Tag Archive: waterfront


Video and photographs by Shaun Edward

The 59th Sausalito Art Festival is open for business this Labor Day Weekend. Of course, this fact will already have been figured out the hard way by anyone trying to go anywhere in Sausalito this weekend. The Art Festival is by far the biggest annual event held is Sausalito, and the scale of the festival is expanded thanks open gallery viewings around the town.

Getting to the festival can be an adventure in itself. Those who drove could chose from paying ten dollars to park far away and take the provided shuttle buses, or could pay a staggering twenty dollars t0 to park near the festival entrance–although by 2pm the twenty dollar parking lot appeared to be totally full. Of course, many chose to walk to the festival as well, but those who did had to keep a constant eye out for the “shuttles,” which were actually enormous tour busses barreling down the industrial backroads that lead the festival entrance. There were parking-control type people pretty much everywhere you looked, many feeling extra-authorative in their official-looking but powerless reflective vests.

Pay a slightly staggering twenty five dollar entrance fee, and the stress and hubbub of the parking lots transforms into a world of high art and big money behind the festival gates. There’s no mistaking festival’s target demographic from the moment you enter, in no small part thanks to the Aston Martin and Jaguar convertibles on display just inside the festival entrance.

Sausalito Art Festival Entrance

As expected, the art on exhibition doesn’t come cheap either. While there certainly are pieces available in the sub-500 dollar range, the number only goes up from there–five-figure-plus pieces were not hard to spot.

But this is not to take away from the quality of the art on display, because much of it was truly amazing. Sausalito has a vibrant art scene, and local artists were well represented, like painter Anne Davis of Sausalito.  I don’t know how much a booth costs for the Sausalito Art Festival, but artists must be invited and you can be sure that it does’t come cheap, so it’s nice to see local artists represented.

Artists made the trip from far away as well. One of Sausalito Waterfront’s favorites was Jeffrey Zachman, who’s kinetic sculptures drew a constant crowd to his booth. Zachmann made the trip from Minnesota. Other favorites included Adam Homan of Tuscon, Arizona, whose metal-scupture critters stare back at you with beady fiber optic eyes. “You are not just looking at art,” his business card reads. “Art is looking at you!”

We’re big fans of metal work at Sausalito Waterfront. Bruce Macdonald’s booth was hard to miss, given that it was covered in the shiny metal panels that Macdonald works with. Similarly impressive was Michael Gard, who was hard to miss thanks to the delicately constructed wire human forms that hung around his booth. Another favorite was Theodore Gall’s elaborate cast sculptures–many of which were interactive.

Floating People Sculptures Sausalito Art Festival

If wandering around looking at art you couldn’t afford got boring, there were plenty of distractions available. Alcohol–though pricey–seemed to be flowing freely, and there were clearly some festival goes who’d had a drink or three too many. Not that it would be a hard mistake to make, as there was somewhere to exchange your hard-earned for booze virtually anywhere you looked, including a “food” truck where attractive women served patrons Kahlua or rum, as well as a dockside bar offering a huge variety of mixed drinks.

Drinking aside, there were two stages, the lesser of the two was surround by artist’s booths and played appropriate-but-forgettable music during our visit. The other, the Main Stage, was somewhat less tasteful. During our visit, the Main Stage–and indeed most of the festival–was dominated by the wafting sounds of hard rock songs from the stuck-in-the-80s cover band. While there was without a doubt a good crowd enjoying rocking out to songs from their glory years, equally amusing was the man muttering “It’s way too loud” as he wandered away from the stage, or the comedy of watching an artist haplessly located right off the Main Stage try and talk about the intimacies of his jewelry with interested couples over the blasting Bon Jovi covers.

Face Sculpture Sausalito Art Festival

There was also food, and while we chose not to partake in throwing any more of our money into Sausalito’s coffers, there certainly appeared to be a great variety to choose from, ranging from whole smoked turkey legs to crab cakes and veggie wraps.

But as is too often the case in Sausalito, to get the most out of the festival takes a lot more than the budgets of many have to spare. To truly experience all the Sausalito Art Festival has to offer would easily turn into a hundred-dollar date after the entrance fees, a few rounds of drinks and some food, not to mention the parking or ferry costs. Just hope she doesn’t settle on that thousand dollar oil painting.

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First, let me welcome you back to Sausalito Waterfront! After a seven-month-or-so hiatus, the blog is back. With any luck, the posts will become regular for a while again, at least until school starts stealing all my time.

Second, the rebirth of the blog now includes a new section, Sausalito Hiking. While obviously still in it’s infancy, the ultimate goal of this section is to build up a post for as many of the hiking trails in and around Sausalito as I can. So, to the point then.

