One nice foggy weekday Franklin and I ventured down to Fisherman's Wharf for a bit of maritime history. First stop, the WWII submarine USS Pampanito.
It didn't take long for me to figure out why I hadn't visited her before. Nothing like being rocked side to side in a metal shoebox to make you slightly seasick. Add to that the knowledge that you're actually underwater and give the whole thing a tinge of diesel smoke and I was right in the middle of a pre-pre-menopausal hot flash. Funny, I don't think I'm too much of a baby, but certain combinations (hangover + Panamanian mountain bus, funnel cake + the Zipper) manage to put me out for hours.
Managed to keep it together long enough to look at all the neat gadgets. I can't even imagine the know-how it must take to run a sub.
Franklin was a wealth of knowledge in the torpedo room, going so far as to play docent to a German lady and her kids. All went well until he tried to explain to the bewildered children how the torpedos moved through the water and ventured a "you know, like in the movies" to which mother dearest frostily replied, "we don't watch those kinds of movies" making us feel like child-influencing barbarians. Poor kids, they're probably being raised on re-runs of Friends. A life without "The Hunt For Red October" just seems so sad.
The galley full of naval china left me more envious than I'd like to talk about.
Finally hit a pocket of fresh air.
Out into the open and onward to the Hyde St Pier.
Home to my favorite little houseboat ever, the Lewis ark.
I'd sell off everything to live on this little lady, though if there was room I think most of my furniture would match perfectly (finally I find a name for my decorating taste: early 1900's houseboat). Nothing sounds more amazing than being moored out in Belvedere Lagoon with a few dozen other gems and rowing over to dinner parties or just sitting on the porch with a cocktail watching the fish jump in the moon light.
I'd even settle for a land ark though it wouldn't be quite the same.
When I own a house I'm building my sink just like this. The other side has a wooden counter on hinges that folds over the other half of the sink to create a giant cutting board. Genius.
My second favorite boat has to be the Eureka. Originally built in Tiburon in 1890 as the Ukiah, this ferryboat was designed for the San Francisco & North Pacific Railway to carry freight cars from Sausalito to the city (remember all that train history we learned from the Sunol Railway?). After WWI she was given a major overhaul and returned to use in 1923, this time as a passenger and auto ferry, a job she held until 1957.
I wish ferries still looked like this, it'd make even the simplest travel so romantic.
Took me three reads to realize the pet bandit was a party to a petting party not of the terrier kind.
The Eureka's engine is the last working "walking beam" of its kind. It uses steam to drive a giant vertical piston up and down, then changes the up and down motion to a circular one with a connecting rod to the paddlewheels. Each of the paddlewheels is twenty-seven feet in diameter and would make twenty-four revolutions per minute.
Before construction of the Bay and Golden Gate bridges (opened 1936 and 1937 respectively) the only way to cross the bay was by boat. At one point the Southern Pacific Railroad operated as many as 42 ferryboats in the bay, transporting some 50 million passengers a year and the Ferry Building was second only to London's Charing Cross Railway Station as the busiest passenger terminal in the world. On a side note, strange facts about the Bay bridge include a decree in 1872 by legendary San Franciscan Emperor Norton demanding the building of a trans-bay bridge (about 50 years before the rest of the population joined in), the "ribbon cutting" ceremony in 1936 in which then Governor Frank Merriam utilized not ribbon and silly scissors, but thick gold chains and a blowtorch, and the fact that the bridge was blessed by the man who went on to become Pope Pius XII. Oh, and its full and legal name is The James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Bridge in memorium of the Governor who condoned the last public lynching in California. Know who tried to bring the lynchers to trial after Sunny Jim passed away a year later in '34? Alameda County District Attorney Earl Warren. I think when it comes to political history the degrees of separation are well under six.
All that thinking deserves a crab and a couple of Anchor Steams.
Remember the Maine? The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is both a mouthful and a wealth of informational wonders. Along with the ark and the Eureka, the Alma, Balclutha, Hercules, and C.A. Thayer are all board-able and explorable National Historical Landmarks, some of which are the last remaining of their kind. They're all docked at the Hyde St Pier just past the craziness of Fisherman's Wharf (which the Pampanito is right in the thick of) and its generally not terribly crowded in the late afternoons (the park is only open til 5:30). It costs $5 to board the boats (though the pier and visitor's center are free for the looking) and if you think you might get to Yosemite or Death Valley or any other National Park this year its well worth it to buy a National Parks pass ($80 and good for 2 people for a year). I just got one for my birthday...