Beyond the Golden Gate

I had the privilege of sailing on the San Francisco Bay with dear friends, John and Diane and their friend Bob,  on their 41-foot sailboat, the Giselle, last week.  I grew up in the Bay Area and had never gotten the opportunity before- in fact, I had never been sailing

We departed from the Brisbane Marina on a blistering hot 100-degree day with an audience of pelicans, cormorants, and gulls parked on the break of the marina as we left. The bay with its breezes offered welcome refuge from the heat, especially as we neared the Bay Bridge with its collision of currents and choppy waters. The Giselle tipped side to side from one 40-degree angle to the other as we tacked into the wind.  This requires a lot of coordination and movement from the 3- person crew as the sail needs to be released and winched from side to side.  I was merely ballast and shifted position from port to stern as the situation called.  Oh yes, and I was the wench who held the wrench for the maneuvers.

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Escape to the Baylands

At the end of San Antonio Road, past the shopping centers, apartments, and freeway, across from the Google parking lot, the pavement stops and the wetlands begin. This is the Baylands a world of dikes, ponds, and meanders, where the San Francisco Bay meets land. Here the ebb and flow of the tide replaces the rhythm of rush-hour. Here waterfowl out number people. When family business calls me back, this is where I go to find refuge.

Equipped with my binoculars and bird book I set out on the dike trails to take a wander and look at birds on this rare sunny, pleasant, February day. I come upon a wonderland of shorebirds, and all manner of ducks. There’s a flutter of excitement as the tide ebbs exposing fresh mud.  Greater yellow legs, and avocets gather to probe for a meal. In the water, ducks dabble for food, dropping their heads into the water and then tipping upside down exposing their derrieres to the sky like a circus act. Some ducks are divers, dissapearing momentarily from the water’s surface as they fly underwater for their prey.

On a far bank, a passle of pelicans sit pruning their white feathers with their huge bills. A great egret poses for me graciously by the water’s edge.

Suddenly, a murmuration of dowitchers fly over me so close I can hear the force of their feathers. then land in the water with a satisfying plop. Two swift flying merlins exchange prey in the sky.

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