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October 6, 2023

Fleet Week 2023 Roars Into the Bay Area

As jets rumble overhead and contrails fleck the sky like brushstrokes, Fleet Week 2023, which has become the Bay Area’s largest annual boating event, will see vessels of every stripe congregate beneath jets, jumbo planes and stunt bi-wingers. Today and tomorrow promise to be warm and clear, while Sunday is set to be cooler and possibly cloudy, making for a fairly typical mixed bag of conditions to watch the armed services put on a show over San Francisco Bay.

Sailors’ skills maneuvering in a semi-stationary flotilla will also be on display!

“We are honored to be a part of San Francisco Fleet Week,” said Rear Admiral Andrew Sugimoto, commander of the Eleventh Coast Guard District here in San Francisco. “We are the largest branch of service in the Bay Area, and we are thrilled to be a large piece of this honored event. Our vast mission specialties give us an opportunity to help ensure a safe event for everyone, as well as highlight the skills and capabilities of our service.”

Here is the annual lowdown on the boundaries for boaters, as well as dates and times for all the action:

You have no doubt seen these charts many, many times. Top Chart: Regulated Area “Alpha” for the Navy Parade of Ships on Friday, October 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Bottom Chart: Regulated Area “Bravo” for the Blue Angels: Thursday, October 5, 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, October 6, 11:30a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, October 7, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, October 8, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
© 2023 USCG

As always, the Coast Guard will enforce a limited-access area in the navigable waters of the San Francisco Bay for the Navy Fleet Week Parade of Ships and Blue Angels Demonstration from Friday, October 6, through Sunday, October 8. “This action is necessary to ensure the safety of event participants and spectators,” our friends at Modern Sailing wrote. During the enforcement period, unauthorized persons or vessels are prohibited from entering into, transiting through, or anchoring in the regulated area, unless authorized by the Patrol Commander (PATCOM).”

The famed Blue Angels have already been practicing, and we now bring you the first of the annual photo dumps featuring multimillion-dollar fighter planes performing cutting-edge acrobatics over the Bay:

When sail meets jet.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
The telltale “star” performed by the Blue Angels as they split across San Francisco Bay.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Here’s a 2014 photo from the Associated Press showing all kinds of aviation awesomeness.
© 2023 Noah Berger AP
Being a Blue Angel pilot has got to be the best gig in all the armed services.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
The San Francisco skyline, as painted by the Blue Angels in 2021.
© 2023 Jeff Berman

The annual celebration of the American military on the Bay brings out nearly every boat and every political point of view. Some of the staff here at Latitude have been of two minds about Fleet Week — it’s almost impossible not to find the air show awesome, the skill of the pilots amazing, and a sense of community watching it all with thousands of boaters. Even the most hardened anti-military industrial complex critics often find themselves snapping and sharing great photos of the Blue Angels. On the other side, it sure seems like an extraordinary amount of money to spend on weapons. We are not trying to wade into a rant, dear reader, nor flippantly raise the topic with feigned obliviousness if (or when) it causes controversy. We only wish to use our critical thinking because we believe it’s what Fleet Week, and the celebration of freedom, are all about.

The Peace Navy has been a reliable presence at Fleet Week for decades.
© 2023 Rebekah Bowman

If you choose to comment on the existential quandaries of the United States military and its mission, please be respectful, and please try to elevate the debate beyond the typical polarity that’s so easy to fall into.

Woody Skoriak With Four Decades of Local Maritime Training

Captain John “Woody” Skoriak, Master 500GT and yacht broker, wrote in to let us know he’s passed what he says is his last license renewal after a few days of maritime training. He’s had a USCG license since 1984 and has had to renew it six or seven times since then to learn new procedures and equipment, and changing requirements. Now age 75, Woody’s figuring it’s his last time. Renewals require updating skills and passing tests in firefighting, CPR, flipping and boarding a liferaft, survival and other safety skills.

Woody Skoriak
Firefighting classes are held at the Cal Maritime facility in Richmond.
© 2023 John Skoriak

Woody reports many schools were limited or even closed down during COVID, and now many license holders are rushing back to get their licenses renewed post-pandemic. He says, “Cal Maritime has a good training facility, though for a school that is part of University of California system, it’s somewhat expensive for the courses. There are companies that had satellite operations in the Bay Area for licensing and such, but none besides Cal Maritime that I’m aware of for Coast Guard firefighting, survival, safety, etc.

“Consequently, classes tend to fill up fast.”

The courses are broken down into Original, which is generally five days; Refresher, which is three days and is for those who have taken Original before, but don’t have 100 days of sea time within the last five years; and finally, Revalidation, which is either a one- or two-day course for those who have taken Original in the past and have 100 days of sea time in the last five years. These courses are for the STCW Certificate, or Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping. A few years back, the Coast Guard decided that mariners had to renew this training every five years instead of the STCW’s being good for life. So every five years, everyone goes back to school!

Over the years, Woody has done his training here in Northern California with Cal Maritime, and also with Maritime Institute Training Resources in San Diego so he can schedule and cover all the classes needed to keep his licenses current. Captain Skoriak says he was impressed with firefighting classes at Cal Maritime’s facilities in Richmond, which also house the classrooms for the Safety and Security Center where they teach CPR/First Aid, etc. They only use the Cal Maritime campus itself for radar and simulator training.

Woody Skoriak
Woody Skoriak with a few younger classmates at Cal Martime in Vallejo, home to the successful Keelhaulers sailing team.
© 2023 Cal Maritime

Woody relates, “One of the participants (students) in the class I took last week at Cal Maritime is a very nice guy who also teaches five courses at Cal Maritime himself. His name is Joel Aldrich, and he was a former EMT who went to Cal Maritime and graduated in 2001 and has remained active since. Now he teaches some radar and simulator classes, First Aid and CPR, and others.”

