 years with this amazing human being.
We’d hoped to celebrate Meira’s birthday, see a bit of the town, and move on. But the weather was having none of that and, as we checked the stormy forecast, we were feeling a little bit down about getting stuck in the bay. In the morning, I got a call from our friend Al, who we’d met on the way down. “Don’t you ever get out of bed?” he asked. “I’ve been anchored off your starboard bow for an hour now and haven’t seen any signs of life!” 
We quickly rustled the crew into presentable clothes and into the dinghy for a row over to greet our unexpected guest. We’d hoped to connect with him while we were in town but he’d had some last minute things come up, so we hadn’t been sure it was going to work out. When we climbed aboard, he handed us a gift bag with home-canned tuna, a bottle of wine, and Jack London’s The Cruise of the Dazzler, a book he based on his youthful experiences sailing in the San Francisco Bay. He also pulled out a chart of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta. “If you’re going to be here a while,” he said, “you might want to consider heading up the Delta for a few days. It’s a downwind run all the way up and it’s warm.” It wasn’t just the promise of warmth that led us to take his advice (his previous advice had led us to Isla Isabel, after all) but it was a pretty big factor. We didn’t relish the idea of anchoring out in the Bay for another week or two, with cold nights turnings to chilly mornings and no heat on the boat. He couldn’t stay long, but we left his boat with new energy and better attitudes about the forced time in the Bay area.
We spent that afternoon running some errands (Bryan) and writing (me) and Monday, just hung out on the boat for the day. Tuesday, we spent quite a bit of time getting ready to leave for the Delta. We walked up to Chinatown and stocked up on baked goods and hung out in the library for a while on our way back. That night, we loaded up backpacks and grocery bags and headed out for some final provisioning. Only a block or so up from our dinghy, we came across a raised dutch door and jumped and craned to see what was going on inside. We were greeted by a cheerful contingent of industrious crew.

We'd anchored there in Aquatic Park twice now and had seen the signs for the swimming and rowing clubs there in the bay. But we hadn't ever officially met anyone from the group or seen inside the building. They invited us in and we gladly stepped up into the shop where a small group of volunteers were working on a lovely rowboat. We exchanged stories, got a tour of the facilities, and ended up sticking around for the weekly "boat night" dinner. 
Meira spent a few minutes sanding with the crew and Hannah and I gravitated to the warm kitchen and helped get dinner on the table for the 30 hungry crew. Over dinner, we chatted with several interesting people. One new friend offered to meet us in the morning for more Delta recommendations. Another told the story of how she worked her way from land-lubber to shipwright and shared stories about her unique home, one of the last 3 remaining sailing barges (called sailing scows) from the fleet of hundreds that once plied the bay and delta waters. By the time the evening was over, we'd committed to spending just one more night in the bay. 
LiLo is in the center of this shot. It was fun to get a view of the other side of this dock, for once
That gave us just enough time to pick up groceries, explore the amazing Maritime Museum and the boats at the Hyde Street Pier, and eat a little more Ghirardelli Chocolate. First thing the next morning, we met up with Nick at the swimming club and he gave us more recommendations for our time in the delta. 
We finally got ourselves to the grocery store and lugged our groceries back to Rover. The girls and I sat on the beach while Bryan rowed them all out to the boat. 
Then it was time for a little fun. Our last time in SF, the national parks were closed due to the government shutdown. This time, we walked over to the Hyde Street Pier and the Maritime National Historical Park. The museum was filled with stories and antiquated technology we still use on our boat today. Knots, lines, blocks, cleats—they may be old, but they're not obsolete. 
On the pier, we stopped by the boat building shop

...and explored the Balclutha, the only square-rigged ship left in the San Francisco Bay area.

LiLo dwarfed by the majestic Balclutha 

Thanks to the previous night's recommendation from one of our new friends, we also had to check out Alma, this 2-masted schooner scow. In the 1880's, there was a fleet of 250+ sailing barges working the Bay and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. Their square shape and shoal draft made it possible to carry lots of freight and sit flat on the bottom at low tide. The friend who told us about these unique boats lives aboard Squarehead, a smaller version of the Alma

With our last few hours in the bay, we grabbed some delicious dinner and splurged on sundaes at Ghirardelli Square.

Just because we're not on a typical vacation doesn't mean we never do tourist-y things. We all had fun squishing pennies in the penny squishing machine.

 After another gorgeous sunset row back to LiLo, Bryan and Hannah had one more errand to run. Early in our trip, Hannah's old sneakers started breaking down. At one point, I even thought there were frogs where we were hiking but no, it was just her squeaky sneakers. We had a hard time finding affordable shoes on our walks through our various destinations so she just kept wearing them. In Mexico, she switched to flip-flops and eventually we found some new shoes for the trip home. She'd really loved her old shoes and had a hard time with the thought of getting rid of them until one day she declared, "I know! I'll leave my sole in San Francisco!" Here's photo proof of my punny girl.
Thursday morning, someone moved the little boat marker on our ceiling map and we took off with the tide for a grand adventure up the Delta.

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