Sometimes I love the logistical challenge of travel — just figuring out how to navigate a place and get where I need to go without hiring a concierge and a private driver.
I’ve just returned from a 5-night trip to the San Francisco Bay area, and while the Bay Area has a good transportation system, this was a big puzzler when it came to logistics — because a chunk of my journey was a one-way passage aboard the tall ship Lady Washington.
Look for the story in coming months of my overnight sailing voyage from Sausalito to Bodega Bay, Calif. For now, here’s my tale of “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” that helped me connect:
PLANE: I flew into San Francisco International Airport, which threw the first monkey wrench in my plans by being fogged in the morning I was to fly. The flight was delayed about a half hour. But Alaska Airlines hustled and, with the help of a tail wind, made up most of the lost time, arriving about 12:15 p.m. My aim was to get to the ship’s dock in Sausalito by 4 p.m., without renting a car (no way to return it) or paying the $60-$70 cab fare.
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TRAINS: At baggage claim I picked up my giant duffel bag full of sailing gear and got the AirTrain at SFO (free) to the BART rapid-transit station in Garage G. Hopped on the first BART train that came along and rode 30 minutes to the Embarcadero. In Seattle, you can ride light rail 45 minutes across town to the airport for $3.25. I winced at the $8.95 BART fare. Welcome to California.
FERRY: From the Embarcadero station I emerged on Market Street and walked an easy block to the ferry terminal, marked by a tower at the end of the street. Hadn’t had lunch, so I grabbed a bite and sat at an outdoor table with a view of the Bay Bridge while I waited 45 minutes to board the 2:35 p.m. ferry to Sausalito. Ticket price for the Golden Gate Ferry: $11.25 for a 30-minute crossing. No extra charge for views of Alcatraz, wind-scudding sailboats, the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate.
BUS: From the downtown Sausalito ferry terminal, I expected to either catch a cab or walk a mile to the ship’s dock, adjacent to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Bay Model, off Bridgeway. Carrying that bulky duffel, I didn’t relish the walk, but there were no cabs hanging around the ferry dock, and I’m not an Uber user. Happily, just then a Golden Gate Transit bus pulled up at a bus stop. It was $2 to ride my mile. Serendipity at a bargain price.
SHIP: The Lady Washington departed at midnight and we arrived at Bodega Bay at 3 p.m. the next day. Stayed one more night on the boat, then got the once-a-day Mendocino Transit van around the bay to my inn ($1.50).
CAR: A problem: No rental cars in Bodega Bay. I could have taken Mendocino Transit into Santa Rosa (45 minutes) to get a rental, but a kind gentleman from the local Audubon Society, who was my tour guide the next day, offered me a ride to the Santa Rosa airport, not far from his home. There, I rented a two-seater Smart car. $75 for two days, plus $17 for gas, while I toured Sonoma and Marin counties to gather material for other future stories.
AIRPORT SHUTTLE: At the end of my visit, I returned the car to Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (the “Peanuts” creator lived in Santa Rosa) and caught the local Airport Express bus back to SFO (2 hours, $34) to catch my plane home.
I made every connection without a hitch and felt a little pride in my planning. It wasn’t an exotic destination, but it had its tricks.
Tip: If you make plans this complicated, give yourself plenty of spare time between connections. You never know when traffic will snarl, or a bus will break down (like the stranded airport shuttle we passed on Highway 101). When I saw the security-check line at SFO snaking far across the terminal yesterday, I was glad I’d caught the shuttle an hour earlier than I really needed to. If you end up early at your airport gate, it’s a fine time to catch up on reading, emailing your Aunt Jane in Poughkeepsie, or just looking out the window at sights such as this Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, making its way to the terminal.