Tag Archives: Maritime National Historical Park

Kaboom! Holy Moly I Was Almost On Fire, Best Kayaking 4th of July in Aquatic Park SF By Stacy Poulos PostcardTravelers

kayak path 4th of July aquatic park sf Postcard Travelers
kayak path 4th of July aquatic park sf Postcard Travelers

See the video below for my tour of the day.

NOAA Chart 18649
NOAA Tides

Willy Weather  

Kaboom! I can take this off my bucket list, being directly under the projection of the fireworks at the Aquatic Park Historic District pier!  We put-in our boat and launched at Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco, California. Hovering  under the pier A little too close for comfort, until the fireworks unsuspectedly started. The current kept making us drift quickly away so we hovered under the pier. We even had all our lights off to save batteries, so we were in the dark. The first echoing Kaboom explosions under the pier were un-describable. Enough to rattle your nerves! I was deeper under the pier being in the back of the boat looking out at Ghirardelli Square. *In this video I said ‘last time I got in trouble’. It was because I got too close to the  Historic boats. There were no signs that I could see at the time. It is kind of roped off with buoys. This time we stayed further away out side the line. One way or another, I recommend this spot. During the day there is a live concert  on shore. We had a back stage pass, a nice little additive to the day. The yellow box with the star is where the fireworks barge is. The Teal Green boater is where we hovered until the fireworks started. 

fireworks projection san francisco Aquatic Park
fireworks projection san francisco Aquatic Park

However, I don’t recommend right there. Much too close. Instead bring a anchor at least 20 feet long and hover at a safe distance like we are in the photo below. To the left and center of the park here we are look at the Municipal Pier a posed to being under it!



Live Concert at Ghirardelli Square 4th of July
Live Concert at Ghirardelli Square 4th of July


So, planning for next year. I recommend going here. Be more prepared. I do own a kayak anchor. When I looked at the Coast Guard Map it said it was around 7-14 feet deep in the area but there is only one marker and I didn’t think my anchor was that long. Besides it being a pain to add more weight. Next time I will bring one for sure! If your planning on hovering in the ocean, there is always a current. Anyway, below is a live interactive google map with all my notes for 4th of July over the years in the SF Bay. If you click on any icon, it will zoom into that note.  When you click on  ‘Aquatic Park Historic District‘ And look at the orange line that was our path in 2017. To the upper left of the map are my notes, that little box’ie icon on the upper top left corner opens the notes, click on anything at it will bring you to the spot on the map. Bottom right is the + and – zoom button. You can then close the notes with the left arrow it to get the notes out of the way. I also have a layer of land notes, where I intend to go for a city hike and check out the same area on land someday.


Aquatic Park Historic District pier  Ghirardelli Square 4th of July
Aquatic Park Historic District pier Ghirardelli Square 4th of July


Launching on Hyde Street Pier AquaticPark. I’m not sure you can launch out of the museum. Since the public beach was full of people we couldn’t go their.

#SanFrancisco Maritime National Historical Park

Coordinates 37.8063°N 122.424°W

History of the 4th –
I think this is one of the safer and best spots in the San Francisco bay to view the fireworks from land or water. If you know the History of the 4th, or Independence Day and the inspiration to our National Anthem, you would know the 4th of July is meant to replicate what Francis Scott Key seen on that fateful day in 1812. He was a British lawyer on the French Ship; HMS Tonnant negotiating a British prisoner exchange were he was to negotiate the release of prisoners, during the Battle of Baltimore at Fort McHenry. (The only other place that can possibly top this spot). Key learned too much about the French’s attack on the British, so they kept him a prisoner as well. So all during that night Key witnessed the fireworks in the bay of Fort McHenry. In the morning when the fireworks stopped, and lack of communication the only way to know who won the battle was the American flag still standing. He wrote a poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, that later became the lyrics to ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.

Photo: Battle of Baltimore 1812 or Aquatic Park SF 2017?

Bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British
Bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British

History https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Baltimore

So why is this the best spot? First of all, the Maritime National Historical Park is situated inside Aquatic Park San Francisco… in the water! There are period ships to set the perfect scenery of what the bay may have looked like. The ships are much younger in the park; like the Balclutha 1886 and the C. A. Thayer 1895 but look very similar. Add a dark sky with a silhouette of the old ships sails from the 1800’s lit up by fireworks, well you’ll get the picture and full effect. A lot of people don’t know this History, so why do I? I wrote a book report in the 4th or 5th grade about it. I found it fascinating that people were so affected and heart felt over a song, it inspired me to want to write music. So now you know. Now let’s let Key set the story and imagine the background.


