Tomorrow, August 26, is Women’s Equality Day, and we’re celebrating by acknowledging women everywhere who have taken the helm and steered their own course in sailing. There are many well-known women in sailing who have overcome many obstacles for not only the opportunity to captain their own boats, but also to be recognized as champions in their chosen sport. There are also hundreds of women who aren’t so well known, but have faced and overcome the same challenges. We can’t possibly mention them all here, but we would like to share just a snapshot of women in sailing.
To start with, we came across a handful of very short YouTube clips put together by US Sailing that focus on individual women sailors and their thoughts about equality in the sport, starting with Linda Newland, who opens with, “When I first started sailing, women were pretty much relegated to below the decks making sandwiches and passing food up to the crew.” That ain’t happening anymore!
In the other videos we hear from Olympic sailor and SailGP crew member Anna Weis, current National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA) president Debbie Huntsman, NWSA founder Doris Colgate, and Olympic medalist and world sailing champion J.J. Fetter (also known by J.J. Isler).
And then there are the women most of us will never hear about: those who champion the cause for women in sailing and by all accounts are succeeding quite nicely. Think about the two women-specific sailing events that we wrote about recently — Island Yacht Club’s 31st annual Women’s Sailing Seminar, and Club Nautique’s inaugural Women at the Helm weekend, which kicks off on Women’s Equality Day!
The ladies who dreamed up and organize and run these events are truly champions in our books. The sailors who attend will share hours of interesting and focused time learning about and practicing sailing skills. How could anyone not like that?
When it comes to accessing the waterfront in San Francisco, your first thought might be to join a yacht club or sailing school. But with rising costs of living, the typical avenues for learning to sail can be costly and out of reach for families with kids hoping to learn to sail.
San Francisco Bay is one of the most challenging yet rewarding, rugged yet beautiful places to sail, but finding ways into the world of sailing in San Francisco can be tricky. That’s where the San Francisco Sea Scouts come in. For more than 50 years, the San Francisco Sailing Whaleboat Association (SFSWA) has supported the San Francisco Sea Scouts.
Tamara Sokolov, who runs the San Francisco Sea Scouts programs, says it’s not always easy for kids to find their way onto a sailboat. “You kind of have to seek it out and say, ‘I want to find a friend with a boat and go with them.’ But very few kids come to us because they decided they want to try sailing, and found a program.”
When Sokolov started with SSS Viking 18 years ago, there were just two volunteers running the program. Right now, there are more than 100 kids total, up from just 12 originally. The Sea Scouts are experiencing exponential growth — mostly by word of mouth.
A lot of sailing magic takes place at the Sea Scouts base, but you have to know where to look or else you might miss it. The base is tucked away near Aquatic Park, next to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and Hyde Street Pier. Although you can see the tall-ship masts across the Aquatic Park Cove, you feel San Francisco’s hustle and bustle start to fade once you’re on the base. It truly is like walking into another world.
The base is rustic, but cozy and functional; good luck to you if you dare use the electric incinerator toilet. Despite their humble abode, the Sea Scouts get more done in one afternoon than many a Bay Area boat owner does in an entire season.
Who are the Sea Scouts? First, you have to ask, “Where are the Sea Scouts?” Along with the San Francisco group, the bases dot the Bay Area — to the north in Petaluma and to the south in Redwood City. Some of the key organizers and skippers from the Redwood City base recently visited the S.F. base for a trip on SSS Viking, and to share their thoughts on Sea Scouts.
Continue reading in the August issue of Latitude 38.
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This past weekend we enjoyed some spectacular Bay sailing, including an overnight club cruise to Encinal Yacht Club in the Oakland Estuary. Despite our recent stories on the challenges and controversies surrounding this incredible ribbon of water between two East Bay cities, we relaxed with a comfortable sail down the Estuary and along the Oakland waterfront, and had a great weekend in Alameda.
However, as noted in our Wednesday story about the thefts and anchor-outs in the Estuary, we also mentioned that Oakland has more public dock space than any other municipality in the Bay Area. While this is true, we passed close by while heading out of the Estuary on Sunday and, as with San Francisco, we found the welcome mat less than welcoming. The guest docks outside Scott’s restaurant were taped off with caution tape, cones and barriers.
Coincidentally, we just received the recent Sail America newsletter. They used to produce Pacific Sail Expo at Jack London Square, where thousands of people would attend to look at dozens of boats along a sparkling Oakland waterfront. They’d dine at Scott’s and Kincaid’s (now closed) and have a beer at Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon. The newsletter contained a photo from the event showing Jack London Square in all its glory. The infrastructure that supported these activities has been slipping away.
This is in sharp contrast to the story told by friends who just returned from canal cruising in Holland. They described the meticulously cared-for docks and public access points for a nation that respects, loves, and enjoys its waterfront. This is true of most waterfront cities across the US and around the world, but looks, at best, like an afterthought to some cities in charge of the shoreline along the Bay Area’s main attraction — the Bay.
As our weekend demonstrated, there’s still lots to love about sailing in the Estuary. The water is flat, the air is warm, and the breeze is ideal for youth sailing, small boat sailing, kayaking, rowing, beer can racing and just messing about in boats. We can’t wait to get back to the Estuary again soon, but we do hope Oakland and Alameda do all they can to maintain their waterfronts for the enjoyment of boaters and their citizens.
It’s always a pleasure to receive the latest issue of WoodenBoat magazine, but it was a particular pleasure to receive the September/October issue with its photo of San Francisco Bay’s tall ship, the Matthew Turner, on the cover, and a full feature on the inside.
It is a masterfully told tale by Latitude editor John Riise and Bay Area yacht broker and wooden-boat aficionado Woody Skoriak, who dig deep for a comprehensive dive starting with the Gold Rush days of Matthew Turner, to the dream-filled youth and sailing exploits of the Matthew Turner’s creator, Alan Olson (featured in this Good Jibes podcast), to the technical details and challenges faced when building a tall ship on the shores of Sausalito.
We were there for both the keel laying and the launch, but the real story is all the intervening years of inspiration and organization from Alan Olson, support from significant and plentiful donors, and the thousands of hours from hundreds of volunteers who brought the dream to reality. Building the Matthew Turner was an enormous undertaking, and anyone who sees the ship on the Bay will enjoy reading this story to see how she came to life.
If you haven’t yet sailed aboard Matthew Turner, there are numerous opportunities, including educational youth programs and many adult sailing excursions. You can learn how to jump aboard here. Plans for 2024 include some long-distance voyaging, so catching a sail while she’s on the Bay would be a good idea.
We were alerted to reports in several Bay Area news organizations that a sailor has been reported missing aboard a recently purchased, white, 30-ft sailboat called Bianca. The skipper, 67-year-old George Ferguson, reportedly suffers with cognitive issues and told his family he was headed to Petaluma last week.
He has been living aboard and in touch with his family until August 18. He had run aground near Alcatraz Island and got off with the assistance of the Coast Guard.
The public is being asked to contact the Petaluma Police Department at (707) 762-2727 and reference case 23-3703 if they spot Ferguson or his boat Bianca.