Saturday, November 17, 2012

Riding the Ducks - Nov. 2012

Launching Water Trail Adventures
November 2012

I was inspired to create this Water Trail Adventures site when I heard about the new San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail, a network of linked access sites around the Bay primarily for paddlers and human-powered craft, made possible thanks to the efforts of the California Coastal Conservancy, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), and many other organizations, agencies and individuals.

I have a thing about San Francisco Bay, one of the largest estuaries in the U.S. Previously, I've walked around the San Francisco Bay (primarily following the San Francisco Bay Trail). I enjoyed this 1,000 mile, clockwise sashay around the Bay from 2009 - 2011, so much that I decided to walk around again. At this writing (Nov. 2012), my last walk was in the Tiburon area (Paradise Drive). These walks are chronicled on my Walking the Bay site, at

During my walks, I've met many people with great stories. So, while Walking the Bay is a true weblog -- with lots of photographs -- I decided that Water Trail Adventures would focus on the stories surrounding the people; their watercraft: kayaks, canoes, boards, rafts, dragon boats, tule boats, sail boats, and other floating means of transport; and the unique connection between people and their particular regions of the Bay as well as to their boats or boards of choice.

I also believe it's very important to have a sense of humor, which is why I selected a maiden voyage on a boat that is unlike most others (and clearly motorized), a duck boat in San Francisco, that has been outfitted for tours. While a duck boat doesn't fit the Water Trail's primary focus, it was fun to investigate.

Riding the Ducks

In October (2012) a friend and I decided to ride the ducks. This idea is not quite as crazy as it sounds, as Ride the Ducks is a tour outfit that takes people out on San Francisco Bay in a World War II era amphibious craft. The tour was part land (through the streets of San Francisco), and part sea (into the Bay and general motoring around in the water near ATandT Park). 

Why was this amusing? Every Ride the Ducks passenger was given a kazoo-like quacker shaped like a yellow duck's bill to wear around their neck and encouraged to make use of it along city streets. We were also invited to sing-along with songs that played periodically, and to generally clap, wave and have a great time. Passer bys on nearby sidewalks (during the land portion of the trip) looked amused, or annoyed. If you are experiencing serious issues and turmoil at work or you're scurrying home because you're late, you probably do not want a flock of human ducks honking and bearing down on you. Understood.

People have asked me where I get my ideas and contacts for stories. I do receive story leads from others in multiple ways. For example, our Ride the Ducks tour operator, Captain Rogers, was overflowing with good cheer and information San Francisco and the Bay. He also mentioned, as the duck boat made its transitional splash into the water, that he worked with a non-profit nearby (Pier 40), the Bay Area Association for the Disabled (BAAD). He talked about sailboats that had been retrofitted to accommodate individuals with disabilities. Another possible story for the future.

What was the story today?
Taking a ride on an unconventional tour boat, and meeting a tour guide who cared about other people and enjoyed making them laugh, while teaching them new facts and stories about San Francisco. Not a bad way to navigate through life.

"The opposite of play is not work, it is depression." 
-- from the book "Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul" (2009) by Stuart Brown, M.D.
Image of San Francisco Bay Water Trail map is from San Francisco Bay Water Trail website.