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15th May 2010

A Bit of a Maritime Day

    Today, no plan to dash around sights like a blue a...d fly, just drifted where the road took me. Not too far from my hotel I came across the Weinstein Gallery, and I just had to go in. There were a few Picassos and a Dali, but downstairs the whole area was devoted to a 20th century German artist; Bauer. His paintings all featured people captured in an almost characterture mode. His use of line and colour really appealed to me.
    I carried on down to the Ferry Building, passing the occasional Chinese person performing Tai Chi as they waited patiently at the traffic lights. The area in front of the Ferry Building was occupied by arts and crafts stalls today; could almost be in Covent Garden. By the road opposite the building I came across seats occupied by more "homeless people" sitting there quietly in worlds of their own. I can't help but wonder what brought these silent individuals into this state; it really saddened me to see them like this. It is almost as if there were two worlds in San Francisco, one occupied by the day-to-day rat race society, the other occupied by these silent souls on the wildest shores of society.
    Crossing the road, I came across a collection of stalls selling fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables. At one stall I was offered a cherry to try. I was hooked and bought a bag full. Wandering up the Embarcadero, I took a detour up one of the numerous piers to take in the bay view and watch the old Chinamen fish at the end of it. I was content to relax in the cool breeze watching the fog roll down the hills across the bay, and eat my cherries.
Hilly Skyline Viewed from Pier 45
Bay Bridge on Far left, Coit Tower and Transamerica Pyramid. USS Pampanito in Foreground
    I continued my travels up to Pier 45 where I spotted, a couple of days earlier, two vessels: the USS Pampanito and SS Jeremiah O'Brien. I have a deep affection for ships, so I was drawn to them again. First step was the submarine Pampanito. The ticket office chap was totally uninterested in my desire to visit the boat, indeed oblivious to the world outside his booth. His speech was limited to monosyllables: "Yes!", "pay and go", "$10" and "go". The WW II submarine that saw active service was as cramped as you'd imagine a submarine to be. There was minimal descriptive material in the vessel, leaving folk to fathom things out for themselves.
    Then on to the Jeremiah O'Brien. This WW II Liberty ship had plenty of volunteers on board to talk to, plus an informative video on show in one of the holds. Talking to some of the volunteers as I explored the ship I found that the ship is one of only two surviving operational ships of the 2710 ships of this class that were built, the mainstay of the Allied logistic effort during the war. These ships featured triple expansion steam engines, an old tried and tested technology that was easy to mass produce. However, after the war, that technology rendered them redundant and after brief periods in foreign hands, most were scrapped. In the 1960s, a plan was conceived to save a Liberty ship for posterity. To cut a long story short, the Jeremiah O'Brien was rescued, restored by mainly volunteers. and now serves as a museum and makes several day cruises each year. This of course means the steam engines still work. The engine room was open for exploration and I was totally engrossed in its innards, and had the undivided attention of a group of volunteers down there. Ecstasy! The original radio room was just as it was all those years ago. The lady volunteer told me she had been a radio operator with the coastguard for many years, and she was delighted to fire up the system and send Morse code across to a coastguard centre 60 miles away. I really enjoyed discovering the depths of this old ship, which had also seen active service in Normandy.
Fisherman Expertly Filleting a Haddock
Young Street Musicians
    Carrying on through Fisherman's Wharf I came across some young musicians playing on the pavement. The girl sounded just like Carly Simon; they were good. The wooden box affair you see in the photo was a cleverly disguised keyboard.
    Further up the road past Hyde Pier I saw swimmers out there in the freezing sea. The air was cold, windy and the fog still swirling around, but that didn't seem to deter them.
    At the corner of The Cannery (used to be a colossal canning plant) lay the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association which outlined the maritime history of the area. As well as static displays, an endless sequence of excellent different short documentaries was being played in one of the rooms. Sadly they threw me out at closing time.

Hyde Pier. From the Left the Vessels:
Balclutha, Eppleton Hall and Eureka
Sea Lions at Pier 39
    Heading back downtown via Stockton and Columbus, I called in at a bar for a glass of red wine to sip whilst I listened to the non-stop live jazz being played. They were pretty good musicians. Indeed San Francisco simply buzzes with music. Since I was also in the Italian district, and I hadn't eaten since breakfast, I popped into a popular Italian restaurant. Things were fine till the waiter spilled my soup over the table and me. Hmmm.... The soup, when it arrived the second time, was delicious, and the Arrabiatta had the right amount of heat in it. Nevertheless, no tip here!

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Uploaded from Adante Hotel, San Francisco on 17/05/10 at 15:35 PST

Last updated 17.5.2010