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18 March 2019

The sky was clear and the bay was as still as a lake yesterday when we walked to the end of a pier at Fort Mason to take a shot of Alcatraz. The Rock hadn't look quite so good in a long time.

Sailing. Captured at f11 at 1/500 second and ISO 400 at 170mm with a Nikon D300 and circular polarizer on an 18-200mm Nikkor, processed in Adobe Camera Raw

We turned around toward the Golden Gate Bridge and saw a sailboat, its white sails lit up by the sun as it turned toward the harbor with the lighthouse at Point Bonita in the background.

A postcard.

Except the color was very flat so we opted for a monochrome portrayal. And the image, free from its muddy color, sprang to life.

It reminded us of how, many years ago now, our own sailing chops sprang to life quite suddenly.

There was, once upon a time, a sailboat rental place on Mission Bay in San Diego which would rent a small sailboat with just a mainsail even to someone with no sailing experience on the condition you took a short (and free) lesson from them.

Our friend Dave and your esteemed editor agreed to take the lesson and between the two of us came up with the fee to rent the little sailboat for one hour.

The lesson went well. Dave, in fact, had no questions. He was, we learned shortly after, confident he didn't have to pay any attention because we'd remember whatever the instructor was saying. Instead he busied himself finding his cigarettes and lighting one up while we took the tiller and headed out to clearer water.

It wasn't easy. But as the half-hour approached we'd gotten the hang of tacking back where we'd come by from shifting the mainsail. We had had more than our turn so we encouraged Dave, who was mourning the loss of his entire pack of cigarettes (which had been unceremoniously tossed into Mission Bay by the captain of the ship), to try it himself.

We were about to switch seats when a huge hull that seemed to belong to a freighter came up on us. We hadn't been paying attention to the traffic.

The captain of the huge hull explained he'd come out for us because small craft warnings had been issued due to the strong winds. We shouldn't have been on the bay at all. Ah, that explained a lot.

So we headed back to the dock.

But our adventure wasn't over even if our hour rental was. There at the dock a boat had been consumed in flames and we were prevented from coming in by the Coast Guard.

When we finally got the all clear signal, we were able to deftly swing the boat around 180 degrees and sidle up to the dock as if we'd been sailing for years. We're still proud of that moment.

Not so proud of the next one, though. Dave complained to the rental boss that we'd have been back sooner except for the boat that caught fire. So he didn't want to pay more than an hour for the rental.

The boss said he knew about the fire. It was his boat. They'd just gassed it up to come out for us. There had been a little spill that caught fire and sank the boat. Never should have rented to us with small craft warnings, he said, shaking his head.

That was the last time we thought about sailing a boat. These days we dream instead about piloting a small plane in a thunder storm.

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