With great trepidation, we sailed into the outer entrance of SF Bay at night. After our weather adventure, we made great time but that put us into a night situation. Where do we go to for customs? Would we have to find the customs dock that night? Plus add fog. Through a contact back home we found out that there is no actual customs dock, that you basically dock somewhere and contact customs. We contacted customs first and the officer was ever so obliging. We said we were near Drakes Bay and asked permission to put anchor there. No problem he said, call this number tomorrow and they will let you know what to do.
The next day we set out from the bay and it became more and more crowded with boats. Fishing boats, dozens and dozens of people fishing. The Captain called up the customs once we entered SF Bay proper only to be told that we need a cruising permit to enter, the office was not at a dock but on land and that it closes at noon! Captain explained we are a sailing vessel going 5 knots and would never make it in time as we would have to find a place to dock and then rent a car. No problem he said! Find a place for the night and then report the next day to 700 Maritime St.
Ok, now where do we go to find a place to dock? I looked up the address of the customs office and then looked up marinas in the general area and began to call. No luck, the marinas I called did not have guest slips. Captain said to call the tourist information. I did and they were very helpful and said to go to Scotts Restaurant along the Oakland Inner Harbor (which we had already started to enter), they have slips there, then walk to the harbor master’s office. Scotts restaurant slips were full and we continued past it wondering where to go next. Fortunately, the coast guard came towards us, Captain hails them and they indicated that just behind us where guest slips at a marina.
We could not believe our luck, they had a spot for us for the next few days. We tied up to Village Marina in Alameda and we could not have asked for anything better! Impeccable! Top notch. We were greeted over the next few days by other sailors. Roger stopped by and said his wife was Canadian and that he was always welcomed warmly in Canada. The next two boats down from us, each owner dropped by to say hello. I remember Jim’s name, very interesting and charming man. Our neighbor beside us said he cruised the Sea of Cortez for four years and loved it. Then we were introduced to Penny and her boat is called Out ‘n a boat, she is Canadian. What a wonderful person to meet. She was very gracious and said she would send me her email, should we require help with anything, anything at all. She had many contacts here in the USA and in Mexico and would be able to find us the right person. Are we lucky or what!
Penny also hosts a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner every year which is held at the Oakland Yacht Club. Some 80 to 90 people attend, she plays Canadian music and has everyone play a Canadian trivia. What a lady!
I book a rental car from Enterprise. They send a person out to pick us up. We have a very nice driver, Mike. He was big, looked tough and gruff but we had the nicest conversation. He has lived all his life in Alameda. Been a pipe fitter among other things. When we eventually return the car, we have another driver take us back to the boat and she told us how Mike had been so excited telling her about our sailing and where we were going. He said to her, why don’t we do that!
We now have a car and off we go to find 700 Maritime St. Should be no problem, seems straight forward, at the corner of Maritime and 7th street. What could go wrong?
We arrive at the intersection. There is a small sign stating Customs and an arrow to go right. We go right and then there is nothing. No visible building and no other signs. We drive up and down Maritime St. It is now getting dark. After a few thousand times of going back and forth, I noticed that near the corner of the intersection there was a small sign stating 700B and a very small inset driveway. I tell the Captain that maybe we should try 700B. We end up driving around the block and see customs vehicles parked there! We found it. What we realized or determined was that at one point the customs area was likely visible from the road but the area was now under construction with large fences around it. Gheesh!
We are up at the crack of dawn as traffic everywhere is brutal and we did not want to be delayed. The customs officers were so friendly and polite, it was such a relief as we were really expecting a bit of a grilling. Give us an hour or so and the paperwork will be ready. Off we go for breakfast. Later we picked up our cruising paperwork and let out a sigh of relief.
For the next day or two we are constantly buzzing around Sausalito and into San Rafeal. The Captain has suspected that our AIS (automated identification system) has not been transmitting, meaning other vessels do not see us unless they use radar. We are down at a marina in Sausalito when we spy a marine electronics shop and we go in to see what they can do for us.
We tell them what type of system we have and they said – do you have the disc? What disc? The one that came with the system. We are at a loss, we do not remember seeing a disc. We then find out that to transmit, the system must first be programmed. Gheesh again! Can you help us? Well they might be able to without the disc but will not know until we bring the unit in. We return to the boat, Captain removes the unit and the next day we are up at the crack of dawn. Did I mention traffic is brutal?
We receive great news; the unit is fixed! We let out another sigh of relief. Off we go to the West Marine store to buy bits and parts for the boat, some clothing that is on sale and a map of the Delta river system that we plan on cruising.
We drive to San Rafeal to Loch Lomond Marina to see if we can dock there for three or four days. No problem. Christine oversees the marina and holds a spot for us. She works two jobs, the marina and as a server at Joe’s restaurant in town. She is looking forward to going to her friend’s wedding in September which is being held in Paris! When we do arrive at Loch Lomond Marina, Christine states, pay me when you are ready to leave. We both shake our heads and smile.
This is a nice marina, not at the same level as the last one but good all the same. The area is being developed, very nice town homes are now across from the marina but at one million each I guess they are very nice! An excellent market is a minute away.
We lack for nothing and have been accommodated at every turn and concern.