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Explore the San Rafael Waterfront and Find a Copy of Latitude 38

When trying to launch a campaign describing the pleasures of reading print, I found myself without the current issue of Latitude 38 that I was trying so hard to espouse. After working at Latitude for seven years, I’ve never requested home delivery of the mag. And I wanted the tactile satisfaction of holding the magazine in my hands, dammit. No amount of online access would do. I wanted to flip rather than click, to fold rather than scroll.

So I was on a mission to find a copy of Latitude 38 on the San Rafael waterfront.

San Rafael Creek is a rich waterfront full of interesting nooks and crannies, as well as fresh copies of Latitude 38.
© 2024 Google Earth
Latitude distributors abound in the Canal.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Latitude

San Quentin Village, where I live, is just a stone’s throw from the San Rafael Creek watercourse. (The land around the creek is referred to as the “Canal.”) Over the years, I have written dozens of ‘Lectronic Latitudes and magazine stories about sailing in San Rafael, sailing my boat, the Columbia Challenger Esprit, and even riding my bike along Bayside trails. In less than 15 minutes I can ride to the heart of San Rafael’s working waterfront, where no fewer than a dozen marine businesses carry Latitude 38.

After years of living here, riding into town has become a trip down memory lane, but I always find something new on this city’s shores.

The entrance to San Rafael Creek as seen in March 2018. This boat went aground several times over the course of a few days in the then-shallow channel. Thanks to tireless lobbying from folks like Nadine Ahollinger of Helmut’s Marine, the creek was finally dredged after 20 years, starting in 2022.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim
Dredging San Rafael Creek continued into January of this year.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

Entering from the Bay and motoring down the long, long channel, past East and West Marin Island and past Loch Lomond (I used to walk the mile-plus loop around the jetty there), the start of the Canal is a cruise through the suburbs. There are a few McMansions where the Bay is still in view, but once inside the creek, the houses are usually one story and relatively modest. Almost every house has a dock, and most docks have a boat. I used to think that one of the “downsides” of having my boat at Lowrie Yacht Harbor was the long commute back and forth to the Bay, but it was always wonderful to transit through suburbia. Houses on the south shore eventually give way to boxy apartment buildings, making up the Canal proper — a very Latino neighborhood with friendly people and good food.

From shore, the Canal itself is kind of hidden. Riding up to Helmut’s Marine Service, which carries Latitude 38, you see boats on land and maybe a few masts in the background long before you see water. Follow the shore around the bend, and you’re at San Rafael Yacht Harbor, which also carries the mag. Over several weekends this spring, I found the yard busy with people working on boats. Cross the Canal, and there’s the 121-year-old, 104-ft Active, along with a host of other boats. It’s the saltiest corner of San Rafael and a funky, slightly dilapidated — but endlessly charming — maritime museum.

Terrapin Crossing, the Phil-Lesh-of-the-Grateful-Dead-owned restaurant and venue on the south side of the Canal, did not survive the pandemic. I docked my boat there a few times and grabbed lunch and dinner in a true boat-in dining experience. The basin here — technically the “Municipal Yacht Harbor” — is home to San Rafael High School’s sailing PE program, which has been getting kids onto the water for school credit since the 1970s.

High school kids have some fun on a Laser near San Rafael’s Montecito Plaza. For whatever reason, the mall has its back to the water. There are no shoreside cafés here, only a commercial back alley.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

Farther down the north shore of the Canal is 101 Surf Sports, the aforementioned Lowrie’s, Rubicon Yachts, and Waterway Marine, all places that carry the mag. (Even the San Rafael Whole Foods has the magazine, despite our talking sh*t about Amazon.)

I could gush and express my endless Latitude Gratitude for this off-the-beaten-path waterfront that I’ve covered for seven years. Sometimes I wish I’d been a diesel mechanic and a writer, rather than solely the low-paying latter, but I still feel a kinship to people working in the marine trades: We’re all trying to make our living doing what we love and living a salty life.

Thank you for reading Latitude 38, and for your patronage at the businesses mentioned and the hundreds not mentioned. Supporting our advertisers directly translates into supporting Latitude 38. Please consider a subscription, donation, buying our swag, or handing a copy of Latitude to a friend.

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