Still at the hotel in Berkeley, I got up early this morning for a walk and had a chance to explore a facet of Berkeley that never makes the headlines; the waterfront. It’s far, far away from the chaos and anarchy of the University area of Berkeley, where the UCB students mingle awkwardly with the street people and hippies out of time.
At 6:30am the sun is just peeking over the foothills, gradually illuminating the top of the San Francisco skyline…
The relationship between San Francisco and the waterfront is an intimate one, of
course, but it’s much less intertwined than it was in the 1800’s, when the waves of immigrants and the zeal of the 49ers contributed to the growth of Yerba Buena and the docklands evolving into the Embarcadero. Imagine; ships arrived from
the east coast – a 5-8 month journey – and everyone deserted for the excitement
of the hills and the gold, even the crew and captain.
Today, however, the water surrounds San Francisco, not vice versa. In Seattle, for example, the city embraces the harbor in a manner reminiscent of how St. Peters embraces visitors to the Papal palace of the Vatican. To be in Seattle is to
be at a harbor, a waterside city. To be in San Francisco is to be in a city full
of history (a wonderful, colorful history) but a city that is much more ambivalent about the ocean than it’s ever been before.
So it’s no surprise that Berkeley has the “forgotten harbor”, a lovely spit of land with a few hundred boats, some commercial fishing vessels, and a public pier
that thrusts about a mile out into the bay, pointing directly at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
There’s something delightfully relaxing about a harbor in early morning, and Berkeley’s harbor was peaceful, with a light mist over the glass-like still water,
and a few early morning fishermen on the pier, trying their luck. I chatted with
one of them and found that the prime catch is halibut, if they’re swimming in the harbor, or striped bass. No-one had any catch as of yet, but there were about
ten people spaced along the Berkeley Pier, relaxing and gazing out over the harbor as their lines sat in the water, bobbing with the swells.
In Berkeley. Surprised?