Lyrics & Music  [link]

Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there. Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

SanFrancisco Maritime National Historical Park Below
SanFrancisco Maritime National Historical Park
Fireworks Francis Scott Key, 1779–1843

Lyrics link

Text: Francis Scott Key, 1779–1843

Music: John Stafford Smith, 1750–1836

So we won. And every year we celebrate this day in a grand way.

Reason 2, why it’s the best place to kayak on the 4th? The park is protected by a breakwater pier. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t strong currents, but it’s a protected area and larger boats can only go 5 mph. There are actually crazy swimmers swimming at night. There are police and coastguards near by. Of course if you don’t have a walkie talkie that wont do you any good. So it is most watched by land and sea.

Next good reason, the fireworks barge is directly on the other side of the pier and they project the firework into the park. Giving the people on land and sea one hell of a show! Wow!! We hovered under the pier until the fireworks started because the current was so strong it kept making us struggle to stay in one spot. On land you can walk and board the ships.

Aquatic Park SF NOAA map chart 18649
Aquatic Park SF NOAA map chart 18649


The depth in the park looks to be 7 to 14 feet deep. Of course I wouldn’t recommend where I was, the first fireworks rattled me to the core. Being under the pier echoed the effect in such away that you felt you were in a war being bombed. Not sure your supposed to be under there but we needed to be protected by the current. Eventually we let loose and drifted to the center of the park facing the fireworks and current. It was foggy as SF is, but it also had a unique effect in it’s self.

Dolphin Swim & Boat Club and South End Rowing Club
Dolphin Swim & Boat Club and South End Rowing Club

We Put-in at Hyde Street Park. I’m not gonna lie, I’m not sure your supposed to. I heard there was a public beach launch to the left of the photo but it was all blocked for pedestrians to view the show on shore. Since we got out next door to the rowing and dolphin club, I assume they assumed we were with them. Frankly it’s not fair there aren’t more safe put in areas for the public to launch. So you might want to try to arrange something or find out the real rules. We parked our car in the red zone on Hyde street, dropped the boat off onto the side walk, my friend parked the truck while I waited.  We communicated through walkie takies, which I highly recommend getting water proof ones even if you don’t think you need them. You don’t want to kill your phone batteries trying to communicate and it’s a pain other wise. I will list my personal favorite things kayaking. Eventually we walked the kayak through the crowded street.

Live Concert at Ghirardelli Square 4th of July

So, the park is not that big to explore a whole day, and if your going out side the park it should be done in much better conditions. You can putt around the park and see the ships below, just don’t get too close or they get mad. To the right / east, are docks you can explore. You can go in a area all the crab fishermen dock their boats. There is a lot of untold History in them, some barely afloat. Also before you get in the water you can actually go on these Historic ships for a small fee that supports our wonderful parks.


It was next to the Dolphin Swim & Boat Club and South End Rowing Club. You might want get involved with them to launch your kayak. We technically just walked through the Hyde Street gate and put our boat in. However the gate closes at 5pm, so you have to be out by then, or the gate is locked. You can technically still get out from inside, but not go back in, should you leave something behind. It’s a beach launch and even though it’s a protected area, there is a strong current when it comes time. How ever it’s protected and the current isn’t as strong as out side the park. It’s cool because you kayak next to old ships. Perfect setting for 4th of July. We hovered under the pier until it came time for the fire works. But be aware, even at 9pm at night there are crazy swimmers. We had the best seat in the house, with a back stage pass to a concert and being literally under the projection of the fireworks! Here’s a important notation it’s a beach launch, pretty mild. You go through the gates of the Museum and the gates close at 5pm. Most the people who work at the Museum are volunteers over 90, kidding. I don’t think they care.

However you can still get out because the gate is only locked for people getting in. So if your out in the Bay and need a emergency out, here it is. There is a public restroom.

To take a rest, we ended up landing at the Dolphin Swim & Boat Club. The girl sitting on the beach was really nice and helped pull us ashore until she realized we weren’t members cuz we asked dumb questions. Then her face turned unfriendly like we were on her property and said they don’t take to kindly to non-members. So we went next door, and went out the Row Club doors to the street. Much more friendly group of people. They promised they would let us back in to get to our boat.

