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Pictures of a Bay Area Summer from my Balcony

Is summer really over?

As the sea breeze relaxes, football finishes its fifth week, and Halloween decorations are popping up throughout suburbia, then yes, we think it’s safe to say that summer 2020 has officially come and gone. Some of the normal seasonal cues, like kids going back to school, have been erased by the pandemic. COVID-time continues to be a blur, with the seasons smearing together. Or maybe time — not unlike this summer’s weather — is just broken. (“There is no present or future,” wrote Eugene O’Neill, “only the past happening over and over again.”)

Granted, the 2020 Bay Area summer was abruptly interrupted by an early fire season, but the months of June and July were, put simply: In. Sane.

From the first week of June and well into August, it was exceptionally, relentlessly, awe-inspiringly, at-times frighteningly and no-end-in-sightingly windy, windy, windy in the Bay Area. This boat, seen from my balcony in San Quentin Village on June 28, powers through a gale under what appears to be full canvas.
© 2020 Timmy

It was so windy that it redefined my concept of what windy was. There were days that normally docile windsurfing spots in the East Bay were blown white with foam and heaving with huge, breaking wind swell. In June I thought, “What a radical aberration of weather! In my 15 years in the Bay, I’ve never seen it this consistently windy. How long can this last? A few days?” But then it stayed windy for what felt like weeks straight. It was so windy that it redefined my concept of sailing. I didn’t own gear small enough for the conditions. I felt like a hapless beginner.

A windsurfer hops off the chop, lands …
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim
… And sails toward the Corte Madera ferry channel.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

The Bay Area wind machine seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Surely, it would last forever, and summer 2020 would offer up more than 100 days of 25-plus-knot conditions in the East Bay.

It’s difficult to capture the wind on film (or in megapixels), like this evening in late June at San Quentin, where the gusts felt like they could knock you over. (Photo not shot from my balcony.)
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

And through early  to mid-August, the wind machine continued to crank away, until late one night, when lightning engulfed California, followed immediately by fire.

Summer came to an abrupt and perversely beautiful halt on August 16. (Photo not shot by me and not from my balcony.)
© 2020 Courtesy Craig Mole Photography

The wind stopped almost completely for 15 days, replaced by smoke and 100-plus-degree weather. I’m sure many sailors were relieved for mellower, cruisier conditions on days when the smoke wasn’t too bad. By the end of August, the sea breeze had returned, but it would be short-lived. For most of September, light-wind days would be the norm — at least in my part of the Bay.

An interesting-looking dinghy (which apparently has a bowsprit from which it’s flying a jib) sails in front of San Quentin Prison on September 2. This part of the Bay sees very few sailboats — and almost no dinghies.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

As early September settled in, the fires seemed to be fading away. Then, one morning, the sun didn’t rise.

September 9 at 11:30 a.m. Street lights all over California were confused, and for 24 hours, failed to receive their cue from the sun to shut off.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Any illusions about the summer weather going back to ‘normal’ were crushed. There was more than a week of smoky, smoggy haze, followed by random days of thick smoke that forced even the heartiest outdoorspeople to seek refuge inside. And the true heart of fire season — late October through late November — is still in our future, and not yet in our past.

September also saw some hot, glassy days. People were waterskiing and paddling and kayaking off San Quentin in waters that are almost always bumpy. Give us a natural disaster or a pandemic or strife, and we will find and schedule the appropriate outdoor activity to schedule around it all.

It wasn’t all relentless whitecaps. The sky was slate-colored and dramatic in mid-May.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

This post is, of course, a blatant solicitation for your photos of your summer from your balconies or analogous structures. How has the weirdness affected your outdoor lives? Have there been any unexpected ‘winners’ in your lives — things that you never had the time for that are now easy to schedule? Please let us know. You can comment below, or email me directly, here.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ian M Rogers 1 month ago

    That’s a Pelican. It’s the box an El Toro comes in. Fun boats.

  2. Christine Weaver
    Christine Weaver 1 month ago

    Hi Ian, funny you should connect the Pelican and the El Toro. When I took sailing in high school (it was an actual PE class), we learned in El Toros. Once we’d become proficient, we were treated to a sail in the ‘big’ boat, a Pelican!

  3. Avatar
    anneke dury 1 month ago

    I sent you some sky shots via email. hope you enjoy them as I enjoy your writings.

  4. Avatar
    milly Biller 1 month ago

    My silver lining of a Covid Summer was that there were a lot of 20 something young people sheltering in place here at their family homes. Getting to know them better was very special to me

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