Something about the iconic combination of the Golden Gate Bridge, the marine layer, and Berkeley Marina, all bathed in sunset colors, makes me think of before-dinner drinks and cool summer breezes.
In the era before the Bay Bridge and BART tunnel, the ferry between the East Bay and San Francisco departed from the end of a long pier. (The pier used to be even longer—the Berkeley Marina extended into the water around it.) The ferry ended service in 1937, after the bridge opened, but remained a popular location for fishing until it deteriorated to its current unsafe state. I’m kind of fascinated to see its skeleton jutting out into the Bay, a linear form amid rolling marine layer clouds.
We’re not far from the ninth anniversary of the founding of Decaseconds, and I came upon this arresting image of Berkeley Marina, the Marin Headlands, and the Golden Gate Bridge (never before published here) while searching for just the right anniversary shot. I’m fascinated by the way the orange emission of sodium vapor lamps lighting Berkeley (I’m sure now all swapped for white LEDs) matches the Rayleigh-scattered oranges of the winter sunset. The same wavelengths of light, coming from completely different mechanisms.
I love finding the little details in epic landscapes that provide the sense of human scale and presence. (It’s a bit like a photographic “Where’s Waldo?”) In the lower center of this image, at the left edge of the Berkeley Marina, you can see light tiny lights of the restaurant where diners look out over the Bay and the sunset.
Nostalgia views the world from a distance but with specific acuity. A view from Grizzly Peak of the Berkeley Marina might look like a warm, buzzy vision of NorCal, but with my own memories I attribute specific instances and moments to every aspect of the landscape: Kites flying over Caesar Chavez Park. Stories of a ferry to San Francisco that once ran from the decaying jetty. Learning to sail on the tiny boats on the “left” side of the peninsula. Sailing from the Marina to Angel Island, crewing a professor’s 40-foot sailboat. Finding a place to live, driving up and down University Ave. from the hotel to the hills. Crossing the highway on the bicycle bridge for a long, flat, sunny ride along the shore. All of that experience is encoded into the image, but I’ll always be the only person with the key to decrypt it.
It’s a little cold for my taste but the folks around the Bay really like to get out on the water. Right around the Berkeley marina the water is absolutely jam packed with windsurfers, kitesurfers, and just small sail craft of all types. This surfer’s colorful sail really caught my eye here against the sort of drab backdrop of the waterfront condos.
While down at the marina recently I caught a glimpse of this guy, who had apparently found something interesting or perhaps tasty and was taking it somewhere a bit more private to enjoy. I was actually surprised at how well I could capture that moment just before lift-off, the intricate dance that birds do before they take to the skies.
Berkeley Marina is a wrench-shaped peninsula in the San Francisco Bay; the “handle” supports a bumpy road to the area itself, while the “head” has docks and a smattering of yacht clubs, restaurants, and smaller hotels aimed at the people mooring there. The larger boats (mostly of the sailing variety) are in the center of the Marina, but on the southern side, in a slightly-sheltered area, are the docks for the much smaller boats. Here, locals come to learn the basics of sailing and wind surfing in the shadow of the Port of Oakland and its massive container crains.
Having taken sailing lessons here myself, I can confirm that the placidity is an illusion. In a boat with a center board instead of a keel, the degree of resistance to the wind is much less, and the crew is required to really use their weight to control these little boats. Today’s shot captures the boats as I prefer to remember: ready to sail, but sitting calmly at the dock.