March 11, 2017
Photos from a Hornblower Cruise on San Francisco Bay

Last Sunday, Dave and I took a cruise around San Francisco Bay on a Hornblower ship, the San Francisco Spirit.

We departed from Pier 3 at 11:30am and returned at 2:30.

The day was unseasonably pleasant and picture perfect, despite our having had a rainstorm on Saturday night, just hours before.

The San Francisco Champagne Brunch Cruise was accompanied with live music, a brunch buffet, and complimentary bubbles.

A detail of one of the jars in the round room at home.

The white plaster Magi carries on his back, wood from the famous 1851 Belli Building. He kneels on white marble from the original San Francisco City Hall that was destroyed in 1906. The jar contains Gold Rush artifacts that I found in 2006 at the Belli Building site, a half block away from the Transamerica Pyramid.

To see photos of the site where they were found, see this page:


The Transamerica Pyramid as seen from Pier 3 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

The distant Treasure Island seen from Pier 3 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

The large buildings on the island are all that remain of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. 

Yerba Buena Island and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as seen from the end of Pier 3 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.


Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill as seen from Pier 3 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Belle

The San Francisco Belle, built in 1994 in Louisiana, was used as a floating casino on the Missouri River in St. Charles, Missouri. 






Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill as seen from Pier 3 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

San Francisco's Fireboat

I fell in love with the most cordial sociable city in the Union.  After the sagebrush and alkali deserts of Washoe, San Francisco was paradise to me.   

Mark Twain

“It’s a town that is forever grabbing you by the throat and saying, ‘Look around, see what’s going on, feel it, experience it.
You don’t have to enjoy it. Just don’t turn your back on it, OK?’”  

Herb Caen




Alcatraz Island

NO more jazz
At Alcatraz
No more piano
For Lucky Luciano
No more trombone
For Al Capone
No more jazz
At Alcatraz
No more cello
For Frank Costello
No more screeching of the
As they line up for
No more jazz
At  Alcatraz


by Bob Kaufman (n.d.)

“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.”

Oscar Wilde

The new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

Western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

This is the season in which I like San Francisco best;  although we’re normally a Californian city,  there’s a certain dreamy quality to the place that’s often at odds with the matter-of-factness of sunny day after sunny say.  After all,  aren’t we supposed to be the cool grey city of love?    

Laurel Wellman


The San Francisco skyline and the profile of the Bay Bridge

“To a traveler paying his first visit,  San Francisco has the interest of a new planet.  It ignores the meteorological laws which govern the rest of the world.”  

Friz Hugh Ludlow

Alcatraz Island

“San Francisco is a city where people are never more abroad than when they are at home.” Benjamin F. Taylor

The eastern edge of Alcatraz Island with the Golden Gate Bridge in the far distance


Northeastern side of Alcatraz Island


The San Francisco skyline as seen from near Alcatraz Island

“It’s the indescribable conglomeration of beauty and ugliness that makes San Francisco a poem without meter,  a symphony without harmony,  a painting without reason---a city without an equal.”  

Herb Caen

Northwestern edge of Alcatraz Island

The 1969 Alcatraz Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island as seen fron the northwest

Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco skyline

One day, if I do go to heaven, I’m going to do what every San Franciscan does who goes to heaven, I’ll look around and say, “it ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.”  

Herb Caen



San Francisco

"That City of Gold to which adventurers congregated out of all the winds of heaven. I wonder what enchantment of the 'Arabian Nights' can have equaled this evocation of a roaring city, in a few years of a man's life, from the marshes and the blowing sand.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

  The view of Fort Mason on the waterfront and Russian Hill

Coming home from other cities and other parts,  one crosses the bay to reach San Francisco and sees first the gray silhouette of her hills,  shingled with roofs and roofs and roofs;  the royal fringe of masts and spars along her waterfronts;  the gray fog circling and fuming softly over it all,  and the gulls flying and crying.  The little boats plying to and fro,  sound their hoarse,  sweet notes of warning,  and perhaps the noon whistles and the Angelus bells take up the sound in a long chord that to some hearts say,  “Welcome home!”
    Each to his own city.  But do you love them as we do,  I wonder,  you whose cities are not steep and narrowed streeted,  scented with the spices of the Orient and the good tarry smell of ships and fishing,  lulled by the deep rushing of ocean surges on a long beach,  the lapping of the bay waters against piers?       


