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Cruise-In Chad Shares the Ins and Outs of Sailing and Docking on S.F. Bay

While cruising through our ever-full email inbox recently, we uncovered a letter that we received from reader Chad Hedstrom. Back in 2020, Chad wrote us about his views on sailing the Bay, and the public dock system. And when Tim Henry wrote last week about the new India Basin Waterfront Park under development in San Francisco, we were reminded of Chad’s letter. 

Having grown up sailing aboard his family’s towable Catalina 30, Chad experienced the Great Lakes, the Bahamas, and the Inside Passage, and, when at 16 he could drive himself to the lake, spent a few years crewing in the Texas J/24 circuit. These days, the serial sailor and his wife are usually found sailing aboard their J/105 Spartan out of San Francisco, enjoying a mix of day cruising and participation in YRA destination regattas and some of the longer doublehanded regattas. So when we re-read Chad’s letter from 2020 about docking options on the Bay, we figured he knew what he was talking about, and he was entertaining, so we decided to share his letter with our readers.

You might have seen Spartan’s blue and gold spinnaker racing across the Bay
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

I was cruising the social networks when I saw an ad from the Port of San Francisco, asking for points of interest along the S.F. waterfront. Well, opinions are like elbows, everyone has one.

Public docks are few and far between, especially those that don’t require a reservation, registration, insurance, previous addresses for the last 30 years and next six of kin. Especially a dock that has eight-foot draft at low tide. We religiously follow the Latitude 38 Guide to Bay Sailing, which follows a roughly counterclockwise course around the Slot. It includes docks like Ayala Cove at Angel Island, Sam’s Café in Tiburon, and Pier 1 1/2 at the Ferry Building. On occasion we’ve been known to sneak into South Beach Harbor to let off a seasick passenger (try hailing them on 16 first!). People always have great big smiles when we tie up at Ayala Cove, it’s almost magical.

Spartan taking advantage of docks at Pier 1 1/2 (left) and Sam’s in Tiburon.
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

These docks are all great locations and should be noted for any sailor looking to give a good trip around the Bay. They are great locations because you can often pull up, let guests stretch their legs, buy a soda, sandwich and more. I don’t think the benefits of a public dock need much explanation.

Now the Port is asking for suggestions on where to make improvements along the seawall. I would like to propose three new spots, especially for sailors and other boaters plying these waters.

First, “Pier 46 1/2” just south of Oracle Park. There is significant development happening just south of Oracle Park, at the new Mission Rock park/expansion. There will be several shops as well as a number of restaurants going in. It is also in close proximity to guests coming in from the South Bay via Caltrain, N and T Muni lines, etc. Immediately south of the ferry dock at Oracle Park is a beautiful spot in about 14 feet of water, where there is room for a 100-foot single-pier dock.

The sailing couple — Chad and his wife enjoying a sunset sail.
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

Next spot would be “Pier 66 1/2” for the new park/redevelopment project happening down at Pier 70. You might have had a Dark ‘n’ Stormy next door at The Ramp, or had work done at S.F. Boatworks; there is a significant park, along with space for many shops and restaurants. A 100-foot dock here near The Ramp would allow boaters to access this waterfront redevelopment. International tourists would like the name 66 due to the similarity to classic Route 66. Pier 66 1/2 would just be boring.

Rounding out our tour of the Bay would be “Pier T 1/2”, a public dock next door to Treasure Island Marina. As development accelerates on the island, a way to access the shops and restaurants near Clipper Cove would be great. I love anchoring out there, but when we go for a daysail we typically leave the dinghy at home.

On the hook at Clipper Cove in 2017.
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

I’m sure there are additional locations along the waterfront, but while we’re spending millions of dollars redeveloping the precious few acres of waterfront, it seems like a gross oversight to not add public access to these new parks and waterfront public plazas by boat. My guess is that the people building up these colorful urban proposals probably have not spent much time on the water. Just make sure these new docks have enough draft for a sailboat at low tide.

What a cute kid! Chad, at age 2, sailing the Bahamas.
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

And why does Chad sail? “Every trip away from the dock is an adventure and no two trips are the same.”

*The Latitude38 Guide to Bay Sailing Chad refers to was originally printed in the May 2009 issue of Latitude 38 magazine.


  1. PJ 9 months ago

    Was most surprised to read about trailering a Catalina 30. Other than the people I knew in Fresno in the 1970s this is the first time reading about anyone else. The folks I knew had built their own trailers and used them when launching or recovering from the launch ramps on the local lakes; NO hoists!! From time to time they would take the boats to Stockton and travel the San Joaquin river to SF Bay. Did the same with my Catalina 27, also a fixed keel.

  2. William Pryor 9 months ago

    Boaters take note: Pier 1 1/2 is closed as of July 2023, and the Port of SF reports it will not be reopened until at least 2024. It may be possible to tie up, but on my last visit, the gangway had been removed so shoreside access is not possible.

  3. Steve Berl 9 months ago

    A few weeks ago, I tried to stop at Pier 1-1/2 and it had a big “CLOSED” sign on it.
    Anyone know the current status?

  4. Rick Johnson 9 months ago

    Thanks for the update on Pier 1 1/2… that’s unfortunate, especially insofar as South Beach has been, well, not to exaggerate, extremely unfriendly, to say the least, to folks dropping off, picking up, or even using the pump-out dock. I think restricting waterfront access to boaters is another unfriendly front in the expansion of profit based consolidation of Bay Area accessibility to tax-paying boat owners.

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