Tennessee Valley is “an amazing offshoot of the Marin, with hiking trails to suit the whole family,” according to the National Park Service. The Tennessee Valley, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, stretches from Highway 1 and Tam Junction all the way to the Pacific Ocean. To get to the trailhead, turn West off of Highway 1 onto Tennessee Valley Road just South of Tam Junction. If you go on a weekend, you’ll probably be able to find it simply because the car ahead of you will be turning there too.

At the end of the road, there is a dirt and gravel parking lot as well as lots of stables. The parking lot seems enormous, but be warned, it fills up early on the weekends. Fortunately, there are lots of places to park off the side of Tennessee Valley Road as well.

The parking lot is to the left. Yes, that paved road is, in fact, the "trail."

The “trail” starts at the West end of the parking lot. But calling it a trail is a bit misleading. More correctly, it’s a road with a gate across it. It’s paved at first, turning to dirt after the first half mile or so. The Tennessee Valley Trail is the main artery along the valley floor. There are lots of other trails that cross the valley, but thank’s to the GGNRA’s excellent signage, you’d have to be very dull indeed to get lost.

The Upper Valley Trail allows for some views of the beach and the nearby wetlands of the valley floor.

About two thirds of the way to the coast, the trail splits into the Upper and Lower Valley Trails. They both go to the exact same place, so I opted to take the high road on the way out and the low road on the way back. And the verdict? It doesn’t really matter. The Upper trail (which isn’t really very “upper” at all) offers some nice views of the valley floor and the beach. The Lower trail does without the view, but is more like a trail than a road. Also, the lower trail is closed to bikers and horses, making it a more pleasant place to hike. No dogs are allowed anywhere in Tennessee Valley except on the Coastal Trail.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has been around since 1972.....This photo, however, has been around since only this morning. Technology = Win

After 1.7 miles, the trail ends at Tennessee Beach, which could best be described as a miniature version of Muir Beach. Most of the valley was blanketed by coastal fog when I visited, but on a nice day it would be a great beach to enjoy. I’m from Hawaii, so I’m not one to ever use the blanket statement “No Swimming,” but the shore break is pretty rough. Use you’re judgement, and don’t go in the water if you’re helpless and going to drown.

Just like a miniature of Muir Beach, complete with a stream and everything.

Since the trail dead ends at the beach, the return route is the same, and flew by surprisingly quick. At about 3.5 miles round trip, a quick hiker can do the round trip in an hour, but an hour and a half of actual hiking is probably a better guess for the average person.

People with babies made up a sizable chunk of the trail users.

Thoughts? The valley and beach are both beautiful, and it’s cool to find a beach tucked so far away from roads–hiking to a beach gives a much greater sense of accomplishment than driving does. But that said, the mobs of hikers and bikers make this hike less than ideal if you hike to be left out in nature. This is definitely one to do on a weekday. It’s so short and so easy, you really have no excuse. So go do it!

Sausalito in time

While your intrepid blogger is abandoning Sausalito for a month to go home for the holidays, I’ll leave you with this, a compilation of time lapses taken in and around Sausalito. Hope you enjoy, and have a happy holiday season.

Music: Bells, by Marco Esu, Creative Commons, used with permission.

Time lapses produced by Graham Henderson

Keep an eye on the “Not Sausalito” section as I may try to post some things while I’m away.

Sausalito, Calif. has a rich history, spanning from the enormous ship yards cranking out liberty ships in World War Two to the hippy-heavy counter-culture that sprung up around the shipyards during the 1960s and 70s.

Today, Sausalito is a distinctly  affluent community which has secured a place in the art world, thanks in part to its annual art show and plethora of galleries.

But however Sausalito might change, its past will not be lost, thanks to the Sausalito Historical Society, which works to document the city’s history, preserve important historical artifacts and buildings, and also provide the public access to historical records and documents.

The Historical Society operates out of two rooms in Sausalito’s City Hall, but also has a downtown visitor’s center that’s open daily to the public. The society also has an exhibit on the  shipyard that built liberty ships to support the war effort. The exhibit is open to the public, and is located at the Bay Model and open to the public.

Sausalito Historical Society President Larry Clinton and society volunteer Bea Sielder were both kind enough to share not only the Historical Society’s goals with us, but as both are long-time Sausalito residents, they also provided some insights into the changes that the town has gone through over the years.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Heavy overnight rains combined with a high tide over six feet led to flooding in parts of Sausalito’s Waldo neighborhood.

