Fleet Week, which is more like Fleet Week-and-a-Half, kept doing its spectacular and very loud thing in the skies above San Francisco Bay on Saturday and Sunday.
Tens of thousands of people showed up. Some of them sat on their fathers’ shoulders, but most of them settled for a blanket or a bench or a small swatch of the Marina Green.
The biplanes and parachutists performed their various warm-up acts before the Blue Angels took over and gave countless people a sore neck from all that looking up.
There was no parade of ships on Saturday — that’s all over with, until next year — which means that the great, gray vessels were all tied up at their piers and ready to welcome aboard the civilian landlubbers.
The Winnipeg, a Canadian navy frigate, was bobbing at Pier 15 and, unlike the cruise ships that dock just down the way, it didn’t cost $1,000 to go aboard. Admission was free, the Americans and the Canadians being best pals.
Fleet Week visitors could check out the vessel’s many fine features, such as the things that launch the torpedoes, the missiles and the armor-piercing projectiles.
Konnor Brett, the lieutenant in charge of the ship’s scuba team, said he and his mates go underwater whenever the captain suspects a bad guy might have planted a mine on the Winnipeg’s hull. That did not come up during the ship’s visit to San Francisco. Brett said the biggest hazard to the crew were the high restaurant prices along the Embarcadero.
“Fifteen dollars for a hamburger,” he said. “That’s 20 dollars Canadian.”
Seaman Berge Hamian passed out complimentary stickers, pins, flags, candy and posters. On the U.S. Navy ships, there are no freebies, the military budget being what it is.
Matthew Tang, 14, of Alamo, got a sticker. He said that he “liked seeing how the Canadian navy does things” and that the giant guns made an impression.
“It reminds me of the ship in the game ‘Battleship,’” he said. “They look about the same, except a real ship is much bigger.”
On shore, souvenir vendors plied their fine wares. T-shirts were $20, caps were $25, and T-shirt and hat bought together were $30.
There were model Blue Angel F/A-18 jets for $5, $8, $10 and $15. Vendor M.K. Olaes said the $15 one actually flies. It has a tiny spring inside, which, she said, is not the same propulsion system that makes an actual Blue Angel plane fly.
“Don’t point it at the bay because, if it lands in the water, you’ll lose it,” she said, adding that the rule applies to real F/A-18 jets as well.
The pedicabs were out in record numbers, offering to haul visitors to Fisherman’s Wharf for $30 and to the Marina Green for $40. During Fleet Week, it seems all pedicabs are in service. Their operators buzzed along the waterfront like their airborne brethren buzzed overhead.
Jasper Lufkin has been pedaling a cab for three years and said Fleet Week isn’t as great for a pedicab pedaler as one might think.
“There’s more people but there’s more competition, too,” he said, pointing to the line of waiting pedicabs behind him, which was nine pedicabs long. “Lots of competition, chaos and anxiety during Fleet Week.”
Fleet Week continues into its second week on Sunday with the final air show beginning at noon, weather permitting. The Blue Angels, which begin zipping around at 3 p.m., are the show’s closing act. On Monday, four ships — the Canadian ship Winnipeg and the U.S. ships Stratton, Champion and Essex — will be open for free public tours. For information, visit www.fleetweeksf.org.
And Fleet Week wasn’t the only free, noisy thing taking place in San Francisco, as the second day of the fabled Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival was attracting its own sea of blanket sitters in the middle of Golden Gate Park, well within earshot of the Blue Angels. The music, like the precision flying, concludes on Sunday with equally exquisite harmony.