Blue Frontier Brings Aloha Spirit (and a Blue Movement Guide) to SF Waterfront
August 3, 2005
By David Helvarg
I knew when I saw the stingray winging its way through the shallows behind San Francisco’s Bay View Boat Club that we were going to have a whale of a party. A few days earlier I’d spotted a sea otter inside the Golden Gate, a rare local sighting of one of these terminally cute but voracious marine weasels. Friday July 29 was a bright blue day with temperatures in the mid-70s as we began preparing the scene: tossing light blue tablecloths over the outdoor tables and converting the club’s pool table into a formal cutlery station with a large vase of Hawaiian flowers as a centerpiece. More exotic flowers from Tropical Colors, marine-themed chocolates from Endangered Species Chocolate Company and hardy volunteers offloading trays of delicious and sustainable seafood added to our expectations of a good time.
Established in 1962 by local salts, the Boat Club, a yellow and blue trimmed wooden building on the China Basin waterfront next to an old rail-loading dock has gained something of a pirate reputation. Still we had more than enough swag for their Commodore or anyone else channeling Sir Francis Drake (the privateer who explored California’s coast in the late 16th century). Our booty included the usual assortment of fish beads, ‘Seaweed Rebel’ tee-shirts, brochures, posters, copies of ‘Blue Frontier’ and our new ‘Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide 2005-2006’ the book we’d be launching at this ‘Celebration of the Sea’ Aye.
By 7:30 a crowd as brightly colored as a school of parrotfish had formed and were beginning to shake their tails. More than 100 people circulated from the indoor bar to the outdoor wine station (a delicious choice of syrah or naked chardonnay donated by the central coast surfers at Four Vines Winery) and on to the lawn below the waterside deck where skilled musicians and hula dancers from the Hawaiian group Kapalakiko performed throughout the evening.
Good fresh eats were provided by the Monterey Fish Market and prepared by top local restaurants including the Hayes Street Grill which provided chive and smoked trout toast, Jardiniere which donated local seabass baked with lemon aioli, green and red onions and avocado spread, as well as a local goat milk cheese spread on melba toast with heirloom cherry tomatoes. The ACME Chophouse provided a big tray of guilt free shrimp trap-caught off Georgia with no resulting bycatch of non-target species, also a delicious California squid salad. The centerpiece of the food table however (prepared by volunteers Ty and Dennis) was a 20-pound local halibut served (upon its cucumber cushioned remains) as coconut ceviche, sashimi with ponzu, nigiri and sushi rolls. Yumm. Personally, in this fish-eat-fish world, I’ll eat any fish or crustacean that has a fighting chance of maintaining its abundance in the wild.
Well sated and with darkness falling, I said a few words to the crowd as did two of BFC’s advisory board members, Peter Douglas, Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission (a model government agency) and Zeke Grader, ED of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (a commercial fishing group dedicated to a sustainable and healthy marine environment). Our common theme seemed to be that while our public seas are facing tremendous risks from cascading disasters linked to human activities, there is also hope and practical solutions being offered by the expanding ‘seaweed’ (marine grassroots) efforts of the many groups identified in our new Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide.
Some of these groups were also in attendance including folks from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, The Ocean Conservancy, The Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Save Our Shores, Yellow Ferry Harbor, the Blue Water Network, the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival and others both old pod mates and new. Among our newer friends – from my old neighborhood – was a delegation from the College of Marin, a Junior college working to transform itself into a center of excellence for marine education and research (and a hopeful add on for the ‘Marine Schools and Science Centers’ section of the 2007-2008 edition of our Guide). Other delegations in attendance included a mostly young but sharp group from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a philanthropic fund that has spent prodigiously to protect those heroic Homeric, culturally emblematic (and tasty) travelers of both river and sea, the salmons.
The late environmental activist and archdruid David Brower once told me that the point of conferences was to go drinking afterwards because that’s where all the strategizing takes place. In lieu of a conference our ‘Celebration of the Sea’ fundraiser and book party proved a great opportunity for people to network and become acquainted with our Guide (published by Island Press). It was also an all-volunteer effort with extra special sea stars awarded to Michael Alguire, Lea Bonfiglio, Ty Brookhart, Jean Logan, Alison Loomis, Jeff Oppenheimer, and Gail Richard (who all opted to return them to their tidepools).
The evening wound down around midnight, though at least one after-party continued strategizing past 2am (expect additional lawsuits, demonstrations and mobilizations on behalf of our living seas). As Low-income housing advocate and BFC friend Buck Bagot noted, “As a field organizer I forget how important it can be for an organization to throw a great party. This was one of the best events I ever attended.” or as Sacramento attorney, surfer and activist Stuart Smits remarked “The venue was perfect, the cuisine rocked, the wine was perfecto, the remarks were inspiring and right on, and the vibe was Muy Tranquillo.”
Concluded Katy Franklin, “This put the fun back in fundraiser!”
If Martha Stewart wants the secret it’s lots of seaweed rebels lightly sprinkled with saltwater.
–David Helvarg, Blue Frontier Campaign