While high tides flooded parking lots are nothing out of the ordinary for Sausalito’s houseboat residents, the high tides backed up storm drains, preventing rain water from draining into the bay, making the flooding worse than usual.

The entrance to Issaquah Dock was completely under water.

Parts of the Mill Valley-Sausalito Path were under water, and Caltrans crews closed the Highway 1 northbound exit on U.S. 101 while they worked to clear clogged drains.

Caltrans was kept busy, opening up drains and closing flooded roads near the Highway 1 North exit.

Houseboat residents had no choice but to put on their boots and go about their Sunday.

Gate 5 Road was completely flooded over in front of the Anchorage 5 building, and the water was deep enough that only trucks were able to get through. Other traffic was using the building’s parking lot as a detour.

A bicyclist makes his way along a flooded Gate 5 Road.

Roads were also flooded near Strawberry Village and Tam Junction.

Trucks make their way across a flooded intersection near Tam Junction.

As the high tide recedes, most of the flooding drains off into the bay. The high tides are nothing new for residents of the Gate 6 Cooperative–the ragtag bunch of houseboats that have yet to be integrated into an organized dock.

Even though most of the path was above water, any intrepid users had to watch their step if they wanted to stay dry.

 

The entrance to the Gate 6 Cooperative was completely flooded.

This is usually a gravel parking lot.

The high tide flooded the lawn near the Kappas Marina West Pier.

The Mill Valley-Sausalito Path just barely remained dry.

After being harassed mercilessly for years by angry Bay Area environmentalists, your intrepid blogger finally got to use four wheel drive.

Perhaps the most famous and recognizable part of the Sausalito waterfront are the town’s famous houseboats. While this once-alternative community has lost some it’s 60’s charm to development and and vacation renters, there is still a unique vibe to the houseboat docks.

Click on the image below for an audio slideshow that captures some of the docks’ counter-culture charm.

Click on the image to view the audio slideshow

Produced by Graham Henderson

Voices (in order) Gidion Butler, Shaun Goo

Music Standing in the Mud by Luke Tan (Creative Commons, used with permission)

Sausalito is not known as a particularly polluted area. Still, there is an industrial side of Sausalito that stretches from Dunphy Park along the waterfront to the houseboats at Waldo Point on Gate 5 Road.

Along this stretch there are boatyards, film processing centers, ceramics factories, and automotive shops, just to name a few. Many of these companies are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency because they release pollutants of one type or another. The EPA’s website offers specific details about each company–what kind of pollutants they release, where the site is located, and also the demographics of people living near by. It’s a very cool Web site, enter your zip code to check out where you live.

The result of this bit of industry is that there are some cancer-causing air pollutants in Sausalito. While the odds of actually getting cancer from these are slim–less than 27 in 1 million, to be precise–the chance is still there. Below is a graph that shows what pollutants may have cause that pesky cancer if you happen to be one of those poor 27 per 1 million people. At least it should help you figure out who to sue.

While there are no dangerous superfund sites in Sausalito, there is one site in the Marin Headlands listed by the EPA of having toxic releases. The site is listed as belonging to Service Engineering Company, and while the address given was Pier 38 in San Francisco, the EPA’s map showed the actual location as being in the Headlands.

Below is a graph showing the demographics of the residents who live within a mile of the site. Too often, minorities and poor people are the ones who have to live near toxin-releasing sights. But this being Marin County, the the vast majority of the thausand-or-so residents have college degrees and are fluent English speakers. At least it’s bucking the trend.

All in all, Sausalito, and Marin County in general, are quite pristine when it comes to air quality. But nonetheless, people should know about what poses a potential risk in their neighborhood, so make sure to check out the EPA’s site, it’s their job to tell you, after all. May as well get something for your high property taxes.

Richardson Bay is dotted with boats anchored offshore. Viewed from a distance–say while looking down from Mount Tamalpais or the Marin headlands–all the anchored boats make for a picturesque postcard.

But up close, it’s a very different situation. The anchored boats come in all shapes and sizes. There are small runabouts no larger that 17 feet that would be more at home pulling waterskiers on Lake Sonoma than running around San Francisco Bay. There are sailboats–very small and very large–some with their masts and rigging still intact, others that are just floating hulls. There are large motoryachts, some that look like they might still be able to move under their own power, and others that look as though they haven’t moved in years. There are few ex-commercial fishing boats too–their huge steel hulls looming ominously over the nearby pleasure boats. There’s even one large barge piled high with old dredging equipment.

This old barge is piled high with miscellaneous junk. It wasn't clear if it was also someone's home.

