Happy 100th Anniversary

Sunday, April 23 (or 23APR17, as we sailors write it) is Opening Day on the Bay.

Photo by Mia Bernt S/C PICYA.


Published: April, 2017


Sunday, April 23 (or 23APR17, as we sailors write it) is Opening Day on the Bay. It’s a grand nautical celebration, some of which can be enjoyed from the shoreline as well. Two events will happen that day—the roots of one go back several hundred years and the other is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!


The first of these celebrations is the Blessing of the Fleet. Originating in the Mediterranean many hundreds of years ago, it was originally a Roman Catholic religious observance—and in many areas of the world, it still is. The local priest would bless the fishing fleet, seeking God’s blessing for a productive season and asking God to ensure the safety of the fishermen.


Here in the Bay Area, we tend to be a bit more inclusive and the party is open to all: fishing boats, sailboats, powerboats, workboats of all types and so on. In keeping with this theme of being more inclusive, there is often more than just a Roman Catholic priest available to dispense the blessings. In the more recent past, various Protestant denominations have been represented as well as Wiccans and Druids. The Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon hosts the event. It will take place in Raccoon Strait, starting at 10:30 a.m. on Opening Day on the Bay. This part of the day’s celebrations would be quite difficult to view from the shoreline.


The next part of the day’s activities, however, is very visible from the shore. It is intended to be a display for those who do not have a boat, as well as a celebration for those who do. This second event is the Opening Day Decorated Boat Parade. The theme this year is “Cruising the Century.” Over 100 vessels of all kinds are expected to participate. Sailboats, power boats, tugs, fire boats and work boats of all sorts will be decorated to highlight some event or happening of the last century. That could be nautical or historical, or perhaps from the world of technology or science, or maybe some famous Bay Area historical figure. It should be very entertaining to see the various interpretations of this theme on the boats participating in the parade.


The Opening Day on the Bay parade route was purposely chosen to allow for very good viewing from all along San Francisco’s northern shoreline. Between noon and 3 p.m., boats will parade from a point near the Palace of Fine Arts and the St. Francis Yacht Club, along the waterfront passing close to the Marina Green, Gashouse Cove, Fort Mason and Aquatic Park, all the way to Pier 39.


The Pacific Inter Club Yacht Association (PICYA) sponsors this parade. Organized on May 12, 1896, its purpose (as stated in the bylaws) is:  “…to constitute an association of yacht clubs and boating organizations, to promote inter-club communications, yachting activities and the social interaction relating thereto, and to organize and conduct programs which enhance the general welfare of the member organizations.”


From its original five founding clubs, the organization has now grown to represent more than 100 member clubs in northern California. It has sponsored this parade since 1917. You can visit its website, www.picya.org, for more information about the organization.


So, on April 23, come on down to the Marina Green and bring a picnic lunch. You don’t need to own a boat to enjoy the parade and the viewing is free.


Ray Wichmann is a US SAILING-certified Ocean Passagemaking Instructor, a US SAILING Master Instructor Trainer, and a member of US SAILING’s National Faculty.  He holds a 100-Ton Master’s License, was a charter skipper in Hawai’i for 15 years, and has sailed on both coasts of the United States, in Mexico, the Caribbean and Greece. He is presently employed as the Master Instructor at OCSC Sailing in the Berkeley Marina.

The Decorated Boat Parade has a new theme each year. Last year’s theme was “Heroes on the Bay.” Photo by Mia Bernt S/C PICYA.

The Blessing of the Fleet, hosted by the Corinthian Yacht Club, takes place in Raccoon Bay just off shore from Tiburon. Photo by Mia Bernt S/C PICYA.