Boat Rides

San Francisco ferry docks, Embarcadero

This week we’re experiencing wildfires in my county and adjacent counties in Northern California. This time, the fire skipped over us.


Those in my community who have not been evacuated have watery eyes and sore throats from the intense smoke, and breathing is a struggle. The sun is coppery from the toxic pall, and ashes have been falling for days. Our brave firefighters keep going.


I’m locked in, mending broken bones and staying distanced in a pandemic; so let’s do that virtual thing and focus on boat rides and the freshness of clean, moving air and abundant water.


The San Francisco Bay offers many opportunities to climb aboard. One day two years ago we took a birding charter on a winter day.


It was during the bird migration, so we saw loads of birds and sea lions, too.

Gulls and Sailboat, San Francisco Bay, California


A raft of sea lions, San Francisco Bay


Sailboats and Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA


You can take a boat to Alcatraz.

Alcatraz Island


Or hop on a commuter ferry across the Bay. These days, masks and social distancing are required.

Ferry boat, The San Francisco. Athena on the top deck in 2018.


In 2018 and 2019 we enjoyed Fourth of July fireworks cruises on the San Francisco Bay. Hopefully next year that will be happening again.

San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18


While birding, we often take boats to small islands. This was a boat we took in the West Indies with the goal of seeing tropicbirds…which we found.

Boat guide and captain, headed for Little Tobago Island in the West Indies


Red-billed Tropicbird, Little Tobago Island, West Indies


River boating is also fun for birding. Some years ago, our guide Armando and his captain friend took us on this wooden outboard motorboat in Mexico.

Armando and the boatman, Mexico. Photo: Athena Alexandra.


I always put my hand in the water when I’m in a low-lying boat, I like to feel the temperature of the water. But not on our pontoon boat ride through the Okefenokee Swamp.

Alligator and Spanish Moss, Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia.


Last summer we signed up for a half-day trip on this paddle-wheeler riverboat. We were curious to know what being on the Columbia River was like. It was super windy and a blast in every way.

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler, Oregon


Here’s a live-aboard I was on for a week, years ago, visiting the Galapagos Islands. The Diamante. We slept on the boat at night and hiked different islands during the day.

Galapagos Islands, our living quarters for a week. Photo: Athena Alexander


Fishing and small boats are a livelihood for many.

Zambia, Africa. Photo: Athena Alexander.


Fishing boats, Lake Baringo, Kenya, Africa. Photo: Athena Alexander.


The Sydney Harbor has a lively array of boats coming and going all day and night. We caught a ferry to the Taronga Zoo, and had an exhilarating time observing the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and local sail boats.

Sydney Harbour Bridge. Photo: Athena Alexander.


Motorized canoes on an Amazon tributary–they move just fast enough to keep the mosquitoes from biting.

Athena and I are on this boat. Photo: Bill Page.


We’re lucky to have water and boats all over this planet, and someday soon our Bay Area fires will stop, the air will clear, and I’ll be back onboard another great vessel. Thanks for joining me, matey.


Written by Jet Eliot.

Most photos by Athena Alexander.

Jet. It’s always fun to go under the GG Bridge. Photo: Athena Alexander.


77 thoughts on “Boat Rides

  1. As soon as I saw the news about the fires I thought of you. Thanks for checking in today. Internet friends are still real friends, and we worry. Hope all the madness passes you by this time. You deserve a respite.

    • Dear Craig, this is such a kind message, thank you. I knew my WP friends would be wondering and concerned, and your warm words confirm it. Thanks so much for your friendship and good wishes. Sending a smile to you, my friend.

  2. I’m relieved to hear the fires missed you. I thought about you guys when I heard the news. I hope your community will remain out of harms way. Thanks for taking us along on the boat rides, you brought back a lot of memories of my trip to San Francisco. I remember freezing on the boat trip to Alcatraz Island! Stay safe!

    • The fires merely skipped over our house, but many people in the community have been evacuated as the fires burn on. So your well wishes are most appreciated, Jill, and we hope for the containment and their return. I’m glad you enjoyed the boat rides today, and you’re right it is almost always very cold on the SF boats, espec. in summer. Many thanks.