Woody says courses at Maritime Institute Training Resources also have a great facility in San Diego. He took his advanced firefighting there in 2017. Woody says, “They had great instructors and new facility at the time; we worked on big screens that were simulators, putting out fires on ships. Maritime Institute is great.”

Survival suit
Staying warm at the pool’s edge may require practice getting into a survival suit.
© 2023 John Skoriak

Woody went on to say, “The fire instructors at Cal Maritime are great as well. The pool training is at Cal Maritime. It’s outdoors so it’s best to take the pool training this time of year and not in winter when it’s very cold. Even though the pool is heated, students (myself) have to stand around for a while waiting for our turn to jump in the water, and we are in wet clothes, shivering because we do an exercise fully clothed treading water first. Then we have to jump off a high platform with a life vest, swim over to a 12-man life raft, climb up on it, grab the rope, and turn it over. It took me a few tries to do it, even though I swim a half mile every day in our pool!”

Flipping the liferaft
Flipping a 12-person life raft at the Cal Maritime pool in Vallejo is not an easy task, no matter how old you are.
© 2023 John Skoriak

“Getting up onto the liferaft is like trying to walk on a water bed, only it’s wet and slippery as well. Many schools have a six-man or smaller rafts. When we [Miri, Woody’s wife, who also works as a ship’s captain and holds a Master Unlimited, All Oceans. All Tonnage license] took our original class in New Orleans back in the 1990s, we just had to jump in the water from the edge of the pool and get in the raft — that was it. This is not an exercise for someone not fit … ha! Most of the guys and gals in my class were in their 30s or younger, and many were Cal Maritime grads keeping their license current.

“I knew that Cal Maritime had a steady market for students in their Extended Learning Program, because graduates who are merchant mariners have to renew their training every five years like I did to keep their licenses current. But I wondered how many private individual mariners like myself attended classes there. Joel said that it was probably about 400 students between their graduates [and] private mariners.”

Beyond teaching at Cal Maritime, Woody says, “Joel is also doing ship and cargo surveys now. If a mariner went to Cal Maritime for a course, Joel would be a good choice for instructor. Also at the top of the list would be the head fire instructor, Richard McKenzie, who I also had for my renewal five years ago. The guy knows his stuff and has a great sense of humor.

“We are lucky to have a facility nearby that has comprehensive training with a good schedule of classes, many of which seem to be in demand now in the post-COVID era.”

After almost 40 years, Woody can fill a large wall with diplomas and certificates.
© 2023 John Skoriak

As many know, Woody is a yacht broker and passionate wooden-boat enthusiast (hence his nickname) who’s done a lot to support Call of the Sea and who recently teamed up with Latitude 38 editor John Riise to publish an article in WoodenBoat magazine about the Matthew Turner.

Have you had to renew your license lately? Tell us about your experience.

European Travel Sightings From a Bay Area Sailor

Our racing editor, Christine Weaver, has generously shared her epistolary correspondence (aka an email exchange) with Bay Area sailor Rick Elkins while he travels in Europe. As a true sailor abroad would do, Elkins has made many a curious boaty observation, espied historic wonders, endured a practically Biblical heatwave, and sent us a mysterious photo that perhaps someone in Latitude Nation can explain!

Elkins is a former race chair for the Singlehanded Sailing Society and was known to sail the Wylie 39 Lightspeed. Now based in Granite Bay, Elkins currently sails his F-24 Koke Honu at Richmond Yacht Club. But this late summer season finds him far afield from homeport.

Elkins: Hello from Messina, Sicily. Took this pic entering the port this morning of a very strange boat with two very long scaffolding/rigging heading out. There is a guy sitting at the top! Maybe a Lat 38 sailor knows what the boat is used for.

Someone tell us what’s going on for the sailor aloft!
© 2023 Rick Elkins

Weaver: Thanks Rick! Hope you kept your cool in Sicily. I hear the heat there is unusual this summer.

Does this sailor abroad seem to be missing the cool sea breezes on S.F. Bay?
© 2023 Rick Elkins

Elkins: The Athens Acropolis was the worst, but made it to the top. Wearing my Lat 38 hat everywhere (pic is Sicily). Heading to Rome.

Elkins’ Latitude 38 hat takes a rest from keeping the sun off amid a southern Europe heatwave in Sicily, Italy. We love to see your Latitude 38 love coming all the way from Europe!
© 2023 Rick Elkins

Early this summer, another sailor friend of Latitude 38 ventured out into the wilds of Europe, protected by some Latitude 38 gear whilst hiking in the Swiss Alps — this is starting to shape up as a nice trend. Get yourself some new Latitude 38 wear and send us your travel story like Elkins, you adventurous traveling sailors you!

Another Issue of Latitude 38, Another Golden Ticket Winner

“Thanks to all you salts!” wrote Terry Jackson, who found a Golden Ticket in the September issue of Latitude 38.

“I go down to the Berkeley Boat Yard [aka Berkeley Marine Center] every month to pick up my copy and ogle all the hulls on the hard. I crewed for wonderful Hal Cunningham in the ’60s and early ’70s in his 35-ft no-class; we did Bay winter races and the Farrallones. Earlier, in 1953, I was a swab at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and sailed to Bermuda on the square-rigger Eagle. We no sooner got there than [we] were driven off by a hurricane approaching, which shredded our t’gallants and royals (only sails set).”

Terry will soon be the proud owner of a Latitude 38 T-shirt. Be sure to check the latest issue of Latitude to find your Golden Ticket!