Harbor Cruises / Ferry / Other Tours, San Francisco
A different kind of bay cruise is available in Martinez, in the East Bay region of San Francisco, that is well suited for those with historic or maritime interests. This is tour of the Mothball Fleet that is anchored in Suisun Bay off of nearby Benicia. The Mothball Fleet is officially known as The National Defense Reserve Fleet. It consists of retired ships in varying states of readiness that could be reactivated in times of a national emergency. However it contains some historic gems.
Most of the ships in the fleet are support vessels like cargo ships. However some specialty ships are among the collection like a submarine recovery ship, refuelers, a Coast Guard ice breaker, amphibious invasion landing ships, and ships that deploy large floating containers.
The flagship of the Mothball Fleet is the U.S.S. Iowa. This battleship, designated as BB-61, was commissioned in 1943 during World War Two and served in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Theaters. Its main armament is nine 16 inch guns. The Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Tehran Conference to meet with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. It is the only U.S. Navy Ship to be equipped with a bathtub. The bathtub was installed to accommodate the president who had a disability.
The ship was present for the Japanese surrender and played a role as a communications center during that event. After WWII the ship was briefly retired, but was soon reactivated for the Korean War. It was again reactivated in the 1980s. Unfortunately an accidental explosion in turret 2 killed 47 crewmembers in 1989. It was finally deactivated in 1990.
The Iowa is the center piece of the tour. The tour is run by an organization that will eventually turn the ship into a museum and relocate it to nearby Mare Island. The tour does not board any ships, but just cruises about the fleet while knowledgeable guides provide narration on the Iowa and other ships in the fleet.
The Mothball Fleet contains several World War II Victory Ships. These were rapidly constructed and inexpensive cargo ships that were the next generation after the Liberty Ships. Among the ships in the Mothball Fleet is the U.S.S. Hoga. The Hoga is an ocean going tug boat used in rescue efforts after the attack at Pearl Harbor. It later served the City of Oakland as a fire boat.
Another interesting ship in the fleet is the Hughes Mining Barge HMB-1. The HMB-1 was used in a Cold War scheme involving the CIA and millionaire Howard Hughes in a covert attempt to raise a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine in order to recover intelligence on its design and components.
The tour is open to the public on the last Saturday and Sunday of each month. Reservations are recommended. The tour lasts about an hour and a half. Lunch is provided. The lunch consists of hotdogs, chips, cookies, and soda served buffet style.
The cost is $29 ($25 for seniors and children).
The tour boards at the Martinez Marina located at 7 North Court Street in Martinez.
Rene Medina (he also Owns Lucky Chances Casino in Colma!) , a filipino-american, founded Lucky tours in 1974 when he rented Greyhound buses for weekend gambling trips -- called Lucky Tours -- to Reno. In the beginning, he found customers through the phone directory, randomly calling people whose names sounded Filipino (mea culpa! yes filipinos love to gamble and I am a living testament unfortunately) and his business grew and eventually he started fo have a base in other asian americans like the chinese, vietnamese, burmese, etc who love to gamble (hey that's why macau now has overtaken Vegas in gambling revenues!, check out my Macau pages!)
His business eventually grew, and he now owns a fleet of 25 buses, taking as many as 20,000 gamblers a month to Reno. fifteen years ago, he also started Lucky Money, a money remittance firm also geared toward Bay Area Filipinos (we love to Give "Pasalubongs!" or gifts). His Reno Bus Tours are now popular cheap alternatives to driving 225 miles to reno for gamblers, particulary asian americans who love table games like craps or spanich 21 or poker (elderly non-asian americans prefer the slot machines). Reno Casino Tours start at $ 35 for one day, $ 60 for 2 days and $ 85 for 3 days (with $ 20-28 cash rebates at reno casinos and plenty of food and casino coupons!) and don't forget, motels are cheap in Reno! (but I have relatives in Reno and Sparks that I can Sleep over if I'm there)
Lucky Tours is located at: 1111 Mission St (SOMA), San Francisco, CA 94103
Hornblower pretty much has the corner on this market...and they do it well! We left the dock promptly at 11:30 and took a 2-hour cruise around the bay. Circumnavigated Alcatrez Island, visited McCovey Cove just outside AT&T Park, all the while enjoying a lavish buffet and mimosas (Thanks, Emily!). The waters were a bit rough from the wind, so couldn't venture near the GG Bridge. But the ride was smooth sailing the entire time, we highly recommend this cruise.
This is a "must do" activity. Oceanic Society Expeditions offer trips on the 56ft Superfish from the SF Yacht Harbor, looking for whales, seals, sealions, birds. We were lucky to see a gray whale in the bay not far from Angel Island. Then we went under the bridge & out into the ocean.
You'll need to wrap up because of the wind & wear lots of sun protection. Our guide was excellent & very knowledgable.
Reservations via the website. The children voted this the highlight of our trip.
One of the ways you can get out on the Bay is if you go on the Alcatraz Tour. There are other ferries and I am sure there are probably some other boats you can hire as well. Lucky for me, one of my old college roommate's family has a boat. So a few ol' college roommates and I went out for the afternoon. Such a great day.
more pics in the t'logue
Take the tour through the WWII submarine USS Pampanito, docked just besides the Pier 49. It was a cool experience to be inside a submarine. By the way, pictures from inside are not allowed… so you’ll need to wait until nobody sees you to take a shot like this one ;-)