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.
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.
Live2kite's Richmond and Greenbrae locations facilitate wave-riding instruction while also supplying maritime hobbyists with billowing chutes, sturdy boards, and stylish apparel for kitesurfing, standup paddleboarding, and wakeboarding. Canopies by makers such as Ozone, RRD, and Slingshot float upon air currents, free from the interference of kite-hating trees. Rental gear equips wave riders for hours at sea, and lessons impart kiting and paddling basics as well as more advanced tricks and tactics for surfing atop dolphins.
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.
The Golden State Model Railroad Museum brings the nation’s bygone steam-powered days back to life in miniature form, recreating the trails run by the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads. Trains snake through three huge model layouts, which depict the varied terrain of Northern and Central California lovingly recreated and operated by the East Bay Model Engineers Society. Sundays in April–December from noon to 5 p.m., some of the 70 behind-the-scenes conductors imbue the tracks with energy, transforming the 10,000-square-foot facility into a locomotive wonderland alight with the sounds of bells and whistles not heard since the days when phone numbers only had three digits. The museum is also open on Wednesdays and Saturdays for viewings or on select days for themed events such as Amtrak Day or Steam/Transition Era Day.
Pure Water Sports owner Tim Haines goes whichever way the wind blows him, especially when he's skirting across the water on his kiteboard. If he says he's a waterman, it's because he's spent most of his life on the waves. Sharing his seaside passion with others, he holds lessons in the emerald beauty of Marina Bay and rents out equipment to encourage others to explore. For an additional challenge, SUP Yoga classes allow participants to test their strength and balance out on the water. During lessons, students keep warm in rented wetsuits or stay cool in sequined board shorts.