  3. So many great photos! Did you break a bone, Jet? I hope not. We occasionally get Smoke Fog in Las Vegas from the fires, I do hope they are out soon. Big respect for the people who are battling the fires.

    • Glad you enjoyed the boat photos, John, I love going on boat rides and am happy I could share a few here. Yes, I broke three bones in my ankle, a hiking fall, slipped on scree. The bones have healed and now I’m working on rehab and getting the soft tissues to heal. I am starting to walk again, but gingerly and slowly. I’m with you, John, big respect for the firefighters. I think of you when I encounter a fire truck on the streets and wave a salute of respect, now, having learned it from you. Thank you, my friend.

  4. Jet we too are relieved to hear from you. Our niece and family needed to evacuate quickly. From the media reports here it is hard to get a good sense of exactly where the fires are. I also caught the note about mending broken bones? As in plural? Hoping you are all right.

    • The fires are moving quickly, so I’m not surprised your niece and family had to evacuate quickly, Sue. I go to the window frequently, checking to make sure flames are not coming our way, it’s unsettling. I hope for her safety and well being. Yes, I had a hiking fall in May, slipped on scree and had a pretty bad fall, breaking three bones in my ankle. The bones are healed now, thank goodness, and I’m working on building my leg and foot back. I learned a new appreciation for nurses and hard-working medical professionals, and thought of you, my friend. Am hanging in there, and hope for better days. Thanks ever so much, enjoy your weekend and my best to you and Dave.

  5. Thank you for taking us along on your virtual water adventures, such a treat and a wonderful escape. I think I like these trips better through your eyes and Athena’s photos than I would if went in person! I’m sorry you’re nursing broken bones and hope you recover fast. I suppose that if you have to be home-bound, the time of this awful pandemic is a good time for it. I saw a big news story about those scary fires just this morning. Your notes make them seem even more real.

    • Great fun to share a few of our water adventures with you, Susan, thanks for your visit. It’s actually not a very good time to be home-bound because the smoke is so bad we can’t even open the windows or go outside. But surely the fires will stop someday and I’m looking forward to that day. Until then, thanks so much for cruising the waters with me today.

  6. Sorry to hear about your fall and broken bones. That’s going to take a long time to heal, but you’re young enough yet that it will mend. Your adventures all over the world sure have provided you with a lot of good memories, and Athena’s photos help to keep those fresh. Thanks for sharing them with us. I sure hope the fires are soon under control. It’s heartbreaking to see the damage done by them. And by the way, Jet, I enjoyed your book.

    • It is heartening to hear you enjoyed Wicked Walkabout, Anneli, thanks so much for the feedback. My next one is plotted, takes place in the Wine Country, but it’s a long way out still. You are an experienced novelist yourself, you know how that goes. The other challenges are moving along, broken bones, wildfires, pandemic, things should settle out soon. Thank you for your kind and warm words, my friend.

  7. You took us everywhere today, Jet. I love that paddle wheeler. The photos of the f,ores are horrific. Praying for safety for all involved!! I’ve never been in smoke that bad, but sometimes in Wyoming we’ve smelled/seen smoke from fires and it’s not rum.

  8. i’m relieved that you and Athena are safe from the fires and keep mending from a broken bone.
    what a delightful boat ride across the globe this morning, Jet. thank you as always. love the red-billed bird! take care and stay safe. 🙂

    • Hi Wilma, so very nice to have you stop by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the boat ride across the globe with us today. Yes, that red-billed tropicbird is a very special bird, not easy to see. Worth it to take a boat ride to the island and hike to the top. They’re sea birds and usually very far away from land, but this remote island hosts them. David Attenborough visited this island to see the birds here, too. Thanks for your well wishes and visit, Wilma. I hope your weekend is fun and you get to visit your beautiful Mallard Lake.

  9. Jet, it’s good to know you have been spared but I’m sorry to hear about the mending bones and foul air. And despite all that you created a charming, uplifting post. Thanks! Stay safe and healthy my friend. tom

    • Always a great pleasure to hear from you, Tom, I am smiling as I type. I appreciate your feedback on the writing, and am glad to hear I was successful with my goal. You, too, stay safe. With you visiting here, it must mean you’ve posted another travel adventure, looking forward to it.

