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SF Fleet Week dazzles throngs by sea and sky

Hundreds of people braved the snaking lines Saturday at Pier 35 on the Embarcadero for the chance to explore combat ships bobbing pier-side as part of San Francisco’s annual Fleet Week, before the air show overhead diverted attention skyward and obliterated most normal-volume conversations.

Through the morning, groups of up to 20 people, mostly parents squeezing children’s hands to keep them from pushing unknown buttons, were guided by sailors serving in the Coast Guard, Navy and Royal Canadian Navy.

“For us, this is our day to day, but when we see the civilian populous get excited about learning about our work, it’s humbling,” said Melissa Werle, 38, who serves as a chief engineman and diesel mechanic on the Manchester, a Navy littoral combat ship.

Werle wore her typical work uniform — flame-retardant blue coveralls to protect her from the fuel, oil and hot equipment she works with every day. She even plopped a fire helmet on her head, readying for a fire safety presentation for droves of visitors exploring the interior of the ship, every inch of its walls and ceilings coated in silver anti-fire paneling.

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