This post has some stuff in it you may not really give a crap about. If you weren’t with me, aren’t related to me or don’t really care about San Francisco Bay history at all and really just want to know about the “Man in the Water” just skip down to the last few paragraphs. It happened at the end of the night and this post shall not feature any trickery of the flashback variety like you might find in an Orson Welles flick.
I had a most glorious day sailing with my family and friends today. Jen and I woke up to the sun shining through our aft cabin port-hole. The boat was quiet; Ruby decided Sunday would be a good day to sleep in. We lazed about for a few minutes then got up to transform our house back into a sailboat. Fortunately I have a wife who insists we keep the boat, almost, ready to sail at all times. It doesn’t take much beyond the normal system checks, mental notes to self and visualization of what the day should look like. Brad, Mark, Melissa and Trevor showed up one after another and we got some coffee and sandwiches from Andy’s Market. Yum yum good, that place!
After everyone was aboard I asked them to come below so we could talk about the day. Now, I’ve had absolutely no problem directing people over the years as a white water rafting guide, a horse wrangler and a tour guide but it’s always a little different with friends. But alas, sailing is foreign to a lot of people and all of these guys know just how new to it I am. I figured it might make everyone feel a little better if they thought I had some kind of a plan. 🙂 What a great group of friends; no weirdness, just attention to the details about life jackets, kill switches, fire extinguishers, sail plan, map briefing and head instructions, then of course the genuine laughter on cue. It’s an interesting thing, a safety briefing. I’ve only really done commercial sailing/boating trips before so I don’t really know what a lot of private boaters might say to people who come aboard. Do they forego this speech and just let the chips fall where they may? Heck if I know. What can I say; maybe I just like my friends too much. If you come on my boat and don’t get a safety briefing I guess you’ll know where you stand.
Today’s lesson lied in our first raising of the mainsail. After we got out of the channel into the deep water we put up the jib first, killed the engine and set off northeast toward East Brother Island and Pt San Pablo. This point marks the spot where San Pablo Bay and San Francisco Bay meet. The island holds a historic lighthouse keeper’s home which housed many families over the years. Jen and I have visited a few lighthouses along the California coast and it is so intriguing to try to envision what life must have been like so many years ago in this rugged, lonely land. The light was first lit almost 140 years ago and two gentlemen, at separate times, spent over 20 years each, manning this lighthouse for the safety of mariners here in the bay. Nuts. The home was slated for demolition after the government automated the lighthouse but was saved due to local pressure and placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1971. Now, the house has been converted to serve as the East Brother Light Station Victorian Bed and Breakfast. I hear that it’s fairly costly but a very nice escape, unless you don’t like foghorns. We can hear it all the way across the bay when we’re sitting out on our deck in the evening. To me, the sound of a foghorn is absolutely full of nostalgia and romance. Maybe not right next to my bed, but I’d probably be able to get used to it.
Anyway, we hoisted the Jib, tacked twice to get our systems down, then raised the main. Having all these guys aboard, all at a similar level of ability, was great. We all just figured things out. The wind was really slow, everyone did their part and we took our time to study the lines and get to know how the system was put together. Time came to tack and we did. Then again. The day just went by, the sun kept shining and we were fortunate enough to have a visit from a curious sea lion and a couple of porpoises.
Little Ruby was an angel all day as well. She napped until we got out of the channel and then joined us in the cockpit for much of the afternoon. She teetered and tottered back and forth from one to the next of us and rarely made a peep beyond the attempts at Ma Ma, Da Da and Apple. She really seems to be fine wearing her nifty life vest from West Marine. She’s comfortable in it and it’s already served to protect her. She rolled backward on the sole of the cockpit today and the head support pillow made for a cushy landing.
So the whole day was a great success. We made it back into the marina at just about the right time as the tide was ebbing and we just glided right into our slip without incident and said our goodbyes. Jen and Ruby and I tidied up a few things around the boat, went for a nice walk/wagon ride along the breakwater, gave Ruby a bath and Skyped my Mom & Dad so they could see her playing in the baby bathtub. I dried Ruby off and handed her over to Jen to put her pj’s on and I decided to walk the recycling and trash up to the office to throw away.
As I was walking back from the office, enjoying the stars and the calm evening I noticed a boat coming into D dock. It was dark by now and it really made me think a lot about what it might be like when we are coming in at dark. I noticed a little bit of commotion and heard some loud voices but thought it was just some sloppy docking or maybe a few drunk people. But then a man and his dog were moving much faster than I thought would be normal and the voices were raised even more. Something was up but I didn’t know what. The guy and his dog ran up the ramp and out the gate toward me and I said, “Hey man, what’s going on? You ok?” He ran past me and said, “You live here? Come on! Come on!” I followed him and shouted for him to tell me what was up and he said, “There’s a man in the water down on C!” I had been carrying our little trash bin with me and I dropped it and took off. I passed the guy like he was standing still and sprinted toward C, put my key card up to the gate, worrying that it wouldn’t work and thinking about how I could get around the gate if it didn’t. It worked. I hauled ass down that dock and toward a couple of people standing near the end and yelled for them to tell me where he was. They just pointed down to the water and seemed kind of calm. I immediately thought, %*&! man, is this a body or what. Thank goodness it wasn’t. One of the people at the end of the dock was an older woman and the other was a middle-aged guy that had been struggling to get this really big guy out of the water. I looked down into the darkness and saw a guy just holding onto the dock. Me and the other guy reached down to pull him up. He was calm but he was heavy. I’ve been trained to pull people up into rafts from the water so I knew how to go about it but it still took quite a bit of maneuvering to pull this guy up to the point where he could shimmy onto his belly and up over the edge.
Evidently, he stepped off the side of the dock, like others we’d heard of before and couldn’t pull himself up. I think I probably could but it would not be easy. I sure as hell wouldn’t venture to try it here in these waters like I might if I was somewhere like, say, maybe the Caribbean. We’ve heard of people texting and just walking right off the dock. Jen and I have talked about the best plan should one of us fall in. And we’ve talked about what would potentially happen if that one of us happens to be holding little Ruby. We would shed any bag or whatever we might be holding, (besides Ruby, obviously) turn onto our back, Ruby up near our chest and we would kick backward toward the back side of whatever boats we were near and go to the nearest boat with a swimdeck or ladder off the back of it, push Ruby up on there, then climb up. If it is cold, we would immediately head back to our boat, crank the heater, shed our wet clothes and get ourselves into the warm shower.
So Mr. Big Fella was fine. Luckily it wasn’t that chilly out and he had a warm car and a warm house to head back to. We all shook hands, patted backs, laughed a bit and then I continued my walk home. Never a dull moment. Always a lesson to learn.