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San Francisco’s Karl the Fog Envelops Alcatraz

When we ran a photo by Chris Monti on Monday, capturing a Karl the Fog-enshrouded ship by the Cityfront, it inspired a couple of other sailing shutterbugs to send us more on the many faces of the Bay and Alcatraz. Paul Marbury caught the shot below while sailing with the Blue Water Foundation aboard the Golden Bear out of San Francisco with some students from the Revere K-8 School in January 2020 — just ahead of COVID. While perusing the organization’s website we saw this quote from Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken adults.” For the Blue Water Foundation, sailing is the path to helping children grow.

Paul Marbury bluewater foundation
The city has many ways of captivating its audience.
© 2021 Paul Marbury

Another shot came in from Val and Greg Gillen, who keep their Cal 39 Grimsby berthed in Alameda.

Karl the Fog enshrouds Alcatraz
All the shots come from sunny Sausalito, looking back at the city poking through the fog.
© 2021 Val Gallin

Val commented, “We’ve only seen Alcatraz look like this once — on a beautiful October day a few years ago. The whole day was magical and October is always our favorite month to sail.”

If you’ve got magical shots of sailing the Bay or the California coast send them our way. We’ll add them here or to our monthly Sailagram of West Coast sailing.


  1. Carolyn Rosner 3 years ago

    What (or who) is Karl? Is this an inside-da-Bay joke? Please share, for those of us who follow along from elsewhere!

    • John Arndt 3 years ago

      It’s a good question and we had to google for an answer which we found on KQED here: It says the term was started in 2010 by an anonymous Tweeter. The story says, “The name Karl is a reference to the 2003 film “Big Fish.” The creator told SF Weekly that Karl was the giant everyone was afraid of because they thought he would kill or eat them, when in fact he was just hungry and lonely.”

      Afraid this was the first time we’ve used the term. We’re not sure how many sailors actually use it but one survey says 70% of residents like the term.

  2. Carolyn Rosner 2 years ago

    Ha! Well, thanks for Googling that for me! 🙂 Appreciate the story, and hereafter when I see a big fog bank, it shall henceforth be named Karl. I think that’s a great name for fog. Cheers and keep up the great work!

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