  10. Hope the healing progress continues well. I suspect that full recovery it is a long process because of the location of the injuries and their severity. Thanks for taking us on multiple voyages today. I have some experiences with ships, including a transatlantic round trip and a river boat tour from Moscow to St Petersburg, but beyond that, there has been only the occasional tourist trips to places like Alcatraz and in the Seattle area. What I particularly enjoyed about the boats that you shared today, Jet, was their diverse sizes and configurations and, of course, the worldwide locations in which you voyaged.

    • It’s fun to think about all the places we have been in boats, and your adventures sound like great fun, Mike. I did try to include some of the different kinds of boats here, as there are so many, and am glad you enjoyed that. And yes, the healing is a long process, it’s the soft tissue and nerves that I’m working on now. But the good news is, I have a body that heals and that is a truly wonderful thing. Always a joy to hear from you, Mike, thanks so much. We have green darners here every night around sunset now, I think of you, Mr. Dragonfly. 😀

  11. Amazed at how cheerful and upbeat you’re managing to be, in spite of the broken foot and unbreathable air, hon. One misadventure to the next! Can only get better, she says, hopefully… 🙂 🙂

    • Thanks for your warm comment, Jo. I find cheerful and upbeat is the best for me, and attitude is one thing I have control of. Looking forward to walking again, and until then I have your wonderful posts to get me around. My thanks.

  12. That was a blast! I would enjoy hearing the full story recalled every single shot…wow, you two travel so much! Are you a pro nature or travel writer/photographer team? Should be!!
    I’m sorry to hear of the bones hurt but healing–rest well. And the fires—yes, we have them spreading in Oregon, as well. A last note that I love our Columbia River and that stern wheeler–and have enjoyed that trip many times! Thanks for the good post.

    • I so enjoyed your comment, Cynthia, thank you. Athena and I made a lifestyle commitment 20 years ago to focus our future on birding and nature and travel, and we’ve stayed true to it. We have made sacrifices and decisions along the way, and continue to reap the benefits. I’m so glad you can share in some of the joy here. I love knowing that you have taken that stern-wheeler cruise. We so enjoyed it, and the Columbia Gorge is one of the most beautiful spots in this country, so how wonderful that you have had the good fortune to embrace this breathtaking wonder. Many thanks.

  13. Some great shots – especially love the seagull and Alcatraz – makes me feel cooler just to see the GG bridge. Thanks! I think I will watch Dr Zhivago – snow and ice galore.

    • From one fellow Bay Area resident to another. Great comment, Jan. I think watching Dr. Zhivago, with all those frigid, snowy scenes, is the perfect solution for our parched and burning state. My warmest thanks.

  14. Oh no! Broken bones, glad you are able to walk again. Also glad that the fires passed you by, and sorry for all the people who are affected (again). Nice to read your post which takes us on boats all over the world, good idea to post this. Wishing you all the best, before you know it you’ll be running again. 🙂

    • So very nice to hear from you today, Bertie. I was so happy to get your email, too, and will respond soon. I am delighted to know you are doing well, and thank you for your good wishes. Sending you lots of smiles….

  15. I’m glad we had permission to come aboard and join you on these nautical adventures, Jet! The wildfires are troubling, and it can’t be easy remembering what happened to your home so recently. Throw in a pandemic, being more housebound than you’re used to, and no wonder taking to the water seems so attractive. I hope things improve soon, on all fronts!
    We had an aborted voyage ourselves earlier this week. We were going to head up and down the inlet, reinforcing skills learnt earlier. Would the starboard engine fire up? Nope! Prompting an elder to comment “…and this is why we carve our canoes!”
    Take care and stay safe!

    • I thought of you when I composed this post, pc, because of all the great photos you offer of the boats and harbors in your adventures. Glad that you could join me on mine today. I also laughed out loud at your elder’s response to the engine failure. I think carved canoes are very interesting crafts, and would’ve loved to learn more from your elder. I can only imagine how fascinating your days are, though not without their exhausting aspects, too, I’m sure. My warmest thanks for your visit, good wishes, and anecdote today. Hoping your grief is bearable, and your weekend serene.