But most of these boats have one thing in common: They are all in various states of disrepair. Look at it this way: the owners of these boats couldn’t afford a slip to keep them at, so instead they’ve been anchored offshore. And if a yacht owner can’t afford $300 a month for a slip, then they definately can’t afford the upkeep required to keep the boat spic and span.

Many of the anchored out vessels also serve as a home for their owners. Afterall, being anchored in the bay is free, but it’s free for a reason. There’s no electricity, water, or sewer system. Fuel for generators and drinking water all has to be brought over from shore by a dingy.

Oar or outboard powered dinghies are the only link to shore for the anchor outs.

While there are certainly a handful of seaworthy yachts simply anchored in the bay as they tranist their way up or down the West Coast, it’s obvious that for most live aboards anchored out, thier owners are one step from being homeless. Some boats are piled high with gear and junk, others are covered with makeshift shelters made out of blue plastic tarps.

Junk covers what was once the aft deck and cockpit of this double-ended ketch.

The anchor-outs are sometime seen as part of Sausalito’s appeal–as a throwback to the 1960s when Sausalito was more artsy counter-culture than yuppy–Marin Nostalgia has all sorts of interesting history on about Marin County and the anchor outs. But despite this, dilapidated boats riding at anchor also present a number of hazards.

It may be small, but the solar panels on this sloop give it away as a live aboard.

With no “honey barge” pump-out option in Sausalito, many live-aboards at anchor dump their sewage directly into the bay, polluting the water. But it is the anchors and anchor lines themselves that actually do the most environmental damage.

That’s because each anchored boat needs to have at least 50 feet of anchor line out, even in Richardson Bay’s relatively shallow water. (In order to hold, the anchor line needs to be at least 3 or 4 times the depth of the water.) So every time the tide changes or the wind shifts, the boats swing around, and some of the anchor line drags across the bottom. As it does so, it kills any seagrass, mussels, or other organisms that usually help keep the water clear. The dragging line also stirs up silt, clouding the bay. (Editor’s note: I read a great op-ed piece about this, but now I can’t find it, if someone remembers where it is please let me know!)

There is another danger as well. During winter storms, boats sometimes break away from their anchors and are left drifting. The boats are typically blown toward Tiburon, and smash into the docks and homes of residents there–often causing thousands of dollars of damage to the home, not to mention the cost of removing the boat. An excellent article in the Marin Independent Journal provides a typical example of what happens during a storm.

While I've seen this boat securely anchored for over a year now, if such a large boat were to break free in a storm, the damage could be consierable.

There have been proposals in the past to clear the boats out, or to at least provide mooring balls, but for now, it seem like this charming-yet-problematic part of Sausalito will remain.

Fleet Week. San Francisco’s annual display of military might was underway once again, from October 7-12, and it featured all the usual things you’d expect from a mostly-shameless military recruiting tool.

Fleet Week’s stated mission is “to honor the dedication to duty and the sacrifices of the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces.” They also add that the mission includes providing disaster preparedness training.

In reality, though, it’s a display of cool military machines, starting with the parade of ships under the Golden Gate Bridge and culminating with the Navy’s Blue Angels performing on Saturday and Sunday.

Rather than just go and sit in Crissy Field with thousands of other spectators, I decided I would participate in the informal Sausalito tradition of taking your yacht out to watch the festivities from the Bay. It sounded like a good idea.

Of course, I don’t have a yacht. I have a 16-foot, 39-year-old boat that’s more at home on lakes or the delta then in San Francisco Bay’s choppy waters. Still, I had a go.

Most other spectators had yachts, I had this: A 1971 IMP Cherokee. Not exactly the best boat for San Francisco Bay, but at least I was floating.

I headed out of Richardson Bay, which separates Sausalito from Tiburon, picking my way carefully through the fleet of derelict anchor-out boats as I went.

One of the many derelict anchor-outs in Richardson Bay. Stay tuned for more on the anchor outs.

The Coast Guard was out in force, keeping the massive spectator fleet away from the flight line, but that was the least of my worries. My first thought was to anchor the boat in the “general anchorage” area just off Alcatraz, and sit back and watch the show. Anchoring there was clearly no problem for the large yachts, with hundreds of feet of line and electric windlasses (the winch used to pull up an anchor.)

The Coast Guard was kept busy keeping the flight line clear of boats. For obvious reasons, boat were prohibited from being directly under the aircraft.

But I only had a small anchor, with maybe five feet of chain and 70 feet of rope. The depth gauge was showing just around 70 feet of water was beneath me, so such a short rope wasn’t going to cut it. (In order for an anchor to hold, the anchor line needs to be at least three times the depth of the water.) To make matter’s worse, the wind must have been blowing at least 15 knots, so every time I left the wheel to try to deal with the anchor, the boat was rapidly blown back toward an expensive-looking yacht.

