Sometimes, the Bay area can seem intolerable to me, with its crowds of angry people, its busy streets, its honks and middle fingers. The place seems overpopulated and expensive, hard to find a place to get a cheap beer and some good bar food, let alone hang out without being one of many jostled in the crowds. But last weekend, my perception of the Bay and what it has to offer changed dramatically. I found a newfound love and joy for it, because I changed my perspective.
I set sail.
As we chugged along, motoring at first, up to China Camp to anchor, I suddenly felt entirely at peace. Gone were the cars, the people, the crowded Trader Joe’s parking lot, which crossing feels like a game of Russian roulette. I was free, in the middle of a blue expanse, the wind in my hair, the sun in my eyes, a boat gently rolling beneath my feet, the smell of sea salt and ocean everywhere.
A seal poked his head from above the clear blue, bobbing in the sun-spotted water. It watched us pass with big, doe-like eyes, and I felt as though I was in pure nature just a few miles from the shore. I watched pelicans scoop huge mouthfuls of water, hoping to snare a fish. I saw small white birds dive-bomb the glassy surface. And I saw a huge, 3-foot fish leap completely out of the water in a flash of slick green and pink.
We motored an hour-and-a-half to China Camp, and joined a few other sailboats. It was warm, in the mid 80’s, and my boyfriend jumped into the water to swim. We made a picnic on the stern, and had wine and cheese and crackers while the sun dipped behind the hills, tinging the horizon with orange. I felt completely at peace and happy, like I’d discovered a whole new world right on the doorstep of my old one, like stumbling on a wardrobe to Narnia.
We spent the night, rolling gently in the waves, and woke up to sunlight streaming through the portholes and hatches. Our view seemed infinite; sea and land instead of the dingy sides of our neighbor boats in the marina. I cooked eggs and sausage and we drank coffee, the clean sea air filling our lungs. I felt so at bliss, and soon, we were ready to explore.
We picked up the anchor, heaving dirty rope and chain hand-over-hand up onto the deck, which soon, we won’t have to do when the proper windlass is in place. I grabbed the wheel, backed us up, and pushed the boat’s lever into the “forward” position. We headed into the open Bay, me at the helm, my bf reading the navigation charts, both of us with silly grins.
“Want to throw up a sail?” my bf said, and OF COURSE I wanted to throw up a sail! He showed me how to use the winches, and soon I was helping to tack and jibe the boat and trim the sail.
We headed toward Tiburon, relaxing in the sun, drinking watermelon beers. At one point he went belowdeck to nap, and I was in charge of this beautiful boat myself, steering her toward the Richmond bridge, trying to keep wind fluffing her one sail. The wind was only going about 5 m.p.h., so I read a memoir while keeping one foot anchored in the wheel. It was relaxing and gentle, a far cry from the crazy sailing videos I’ve seen, where teams of 5 pull ropes and throw sails around like mad.
All afternoon was spent tacking and jibing across the Bay, aka, zigzagging to catch the wind. We were both so happy, having found our little bit of heaven.
“This is what makes the Bay area tolerable,” I told my boyfriend. “New places to explore, the wind powering our sails. We don’t have to use gas, or spend any money!”
“Yep, soon we’ll be heading out the Gate and fishing along Point Reyes, anchoring for the next. Fresh sashimi on deck. Or sailing down to the Channel Islands to scuba dive.”
I felt all my anxiety about the Bay area and its expensiveness drift away while I was out there on the open water. The Bay would be my new home, the anchor holding me in place. And I didn’t need a $10 beer or a $30 dinner to enjoy myself. I just needed a cooler, a hot plate, and some groceries from Trader Joes.
Sailing made me realize that there really is much to appreciate about the Bay area. Sometimes, you just need to look at something with fresh eyes, or have a new experience to gain perspective. There is really nowhere else like this place, with the Bay to play in, and the ocean straight out the Golden Gate.