Captain Dennis Garrison always felt more at home in the water than he did on land. He was born in the beach town of Playa del Rey, where he spent his days fishing, jet-skiing, and sailing along the coast of Southern California. His love of the open sea and knack for navigation eventually led to stints with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
Unable to ignore the roaring of the surf and the call of gulls after retirement, Garrison founded his own sailing company—Imagine Sailing Tours. Drawing on 30 years of nautical experience, he shuttles passengers towards scenic coastlines and popular sites throughout the San Francisco Bay area. He helms a majestic Irwin Citation 34 yacht, pointing out passing dolphins and seals as he steers towards Angel Island, Half Moon Bay, or AT&T Park. Upon arriving at destinations, Garrison leads activities such as snorkeling trips in Monterrey Bay, wine tastings on Treasure Island, and pottery-spinning classes on top of the Golden Gate Bridge. The skilled seafarer also offers sailing lessons for passengers who’d like to try their hand at steering the ship themselves.
The high-end fleet of Hornblower Cruises & Events fills ports up and down the California coast, as well as in New York, with similar eco-friendly extravagance. Founded by environmental engineer Terry MacRae, Hornblower puts its luxe navy to use hosting dining, entertainment, special-event, and sightseeing cruises, as well as journeying to such storied landmarks as Alcatraz Island and the Statue of Liberty. Beyond these cruises, Terry's team champions green practices through the Respect Our Planet initiative, which works to develop and promote earth-considerate practices such as using hybrid boats that draw power from the sun.
An intro-to-sailing lesson with OCSC is designed both for beginners who can't tell a mermaid from Ethel Merman and for more-intermediate students of the stern and aft looking to perfect their technique. Skilled and certified instructors teach each lesson, while a low teacher-to-student ratio ensures plenty of attention and instruction for all involved. Your lesson will focus on practical training, creating a prime opportunity to get some on-the-water experience beneath your sails. Over the course of two hours, you'll be exposed to different roles and positions on the yacht, including the position of steely-eyed helmsman. By the end of the salt-sprayed session, you won't be a certified skipper, but you'll have had a sublime time and tasted the sailing experience, which always tastes like a combination of warm brownies and cold milk.
Dan Bohn of Capt. Dan Classic Sails is a US Coast Guard–certified master mariner sailing captain who charters sunset and daytime sails aboard the Feral[http://www.captdan.net/capt-dan--the-feral.html], a 40-foot double-ended wooden sloop. Captain Dan’s commitment to staying as true to the boat’s origins as possible has resulted in a nautically nostalgic vessel that is lit by a few navigation lights, several oil lamps, and the gleam from Poseidon’s eyes. The ship cuts through the water of San Francisco Bay toward sights such as Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge during his BYOB sails.
At Tradewinds Sailing School & Club, the American Sailing Association–certified instructors teach a diverse array of skills, from the basics of keelboating and coastal cruising to specialty work such as celestial navigation. Their intimate classes, typically capped at three students, all pair guided learning with real-world practice on the water, ensuring students truly master their chosen subject matter. Veteran sailors can challenge the class and join the sailing club, whose convenient boat-sharing program allows for trips to Sausalito, Angel Island, and other local spots.
The evening fog hangs heavy over San Francisco Bay, engulfing the boat in a cloak of opaque mist. Just as the sightseers are ready to head home, the thick brume begins to roll away, revealing the city skyline glittering across the water. Dedicated to showcasing the Bay Area’s scenic waters regardless of the weather, the crew of SailNOW facilitates moments such as this via cruises and lessons based out of East Bay. Skipper Jonathan Ganz—an American Sailing Association and United States Sailing Association-certified instructor with a U.S. Coast Guard Masters 100 GT license—founded SailNOW to impart his passion for aquatic pursuits unto pupils of all ages and experience levels. On any given day, Captain Ganz can be found leading group and private lessons that teach the essentials of sailing, such as how to navigate inclement weather, how to properly anchor a ship, and where to store your sea legs once back on terra firma. In addition to conducting instructional sessions, the savvy mariner helms cruises around San Francisco Bay and sailing adventures to far-flung locales including New Zealand and Baja.