By Kathleen Norris 1932


You wouldn't think such a place as San Francisco could exist. The wonderful sunlight there, the hills, the great bridges, the Pacific at you shoes. . . The lobsters, clams, and crabs. Oh, Cat, what food for you. Every kind of seafood there is.  

Dylan Thomas, in a letter to his wife, Caitlin

"The bay of San Francisco has been celebrated from the time of its first discovery as one of the finest in the world. It rises into an importance far above that of a mere harbor. . . Its latitude position is that of Lisbon, Its climate that of Southern Italy, settlements attest to its healthfulness, bold shores and mountains give it grandeur, the extent and fertility of its dependent country give it great resources for agriculture, commerce, and population. . . To this gate I gave the name Chrysopylae or Golden Gate. . . “

John Fremont 

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began on January 5, 1933 and the last rivet was placed on May 27, 1937.  The bridge is 6, 450 ft. long and 90 ft. wide. The towers rise 746 ft. above the water and the height of the roadway span at center is 220 ft. above low tide.  The main cables from which the span hangs (each 36.5 inches diameter and 7, 660 ft. long) are made up of 27, 572 strands of 0.2 inch diameter steel cable. . .22,000 tons worth and 80,000 miles long.  This 0.2 inch cable could circle the globe at the equator more than five times.  693,000 cubic yards of concrete and 100,000 tons of steel were used in spanning the Gate.  25,000,000 man hours went into building the Golden Gate Bridge. . .eleven men lost their lives during its construction. The bridge, as designed,  can sway 27.7 ft.  during high winds.  The paint color of the Golden Gate Bridge is International Orange.  There are now well over a thousand known suicides who have jumped off the bridge since it opened in 1937.  Nearly all these desperate souls who finally went over the side, did so facing towards San Francisco, but that is simply because pedestrians are not allowed on the ocean side of the span.

The south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge

“There is no stupidity great enough to ruin the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge. It has been the subject of terrible poetry and worse paintings, but it rises easily and grandly above the mundane, its towers poking through the fogs, natural and man-made.”  Herb Caen

“When you drive in on a Sunday evening after a hot day in the country and catch that first glimpse of the white fog racing in shreds---as though torn from a giant Kleenex box! --- yes, flinging itself, Kleenix-like, through the cables of the world’s greatest if too narrow bridge, you know why you live here.”  

Herb Caen




Your city is remarkable not only for its beauty.  It is also, of all the cities in the United States,  the one whose name,  the world over,  conjures up the most visions and more than any other,  incites one to dream.     

Georges Pompidou






They park the car by the Marina.
The surface of the cobalt bay
Is flecked with white. The moister, keener
October air has rinsed away
The whispering mists with crisp intensity
And over the opaque immensity
A deliquescent wash of blue
Revels the bridge, long lost to view
In summer’s quilt of fog: the towers
High built, red-gold, with their long span
--The most majestic spun by man--
Whose threads of steel through mists and showers,
Wind, spray, and the momentous roar
Of ocean storms, link shore to shore.  


by  Vikram Seth (1986)



The red-orange color of the Golden Gate Bridge is somewhat of an accident. When the towers were constructed, they were coated in the red-orange primer, which was extended to the rest of the bridge as the work continued. Designers of the bridge liked the way the distinctive color complimented the hills of Marin County and provided a contrast to the fog that swirled through the towers, so the bridge remained International Orange. It also increases the visibility of the bridge in fog. The top coat of orange is replaced constantly because the auto exhaust and chilly, salty air eats away at the finish . A team is employed fulltime to apply about two tons of the coloring per week to keep the paintwork in good condition and prevent the bridge from rusting. It takes four years to apply one coat. The job is not for the faint-hearted. Painters have to be able to climb to the top of the bridge’s 746- foot towers and routinely brave 30-mile-per-hour winds.  


by John Snyder  1999 Chronicle Books





“San Francisco owes its fabled beauty to nature more than any other source.  Hills,  fog,  and water define the city.  But nature,  of course,  both acts upon San Francisco and is acted upon by it. Virtually none of the landscape is as it was when the Ohlone lived off the land:  even the city's forests were imported,  to make the environment appear gentler and more like places that settlers had left behind.
   But as we are reminded every time the earth quakes,  nature is not gentle,  and the changes wrought by natural forces dwarf any that humans have made on the terrain.  Take San Francisco Bay. Twenty-five thousand years ago,  before the end of the last Ice Age,  it wasn’t a bay at all,  but a valley carved out by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.  Their currents flowed through the Golden Gate and clear out to today’s Farallon Islands before joining the ocean.  That ocean created and carried the sand upon which San Francisco is built---sand in drifts so deep that today’s Richmond and Sunset districts may well lie over buried rock peaks.  The glaciers melted;  water filled the valley and made a bay,  and on that bay floated Spanish boats towards what would one day be San Francisco. “  


by Janet Bailey

The air has an indefinable softness and sweetness—a tonic quality that braces the nerves to a joyous tension, making the very sense of existence a delight.     