  16. Sorry to hear of the fires, but glad you aren’t fleeing your (only recently) refurbished home. I wish the fires are contained soon and your air clears. My niece lives just south of the Santa Cruz fires, same story there. Downright scary when you live on a canyon road that is your only means of escape. 😦
    Loved the boating photos, you two seemed to have traveled everywhere! I guess it might be easier to ask where you haven’t been? 😉

    • A true pleasure to hear from you, Eliza. Yes, it is downright scary to live in this area that has now turned into a fire zone for so much of the year. It was never like this before and is a sign of the warming planet, to be sure. I hope your niece is okay. Glad you liked the boating photos, it was great fun to put together. We travel with one goal: observing wildlife. So we avoid cities and head for the wilderness. There are many places we would like to go to, which is a standard element of the travel bug, but are happy with the memories of where we have had the fortune to visit. For now, this week, we’re just happy our home didn’t go up in flames again. A delight to hear from you, Eliza, thanks so much.

  17. what great boat tours you have been on. Glad the fires have skipped you this time – hope it stays that way
    Stay safe

    • And one of the boat tours I didn’t include here was that marvelous cruise along the St. Marys River that you captained for us, Bill. Looking forward to more in the future when travel is safe again. Until then, my warmest thanks for your wonderful visit today.

  18. Thanks for the uplifting photos. We all need it. Politics and climate seem to be insurmountable issues. I hope we all do something before it is too late. Glad you escaped this fire.

    • Hi Sherry. I have a headful of responses to your comment, in total agreement to you, but I refrain from talking my politics on this blog. I send you my warmest smiles and thanks, and am hoping your house hunt continues to evolve toward a dream come true.

  19. Great theme for a post! I loved seeing snippets of all these boating adventures. I also enjoy opportunities to explore by boat. We don’t currently have any fires near us, but we do have smoky skies and it is dry and very hot. Stay safe and cool, Jet.

    • Many thanks for your visit and comment today, Eilene. I am glad you enjoyed the boating adventures, and liked hearing it is something you enjoy, too. I realized when I was composing this post that I would not find the boating adventures nearly as fun or freeing if I had to operate or co-operate the boat, a funny realization. You, too, stay safe and cool, Eilene.

  20. Hi Jet, I’m so glad the fire skipped over you this time. You’ve been in my thoughts as I see images of those horrific fires burning. Thanks for sharing some of your amazing boat rides from around the world. Let’s hope those fires are put out soon and your ankle heals up good as new. – Ingrid😊

    • Oh so very nice to hear from you, Ingrid. Thanks so much for your thoughts and concern, and yes, let’s hope those fires are extinguished soon. My ankle is getting better with each new day. Thanks so much, my friend.

  21. I smiled at your comment that you wouldn’t enjoy some of these trips so much if you had to operate the boat. I’m just the opposite — I enjoy the process of sailing as much as being carried as a passenger. Of course, being a member of a crew is just as good — there’s a lot of fun in that, too. (And some effort and discipline, of course!)

    I so enjoyed seeing the variety of vessels. From a canoe to a sternwheeler, they all would be delightful. And I’m so pleased to hear that your bones have healed, and the fires missed you. You were one of the first people I thought of when the fires began, and I hope you can escape any effects from them this time.

    • I spend a lot of time birdwatching when I’m on a boat, so it’s great to not think about the mechanics of moving it. But I know there are people who find it invigorating and exciting to commandeer a boat, and I am so glad there are those who do, works well for me. I like knowing that you enjoy the rigors and experience of operating a boat, Linda. Glad you enjoyed the different vessels, too; it’s quite a vast world that I could only begin to touch upon here. And thanks so much for your warm wishes and thoughts on the fires. You and I both hope that these menacing fires will be contained soon. My warmest thanks and a big smile to you.

    • It is fun birding from a boat, and oh how glad I am that you have experienced the joys of this in Chesapeake Bay, Donna. Pelagic birding on the ocean is a bit trickier for me to stomach, literally, but the bays are so great. Many thanks for your wonderful comment and visit today.

