Afternoon Sail on the ALMA (Submitted by yosemitejudy)

Way, Haul Away, We Haul Away Together…the sea shanties of long ago came alive as I boarded the ALMA at the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco. A clear and perfect November afternoon with record temperatures in the 80’s. A grand day for a sail aboard a mighty boat that has persevered through many years of faithful service.

The Alma is a scow schooner, built in 1891 and is a designated National Landmark, lovingly cared for by the staff and volunteers of the National Park Service. With a depth of only 4 feet and a flat bottom hull, the Alma was designed to navigate the shallow waters of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and to rest on the bottom at low tide. The scow schooners were work horses, hauling bulk cargo all over the waterways.
Sailing on the Alma is a unique adventure. Not only can you take in the incredibly beautiful sights of the city, the islands, and the Mediterranean-style cities of Sausalito and Tiburon; but you’ll get a chance to learn the fascinating history of the San Francisco Bay. You will also have the opportunity to pitch in, helping the crew to hoist the massive canvas sails. Our first mate, Alice Watts, had everyone working efficiently, getting us underway in short order. HEAVE HO was the call as the sails were set.

After the captain issued safety instructions, our 3 hour voyage began and we motored our way out of the dock and out toward Alcatraz and beyond. As we approached Angel Island, the engines were shut down, and we waited to see where the wind would take us. The day was spectacularly beautiful but a little too calm. After a bit we motored further out toward the Golden Gate to see if we could pick up a wind coming in off the Pacific. Still not much luck but we didn’t care. We were in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery, on a ship we had become quite fond of the more we learned of her hard work and her place in history. Chris Poissant, the NPS interpretive ranger told fascinating tales of the Barbary Coast, and how the Bay played an invaluable part in the protection and development of this country. Gulls, brown pelicans, cormorants and a sea lion (well, half of a sea lion that looked like sharks had the other half for lunch) kept us company on our journey.

The very best part of the voyage isn’t the view or the fabulous experience. The aspect that made it unforgettable is the Alma’s crew. Their kindness and warmth made us all feel like we were part of their family. As our sailing came to an end, it was with regret that we had to disembark and become land lubbers once again.

Sailing on the Alma began in October 2007 so these voyages are a fairly recent addition to the wonderful activities on and around the Bay. Don’t miss a chance to experience a part of history on a sailing adventure with the scow schooner Alma and her fine crew.

Times & Tickets: The 117 year old boat sails Saturday afternoons June through November—weather permitting. Tickets can only be purchased the same day beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the ticket booth at the Hyde Street Pier. I recommend getting there as close to 9:30 as possible to be sure to get a spot as the Alma carries just 40 passengers besides her loyal crew.

Boarding: begins at 12:30 and returns back to the pier by 4:00 p.m. Be sure to dress in layers as the weather can vary greatly between land and sea. Also wear rubber soled shoes—no high heels are allowed on deck. Water and snacks are welcome on board; however, there are no restroom facilities on the schooner so you might go easy on the water!

Cost: for this historical sailing adventure is $35.00 for adults, seniors (62+) $30, Children (6-15) $20 and children under 6 are free with an adult. Don’t forget to also bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, binoculars and your camera.

More To See: While you are at the Pier, be sure to take the time to explore the rest of the historic ships, the National Park Service Gift Shop, and the beautiful NPS visitor’s center located just across Jefferson Street. The exhibits are outstanding and there are clean restrooms which may be a welcome sight upon your return from the Bay.

Bon Voyage,

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