Scribner's Monthly

SAN FRANCISCO in the years before the 1906 fire provided a sort of Big Rock Candy Mountain for the entire American people. . .  Good Americans when they died might, in the terms of the epigram, go to Paris. While they where alive they wanted to go to California. Oceans of champagne, silk hats and frock coats, blooded horses, and houses on Nob Hill, these were the rewards that came to the industrious, the far sighted, or the merely fortunate. What better scheme of things, at least on this side of the river, could any man ask?  

Lucius Beebe


“Some people become San Franciscans almost immediately,  feeling the poetry,  sensing the specialness,  seeing what makes the city great and not so great,  boning up on the history and walking the streets with glamorous ghosts at their elbows.  Others can live here all their lives and never get the message.”  

Herb Caen


“San Francisco is unique---a thing without a parallel, one that admits of no comparisons, for there is nothing like it in the histories of cities.”
William M’Collum, M.D.





“San Francisco was not just a wide open town.  It is the only city in the United States which was not settled overland by the westward–spreading puritan tradition . . .
It had been settled mostly, in spite of the romances of the overland migration, by gamblers,  prostitutes,  rascals,  immigrants,  and fortune seekers who came across the Isthmus and around the Horn.  They had their faults, but they were not influenced by Cotton Mather. “   

Kenneth Rexroth,   Beat poet


“It has been said that all great cities of history have been built on bodies of water-Rome on the Tiber, Paris on the Seine, London on the Thames, New York on the Hudson. If this is the criterion of a city’s greatness, surely San Francisco ranks in the first magnitude among cities of the world. For never was a metropolis more dominated by any natural feature than San Francisco by its bay.”

Harold Gillian


For all its contradictions. . . San Francisco remains a beacon,  always with that dangerous streak of insanity,  built in at birth.   

Herb Caen



My wild-knight neon twinkle fate there, ah, and then finally at dawn of a Sunday and they did call me, the immense girders of Oakland Bay still haunting me and all that eternity too much to swallow and not knowing who I am at all.     

Jack Kerouac



San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.   

Paul Kantner of the rock band Jefferson Airplane



If you’re going to San Francisco,
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you’re goin’ to San Francisco,
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there.

For those who come to San Francisco,
Summertime will be a love-in there.
In the streets of San Francisco,
Gentle people with flowers in their hair.

All across the nation,
Such a strong vibration: People in motion.
There’s a whole generation,
With a new explanation,  People in motion,  People in motion.

If you come to San Francisco,
Summertime will be a love-in there.


by John Phillips 1967


"San Francisco is the genius of American cities.  It is the wild-eyed,  all-fired,  hard-boiled,  tender-hearted,  white-haired boy of the American family of cities.  It is the prodigal son.  The city which does everything and is always forgiven,  because of its great heart,  its gentle smile,  its roaring laughter,  its mysterious and magnificent personality.   There are no end of ways of enduring time in San Francisco,  pleasantly,  beautifully,  and with the romance of living in everything.  Eat any kind of dish the races of the world know how to prepare.  Drink any kind of wine you like.  Go to the opera.  The symphony or a stage play.  Loaf around in the high-toned bars,  or in the honky-tonks.  Sail the bay.  If you are alive you can’t be bored in San Francisco.  If you’re not alive,  San Francisco will bring you to life.  San Francisco is a world to explore.  It is a place where the heart can go on a delightful adventure.  It is a city in which the spirit can know refreshment every day. “ (circa 1891)


“. . . this marvelous city.  Bazaar of all the nations of the globe, (compares) with the fantastic creations of ‘The Thousand and One Nights’ ”

Edmond Auger,  French gold hunter seeing San Francisco in 1849

Whoever laid the town out took the conventional checkerboard pattern of streets and without the slightest regard for the laws of gravity planked it down blind on. . . a confusion of steep slopes and sandhills. The result is exhilarating. John Dos Passos  I went to San Francisco I saw the bridges high,  Spun across the water Like cobwebs in the sky.

Langston Hughes



Thank you.


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