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Celebrate the Coming Summer With ‘Opening Day on the Bay’ Sunday, April 28

You know summer is coming when it’s time for Opening Day on the Bay! This Sunday, April 28, is the Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association’s (PICYA) annual Opening Day on the Bay, and everyone is invited to join the celebration. Start by having your boat blessed in Raccoon Strait, then head over to the San Francisco waterfront for the parade of boats — or just do one! You don’t need to be a member of a yacht club, and it’s free to participate!

This year’s theme is “Rockin’ on the Bay.” You can interpret this any way you like. Dress up your crew, dress up your boat, play some old-time rock ‘n’ roll music … you could even reenact some of your favorite movie or cartoon characters that epitomize your own idea of rock ‘n’ roll. Whatever you decide, remember to fly all your flags and pennants.

Here’s a glimpse of the 99th Opening Day Boat Parade, held on April 22, 2016.
© 2024 Mia Bernt / PICYA

The parade starts at noon, just north of Anita Rock off the shore of Crissy Field in the Presidio, then follows along the Cityfront to the first Fort Mason building east of the Marina Green. All you need to do to join the fun is register by April 25, and carry a working marine radio. (You may enter up until 10 a.m. on 4/28, but entries received after April 25 are not guaranteed inclusion in the program or award competition.)

“Awards?” you ask. There are multiple categories and prizes for this year’s event: classic and historic yachts; powerboats decorated to theme; sailboats decorated to theme; power or sail decorated by juniors; flags and streamers by yacht club; and decorated not to theme. (Even those without decorations can win? Good times!) There are six trophies to be awarded: the BoatUS Ward Cleveland Memorial; the Captain Morgan; the Pier 39; Royal Cruise Line; Marine World Foundation and the Claude Benham Memorial. There will also be prize bags for first, second and third place in each group. Trophies and prize bags will be presented at the June delegate meeting. (“See your Yachting Yearbook for details on the trophies — we follow the deeds of trust.”)

Rain during the 2022 Opening Day Parade didn’t dampen these sailors’ spirits. Surely they won a prize for their decorative interpretation of “San Francisco Bay — Leading the Way.”
© 2024 Island Yacht Club

The Blessing of the Fleet is organized by Corinthian Yacht Club and takes place in Raccoon Strait. Boats start with their own parade before sailing by the committee boat, which in the past has always held a a priest, a minister and a rabbi. Could be the opening line to a good joke … but it’s not a joke. Corinthian YC positions a Blessing Vessel in Raccoon Strait in front of the club. On board are clergy of different faiths who bless all boats and boaters for the coming season.

PICYA started the annual celebration of Opening Day in 1917. The blessing tradition was added to the festivities in 1963 and known as the “Blessing of the Pleasure Craft.” The ritual is modeled on age-old traditional blessings of vessels of working fishermen.

If you want your boat to be blessed on Sunday, make sure you’re on the water by mid-morning, and follow the line of boats — there is no formal process (apart from the standard “rules of the road” and common sense, of course).

Opening Day on the Bay
Boats in Raccoon Strait lining up for the Blessing of the Fleet last year.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The tradition of Opening Day goes back to the 1800s, when the drawbridge at Beach Road and Main Street in Belvedere was opened to allow arks and boats back into the Bay after wintering in Belvedere Lagoon.

Everyone is welcome. If you do not have a boat, join PICYA on the official committee boat to get the most up-close view of the boats. See details here.

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