Yachts like this one aren't cheap. Not hitting something expensive was my priority.

Instead of anchoring, I chose to constantly cruise up and down the flight line. But this was even more stressful. As a small motor boat, I was decidedly the low man on the totem pool, and most of my time was spent trying to avoid collisions with larger boats. Because of the extreme amount of boat traffic, most of the big yachts had their sails down and were motoring, but a few particularly brave (or stupid) skippers were under sail, creating headaches for everyone else, who had to scramble out of the way.

This beautiful gaff-rigged schooner's skipper chose to cruise the through the crowd under sail. Impressive, but stress-inducing for everyone else.

But back to the air show itself. There were the usual aerobatic demonstrations, a performance by the Patriot Jet Demonstration team, a couple of military helicopter demonstrations, even a low flyover by a United Airlines 747. And of course, the show culminated with the Blue Angels performing for almost an hour.

A United 747 made several low flyovers. Advertising? Probably, but it was still cool to see such a big plane flying so low.

A jet from the Patriot Jet Demonstration Team makes a low pass.

The Blue Angels didn't disappoint, despite being extremely tricky to photograph.

But on the water, it was hard to enjoy an of it. Unlike a car, a boat can’t just stop on the water, so more time was spent looking out for other boats than looking up at the sky. I wasn’t alone. While guests on the fancy yachts lined the rails to watch the show, nervous skippers stayed glued to their steering wheels.

But somehow it all worked. True, the air show itself probably would have been better from Crissy Field, but the up-close view of some of San Francisco Bay’s most impressive yachts more than made up for it.

Chili Cook-Off provides free booze and mediocre food.

It doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine that most of Sausalito’s 7000 or so residents probably didn’t attend San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair. But luckily for them, Sausalito provided it’s own, much tamer event.

The 32nd annual Sausalito Chili Cook-Off took place Sunday, and saw 16 different competitors each vying for the coveted first place. At least that was the theory. In reality, the Cook-Off was a mix of actual teams competing, and various community groups that, while still making chili, were really just there to promote their own agenda.

Smaller than expected, but the setting was beatiful

For example, three different candidates for Sausalito City Council were there, each competing with their own chili, but more importantly, each was also shaking hands and meeting potential voters. “You want the pin, you gotta shake the man’s hand,” the staffer and Councilman Herb Weiner’s booth told me.” Weiner’s pins, which cleverly read “I like Herb” were some of the most popular. His chili, on the other hand, was merely ok.

Not surprisingly, the "I like Herb" pins were popular

Merely ok, though, meant that his chili was actually better than a lot of the competition’s. For a chili-cookoff, the chili was the biggest disappointment.  Competitors were allowed to start cooking at 8:00 a.m., but even so, when the tasting started at 11:30, many chili’s seemed undercooked and under-flavored. Some had beans that were still raw, many other lacked the necessary spices and thickness that should separate chile from meat soup.

Ten dollars got you a wrist band good for unlimited chile, as well as a bag of beans used to vote for the chili you thought was best. But more importantly, the beans could be bartered for alcohol at several of the booths. Perhaps it was the team’s way of trying to win despite lousy chili, but whatever the reason, it worked. I was able to trade my beans for two shots and several small margaritas. Ethical? Perhaps not, but it made the festival a lot better.

These beans could be used to vote for your favorite chile. But more importantly, they could be bartered for alcohol

Those booths that didn’t barter beans for alcohol tried other methods. One booth, by Bay Cities Refuse, looked like the back of a garbage truck, complete with working tail lights and horn. Another, Rock Till You Drop, featured middle-aged women dancing along to songs from Grease. At least more people watched them than the band.

These woman chose to put their time into learning inane dance routines, rather than cooking chili.

In truth, without alcohol, there would have been little point to attending. For one, it was hot–which would normally be ideal for an outdoor festival–but eating hot and spicy chili in the hot and burning sun is not the funnest thing. Even worse, most of the tables set up didn’t have umbrellas, so shade was in short supply. Luckily, if you’d already voted with all your beans and still didn’t have enough alcohol, beer was a very-reasonable-for-sausalito $5.00.

For those poor people who needed to remain sober, sodas were only $1.00.

All in all, though the festival was smaller than the giant banner hanging over Bridgeway would lead you to believe. According to one competitor, two years ago, there were twice as many booths.

Still, though, $10 for unlimited chili, some free booze and decent music is not bad. In Sausalito, you could do a lot worse.