Sunday, April 22 is Opening Day on the Bay. It's a grand nautical party, portions of which can be enjoyed from the shoreline as well.

Photo by Joel Williams


Published: April, 2018


Sunday, April 22 is Opening Day on the Bay. It’s a grand nautical party, portions 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 has been celebrated for just over 100 years.


The first of these seafaring events is the Blessing of the Fleet. This celebration, begun in the Mediterranean many hundreds of years ago, was originally Roman Catholic, 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 fishing season and petitioning God to ensure the safety of the fishermen and the families they leave behind.


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 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 this year in Raccoon Strait, the water that separates Angel Island from Tiburon. The blessing starts at 10:30 a.m. on Opening Day.


The Blessing of the Fleet is difficult to view from the shoreline. However, there are several charter vessels that are offering cruises specifically for viewing this portion of the day’s celebrations from the water. These include the Freda B, a classic 80-foot topsail schooner sailing out of Sausalito (, the presidential yacht Potomac berthed in Oakland (, and Hornblower Yachts out of San Francisco (


The next part of the day’s activities, however, is very visible from the shore of the Bay. It is intended to be a display for those who do not have a boat as well as a celebration for those that do. This second event is the Opening Day Decorated Boat Parade, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.


The theme this year is “Nations of the Bay,” celebrating the many different aspects of the nations, ethnicities and cultures that contribute to life in the Bay Area. Undoubtedly it will be very entertaining to see the various interpretations of that theme on the boats participating in the parade.


The Opening Day 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., the decorated 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 (P.I.C.Y.A.) sponsors this parade. First 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 the organization’s website,, for more information.


So, on Sunday, April 22, pack a picnic lunch and come on down to the Marina Green or book a window table at a waterfront restaurant. You don’t need to own a boat to enjoy the Decorated Boat Parade—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 Blessing of the Fleet occurs at 10:30 a.m. on April 22 in Raccoon Strait. This portion of Opening Day is difficult to view from the shore. Photo by Mia Bernt S/C PICYA

The Opening Day parade route was purposely chosen to allow for very good viewing from all along the shoreline. The parade is from noon to 3 p.m. on April 22. Photo by Mia Bernt S/C PICYA