We just wanted out of the water to rest. We just weren’t sure where to go, so we can come back to our boat. I just think it’s pure BS. 4th of July, land of the ‘free’ BS. Land of we own this, get the f’ off. When it comes to boating it’s dangerous to send boaters back out that need to rest. Or set their lights or get out of rough waters. We had struggled for a long time against the currents and wind, we needed to rest. I’ve got nothin’ for people that don’t help, sorry I disturbed your cozy picnic. I mean we are loaded down to kayak, do we look like we want to stay here? All in, all. There were only 4 kayakers besides us, anyone who really kayaks wouldn’t go out in, apparently, gusting winds which I wish they would say MPH, which is 16.1 to 19.6 MPH. Gusting means ‘gusting’ temporary burst of wind. Ok got it! Ya, so I’m learning as I go. Anyway, take that off my bucket list.

Fisherman's Warf SF Stacy Poulos Photography
Old Fishing Boat Fisherman’s Warf SF Stacy Poulos Photography

Anyway, once parked we went across the street to the fancy Blue Mermaid Restaurant. I looked like a Uni-bomber with my kayak vest still on, walkie talkie, pilot knife. I had coffee while my friend had oysters and beer. Absolutely beautiful restaurant. I must go back. Anyway, all in all it was such a great evening. After the hair raising fireworks, Instead of leaving immediately, we loaded up the car with the boat, parked then went to a bar Jacks Cannery Bar  for a night cap to let all the traffic go away.  Sucks having to drink expensive beer (cash only) out of a plastic cup, when you just risked your life, I don’t know how many times… welcome back to land. But there was a mixed group of out of town’ers fun to chat with.

Below I listed some of my favorite things kayaking.

#1 My Kokatat MsFIT Tour PFD – Women’s  Life vest.
I love the walkie talkie pocket and the front stretch mesh pockets to stow essentials. The pocket are not water proof. But when I do put things in the pockets, they are in plastic in need be. The deep-cut neck and armholes maximize range of motion for my arms, there is a difference! I used to kayak  with a ‘water ski jacket’ and it gave me rub burns under my arms. Your life vest is –your LIFE Vest! It’s a investment. Having things on your body and not hanging from your neck it super important. If you capsize you have less to get hung up on.  Chapsitck and sunscreen and cell phone is in the pocket! However, getting back in the boat you have the pockets to contend with.  Kokatat is a great brand, when I went to The Travel Show, a pro Kayker had one and she gave me a personal tour of her’s and she swore by it. I had my eye on it the first day I seen one. They are all very adjustable in size. I have a Large. You can say I’m smitten by mine.   It also has a ‘Strobe lash tab’ I guess thats what they call it. Anyway, you can attach other things to it, for me I have my Rambo  ‘NRS Pilot Knife’ which I love.  There is Reflective tape on the back and chest. You never know when you will be out at night fall.

I will get more into products I love in a dedicated blog

Kokatat MsFIT Tour PFD – Women’s

Kokatat MsFIT Tour PFD – Men’s

Kokatat MsFIT Tour PFD Women pro favorite
Kokatat MsFIT Tour PFD Women pro favorite My NRS Pilot River Knife (Rambo) knife is always ready for action. It’s 3 inch stainless-steel blade with blunt safety tip has both smooth and serrated cutting edges; matte finish with a are hole in the handle that serves as a valve wrench for an oxygen tank a bottle opener is built into the handle. Comes in handy for many uses.

My NRS Pilot River Knife (Rambo) knife is always ready for action. It’s  3 inch stainless-steel blade with blunt safety tip has both smooth and serrated cutting edges; matte finish with a are hole in the handle that serves as a valve wrench for an oxygen tank a bottle opener is built into the handle. Comes in handy for many uses.

NRS Pilot River Knife

Favorite NRS Pilot River Knife
Favorite NRS Pilot River Knife

#2 Walkie talkie!

Motorola MS350R 35-Mile Talkabout Waterproof 2-Way Radio (Pair)
This is one of my favorite products. You think, everyone has a cell phone why not just call? You don’t want to ware out your cell phone communicating out on the road, trail or water. I use them everywhere! Hiking, kayaking. Used them in Europe to talk to my friends. Hands down best buy. They have a charging case so you just place them in the cradle after a long day. My mom got me mine for my birthday. You don’t want to dial and wait to ring, you want to send your message.

Ad a whistle to your vests, (super important) and your good to go! The whistle replaces a horn on a boat. I’ve actually been hit by a big boat, not dead on but swiped the side of my kayak. Having a whistle can help you let them know you are their since we sit so low in the water.

New discovery:  Waterproof Socks Amazon (See my review  https://blog.postcardtravelers.com/?p=633 )

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boat launch  at Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco, California