Have you ever been surprised to find out that your child doesn’t know how to do something that you’re pretty sure you learned by osmosis as a child. Something you couldn’t help but learn if you only woke up every day and lived with other human beings?
I have. My friends have experienced the same thing. I ask my wife, “Are we failing as parents?” That’s always an open question and the final results won’t be in for a long time.
But clearly, we need to think about doing something different because the world our kids are growing up in is very different from our own. Structured play, media on demand, … It might take a little effort to impart the lessons we absorbed naturally.
You wouldn’t send your kid to camp to learn how to put tape in the tape dispenser and other trivial tasks. What you would like is to stimulate their curiosity, learn how to work with others, solve problems and make all of that invisible because it’s so much fun, it happens by osmosis.
I didn’t learn to sail when I was young, but I wish I had. I learned in my 30s, made 3 passages across the pacific, became a professional instructor for a time and changed my life.
I have always been curious and was trained as a scientist. Besides a fascination with sailing upwind, I loved astronomy and the idea that the predictable motion of the stars could be used to find your position here on the earth.
But sailing also taught me about leadership, coaching others, planning ahead and developing alternatives in case things unfold differently from my expectations.
First of all you have to learn how a boat moves in a new and changing environment. Orienting to the wind instead of following a path laid out in advance. Then you learn to work with others as part of a team. The role of the crew (do your best, be observant and deliver your observations of the changing conditions) complements the role of the skipper (gather all the information, update your plan, let the crew know what you are thinking in advance of needing something to be done).
Now put all of this together where the environment is changing: the wind, the current (more to be curious about) and other boats trying to solve that puzzle at the same time.
What emerges is what we all want our children to be – tired and compliant. Those are just the positive side effects. They’ll be competent and confident, possessing skills they can use everyday on land as well as on water. They'll develop a love for the process of learning, and mastery of an activity that engages the mind, body and spirit.
Fishy, Fishy, Fishieee
And for that, this month has been pretty stellar!
If you’ve been within earshot of the water lately, you might have noticed there’s a big commotion going on. The San Francisco herring spawn is on! For fishermen, nature lovers, and our avian brothers, this is one of those large, planet scale events, and one which you can easily witness in person.
The Pacific Coast Herring Spawn
The herring spawn offers us a short window to see the wonders of what nature has perfected over thousands of years. And lucky for us, our watery backyard is one of the rare places on the West Coast with just the right conditions needed to host such an event. Each year starting in November, hundreds of millions of Pacific Coast Herring leave the open ocean, swim under our iconic golden gate bridge and take up residence in the bay. Apparently they sort of loiter around for a few weeks, living off of their stored fat, taking in the local sights perhaps—and then all at once, and somewhat randomly, a spawn is triggered. Over a few days, a frenzy of activity occurs! The males rush into shallower waters, spraying their milt and releasing pheromones. This signals the females each of whom lay down about 20,000 very adhesive eggs. The result is a blanket of fish roe that clings to eelgrass, kelp, rocks, pilings and yes, your sailboat’s fine hull. It’s a large, large numbers game, and good thing too because...
On the opposite side of the food web, there are all sorts of animals that find the oil-rich herring and its eggs to be quite the tasty delicacy. Crustaceans, starfish, shorebirds and bottom feeders, feed on the high protein eggs. The spawning schools themselves are under aerial attack by dive-bombing cormorants, guillemots, gulls and other swimming birds. From under the waves, sea lions, seals, and porpoises engage in some spirited fishing and can be seen surfacing then slipping under water, often with some surprisingly loud breathing. Even whales are known to feed on large schools of herring. True, that’s more in the open ocean than our bay, but it has been known to happen.
Over all, the chances of surviving to the age of three, are thought to be about 50-50. Unlike salmon though, herring can reproduce each year and barring becoming someone’s dinner, live to the ripe age of ten.
Fate of the pacific herring
The future isn’t exactly pretty, but not set in stone either. Commercial fishing and egg harvesting in the bay area is regulated. California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reports that the SF Bay’s 2016-2017 Pacific herring spawning biomass was estimated at 18,300 tons. For the third year in a row, that is below the historical average 49,400 tons. Why such a dismal turnout? It is believed that the 2015-2016 El Niño event, and 2016 “Warm Blob” produced sub-optimal conditions in the northeast Pacific. Furthermore, snow melt due to 2016’s warmer spring plus a wetter winter, also reduced salinity of the Bay Area, possibly affecting the young larvae. So, yes, this year’s report (expected June) may not turn out to be the best on record, but the population numbers in the past have rebounded pretty dramatically. With one female producing about 20,000 eggs, it’s easy to understand why as Ryan Bartling, a fisheries scientist puts it, “the only predictable thing about herring is that they’re unpredictable.”
As good stewards of the world, we need to make sure the bay stays healthy. Like a nice healthy heart pumping fresh life, driving the cycle. Join us as a volunteer at our next beach clean up perhaps?
Where can I find the spawns?
To enjoy this limited time spectacle check in with our good friends at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for reports of active sites. This year Mission Bay, Paradise Cove, Brooks Island Bird Sanctuary (Point Richmond) and even our very own Alameda rockwall have been listed as active spots. The peak is usually mid-January thru February.
A good rule of thumb is to look for a large number of very squawky birds, diving ducks, snorting pinnipeds, and fishing boats. Oh and no doubt, you’ll hear me and my little herring saying, “here fishy, fishy, fishieee.”
Nothing helps bring out the smiles like a beautifully sunny day, free boat access and some tastey bbq.
Special thanks to all our volunteers that helped by captaining a boat, or captaining the grill and info desk. Our safety boats motored around our harbor as Sail Cubes, CFJ's and two of our Capri 14.2s gave free boat rides. Lots of excitement in the area with Hobie Cats launching and a Flying Dutchman enjoying the breeze.
ACSC Construction Project NewsApril 2nd and 3rd, the Alameda Community Sailing Center was buzzing with activity that had been months in the planning. This year, we added a ton of ‘organization’ to the organization! Shelving, wetsuit drying/storing section, drop down work bench, rolling carts for rudders, daggerboards and mast/spar assemblies...