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Rocket Boat!

Started: 2017-07-15 11:43:05

Submitted: 2017-07-15 22:52:03

Visibility: World-readable

3 July 2017: In which the intrepid narrator rides Rocket Boat in San Francisco Bay

From my office window, overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge, I can see a variety of traffic going back and forth on the water -- container ships, tankers, Coast Guard cutters, NOAA research vessels, naval auxiliaries, ferries, and a wide variety of small sail boats and sea kayaks. At least one of my coworkers seems to have a tab open to marinetraffic.com at any given time so we can double-check what a particular ship is. Sometimes we see random tall ships sailing around the bay.

The most distinctive boat, though, is Rocket Boat -- a large speedboat operated by one of the ferry companies with a bunch of seats on top for tourists to take a thrill ride across the bay. Rocket Boat's signature move is spinning doughnuts under the Bay Bridge -- gunning the engine, then throwing the rudder so the boat spins more-or-less around its own axis. From my office, perched above the waterfront, I can see Rocket Boat almost every day.

Calvin discovered Rocket Boat while we were visiting Pier 41 for an unrelated ferry trip to Angel Island. (I didn't end up going (I ran out of time before taking Julian to the doctor) but my father and Willy took Calvin to the island.) Once I explained what Rocket Boat did he immediately asked to ride on it. At first I thought it was a kitschy tourist trap; but then I remembered that a good chunk of the reason why I moved to San Francisco in the first place was so I could play tourist every once and a while.

My employer gave me Monday before the Fourth of July off as a holiday (apparently on the assumption that I wouldn't be in the office anyway), so while Kiesa worked and Sasa took Julian to daycare and back, I took Calvin to the San Francisco waterfront and caught a streetcar in front of the Ferry Building to take us to Fisherman's Wharf.

While I was in the vicinity of Fisherman's Wharf I wanted to see a few things other than Rocket Boat (besides, the first Rocket Boat didn't leave until 12:30), so I took Calvin to the visitor's center at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, where we saw part of the lighthouse built on the Farallon Islands and other artifacts and exhibits from San Francisco's history. Next was lunch a few blocks away at Chipotle, on sidewalks crowded with tourists. (On an average week I run through Fisherman's Wharf without stopping; there are a surprising number of tourists out and about at 07:30 on the average weekday, but there are still far more tourists at noon on a long holiday weekend.)

We made one more stop before Rocket Boat: Hyde Street Pier, where we passed a group of kids learning about sounding depths and pulling lines in the park's summer camp. Since my last visit three years ago, Thayer had been remasted and was open (but only on the main deck), and Balclutha had been closed for restoration. We looked around the ferry Eureka, then I decided we'd spent enough time and we could go to Rocket Boat.

It turned out that we were a few minutes too late for the next sailing, so we had to wait thirty-five minutes until the next ride. We got in line, put on sunscreen, and waited for the boat to return.

The boat arrived, disgorged its load of tourists, and eventually let us board. We were second in line, so Calvin picked a seat on the second row on the port side of the boat. He was the youngest person on the boat; there were other families on board, but most had teenage children.

We buckled our seat belts, and after a safety briefing, the boat set out into the bay. We started out exploiting the power of the boat to accelerate into the bay, playing a game of almost-chicken by charging in the direction of other ships in the bay (starting with a container ship, moving on to a ferry), then turning away before we got too close. The bow of the boat lifted out of the water with the force of the engine. The pilot wobbled the wheel and the boat jerked back and forth. I grabbed the bar supporting the seat in front of me to keep from flopping around during the ride.

Calvin on RocketBoat
Calvin on RocketBoat
Calvin on RocketBoat under the Bay Bridge
Calvin on RocketBoat under the Bay Bridge

We sped under the Bay Bridge, spun a few doughnuts, and the right side of the boat was splashed when a wave hit the boat wrong.

Calvin on RocketBoat with San Francisco
Calvin on RocketBoat with San Francisco

The pilot turned the boat around so we could get a good look at the waterfront, and stopped the boat so we could take pictures.

Tourists take pictures of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco from RocketBoat
Tourists take pictures of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco from RocketBoat

We spun a few more doughnuts and Calvin got splashed on the left side of the boat. I saw the wave coming and managed to keep my camera from getting wet.

Bay Bridge and San Francisco
Bay Bridge and San Francisco

For our last trick the boat sailed under the second suspension span and sailed straight under the bridge at the last suspension pier.

Under the Bay Bridge on RocketBoat
Under the Bay Bridge on RocketBoat
Under the Bay Bridge on RocketBoat
Under the Bay Bridge on RocketBoat

We sailed back to the dock and I got Calvin to give me a thumbs-up after completing our tourist adventure for the day.

Calvin after riding on RocketBoat
Calvin after riding on RocketBoat
I sometimes refer to you by your real names to real people.
- Neelix, 10 March 1999