Maritime meandering

Sausalito’s earlier incarnation was as a fishing port, andalthough you wouldn’t know it by visiting the bayside Bridgewaystreet, it’s still very much a port town. Just 1 mile north ofdowntown, you can wander along the waterfront past marinas, docks,houseboat communities, and working boatyards.

Perhaps the most unusual sight along this walk is the Arques School of Traditional Wooden Boatbuilding (open Tue-Sat; Road Three, off Harbor Dr.; or415/331-7134). Established in 1996 to teach skilledapprentices, the school also offers Saturday workshops forbeginners. The process is both fascinating and beautiful: as theschool’s founder, Robert Darr, says, “It’s hard to find any otherbranch of woodworking that’s nearly as creative. The boats are likesculptures.” Between noon and 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, youcan stop in to watch students casting, bronzing, and lofting. Orpeek through a porthole anytime.

The Arques School is in the heart of one of the town’s largesthouseboat communities. Because all of the docks cross publictidelands, you’re welcome to wander around these floatingneighborhoods, checking out the sometimes eccentricdesigns―look for the floating Taj Mahal.

Just south of the boatbuilding school, stop at Marinship Park for a look at the colorful mosaic mural bythe late painter Jean Varda, one of the many artists who settledhere after the war. Around 1946, after wartime industries droppedoff, there was a surplus of affordable housing here, so manyartists were drawn by cheap rent and the cosmopolitan feel ofSausalito.

A bit further south is the Bay Model (closed Mon; 2100 Bridgeway; 415/332-3870). Best known for its hydraulic model of the SanFrancisco Bay and delta―a reproduction that spans 1 1/2 acresand includes replicas of the area’s ship channels, rivers, creeks,and sloughs―the Bay Model also has a small museum thatprovides a fascinating primer on Sausalito’s shipbuilding roleduring World War II. The building itself was constructed in 1942 aspart of the Marinship complex, a facility created for themanufacturing of Liberty Ships and T2 tankers. Between 1942 and’45, a total of 93 ships were churned out here―roughly oneevery three weeks. Exhibits bring the wartime era to life andexplain why the boatbuilding culture here is still soentrenched.Sausalito0603Waterfront.jpg align=right>

As you continue toward downtown, stop for a rest at Schoonmaker Beach (at the end of Liberty Ship Way) and lunch at the Waterfront Cafe (85 Liberty Ship Way; 415/332-5625).

Note: The Bay Model Visitor Center sells an aerial-view map ofSausalito ($4) that’s useful for this walk.

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