  22. I have a hard time keeping up with the news these days. Seems like I was taking a breather, but immediately wondered about you when I heard of the fires all around the Bay Area… AGAIN!!! How utterly unsettling it must be. And to have the broken bones besides. Nearly a decade ago, I splintered an ankle and had to have a pin put in it. Not allowed to put any weight on it with only a splint holding it together for a couple of months. But the good (great) news is that I hardly remember that break because it all healed back to normal…. eventually! Sure seemed to take a long time with physical therapy having to literally break loose the frozen muscles and tendons. There’s a profession sent right from heaven. Don’t know if you’ll experience the pain once you get to moving again… but I accidentally discovered that walking in beach sand barefoot helped a huge lot. As for smoke and nearby fires… at least you were spared this time (thank heavens!!!), but I’m right there with you remembering the first summer/fall in this house when we had smoke like you describe and burning ash drifting over the house.

    Heal!! Stay safe and well and best wishes to Athena. Hoping the smoke clears soon! Loved all the boats.

    • Dear Gunta, I very much enjoyed your warm words and ankle story, very reassuring. I’m now living with 9 screws and a plate in my ankle, and it is taking a long time to heal, and the pain has lasted a very long time, just like you describe. It is progressing just like the medical professionals said (and you, here), so I literally limp along, do the rehab work, and I am getting better with each new day. Re fires, it is a terribly smoky scene, and we tire of being sealed in, but know it could be much worse, so we try to stay occupied and not worry. I am sick about what others in my community are going through, for I know it too well, and hope the fires are contained soon. It’s been a week that the fires have raged on. Looks like I’ll be doing another boat/water post for this Friday, too. Thanks so much for your kindness and reassurance, and sending my best to you.

  23. Thanks for the getaway in all kinds of boats and waterways, Jet. It makes me yearn for the SF Bay. And brought back good memories of travels. So glad to hear you dodged the latest string of fires…scary times and the air quality issues are an added health challenge. Glad your ankle is healing and your rehab is progressing. Here’s hoping for better days ahead for California. 💙

    • I have spent much time on the SF Bay, and I know you intimately know that magical place well too, Jane. Your photos of the SF Bay are outstanding, and even though you’re not living here now, oh my how you have some great photos to remind you. And since the air in the Bay Area is so choked with smoke, it’s probably not too bad to live elsewhere right now. I’m hoping the air where you live in SoCal is not too bad, and yes, let’s hope for better day for our beloved Calif. Always a joy to hear from you, my friend.

      • Aw, thanks, Jet. The air quality is fine here right now. The fires close to LA seem to be under control for the moment. I was feeling melancholy going through my CA images for my homage this week. Such fragile beauty all around us. Take care.

  24. I adore this Waterways of the World post!
    It does make me feel cool, refreshed (except Okefenokee Swamp,)
    So hard to hear about the wildfires. They seem more relentless every year, and I am glad they have missed your home.
    As I recall, you have already been displaced by fire, at least once!
    You and Athena take care!

    • Glad you enjoyed boating along the waterways with us, Resa. The fires continue to burn all over California, all from lightning storms two weeks ago. The one near our house is now 63% contained, 375k burned acres, it’s awful, but they’re over half-way there now to extinguishing it. Thank you for your warm wishes, and sending smiles back to you.

  25. So glad to hear that the fire skipped this time. I remember the photos you posted a few year ago about the fire…
    I love the image of the birding charter especially. Thank you so much, Jet for the boat rides. 🙂

  26. I feel as though I have just whisked around the world Jet. Thank you for the refreshing tour by boat. wonderful to feel the sea air and run a hand in the water. Well other than in the swamp where it might become lunch. wishing you continued healing and clear skies ahead. We can hope for more boat rides in the not too distant future.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the worldwide boat rides, Sue. And I agree with you, it won’t be long before we’re back on the boats. Until then, I send my best wishes to you and Dave for a safe and happy weekend ahead.

  27. What a lovely, refreshing post – especially since it’s written in trying times. You are a wonder, Jet – and much appreciated and well-loved. I am grateful that I’ve been on several of these boat rides with you!

    • You know me, Nan, I can never get enough boat rides. Even when they make me sick as a dog I still keep climbing back on board. I’m so grateful we’ve had many boat rides together…so many I couldn’t fit them all in here! Love and thanks to you.

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