Fisherman’s Wharf is an area of San Francisco that we have to warn visitors as a “tourist trap” despite its immense popularity. However, this amazing story of love blossoming right at Fisherman’s Wharf truly touched our hearts. It’s a beautiful story of two people coming together interwoven with the heart and history of San Francisco. We hope it touches you in the same way and dedicate this story to Ali and Luc….
….I have to admit to a bias for Fisherman’s Wharf. My intro to Fisherman’s Wharf came when our daughter, Ali Immel, attended a program aboard the CA Thayer historic sailing ship in which kids spend 24 hours in the role of a seaman in the Age of Sail. She was a homeschooler, and she and her best friend took this very seriously and prepared for weeks, learning everything they could about life aboard a tall ship. Ali even began reading her father’s collection of Patrick O’Brien’s literary classics about the great sea battles of the Napoleonic wars.
The Age of Sail captured her so completely that she subsequently went sailing on tall ships, rebuilt a sailboat for herself and volunteered at Hyde StreetPier the rest of her growing up, along with the boy she met at a chanty sing early on. They became boyfriend and girlfriend at 14 and 15. Now he, a graduate of the Maritime Academy, is a seaman and she, a graduate of Mills College, has a job on the Pier putting the tall ships maintenance and restoration skills she learned during her volunteer years to work on all the ships there. They bought their own 55ft wooden schooner, a replica of an historic fishing vessel that was something of an outlaw in the waters off Nova Scotia. They’ve restored it and won an award last year for their work.
On August 20, they’ll be married at the Fisherman’s and Seaman’s Chapel and afterwards we’ll all progress to Balclutha, historic sailing ship for the reception. And the rehearsal dinner will be at Pompeii’s Restaurant, which has been in the Pompeii family for decades. It isn’t haute cuisine, but it’s good neighborhood Italian restaurant fare and I’ve loved dealing with Nancy Pompeii, whose grandfather was actually a seaman aboard Balclutha when she was a working ship, then known as the Star of Alaska, traversing the waters between Alaska and San Francisco.
We used to take our Ali and Luc there for dinner after their volunteer days before they got their drivers’ licenses, which is why they’ve chosen it for the rehearsal dinner. So for us the Wharf is about its history, about an age whose extraordinary hand skills only survive through those who learn them and carry them on, and of course now about our daughter’s and her fiance’s personal histories.
The exhibit center across the street from Hyde St Pier will soon feature a traditional seaman’s chest with hand woven rope handles, Ali just finished. She’s also made traditional sailor’s clothing near the Maritime Museum, a full size sail for an sailing skiff “Coot” (by hand), and taught ditty bag construction while her fiance taught traditional rope work, for the Museum. Those are the kinds of things I wish more tourists would take an interest in and seek out.