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Ocean things we’re thankful for, West Coast Edition

As some of you know (especially if you follow us on OpenExplorer), Amy and I have once again made the vast, continent-spanning migration from the Pacific to Atlantic coast, this time settling down in rural Virginia. While we enjoyed our time out in the weirdly foggy, impossibly dry San Francisco Bay Area, we also learn that the southeast US is our ecological niche. Even so, we met hundreds of new and interesting people, got to play with some tremendous tech, and had a great time. So here are the top five San Francisco Bay Area ocean things we are thankful for.

1. Vallejo

Of all the cities that comprise the “Bay Area”, Vallejo, the smallest and furthest from the heart of San Francisco, feels the most maritime, by far. With a downtown only blocks from the waterfront, an expansive city park right at the edge, and an active ferry terminal for commuters, people with a nautical cut to their jib will feel right at home. Though smaller and more suburban than most Bay Area cities, it’s also a whole lot cheaper, with 2 bedroom houses renting for the cost of hot swapping* a futon in San Francisco.

The decommissioned Mare Island Naval Shipyard is right across the water, offering hikes through abandoned bunkers, submarine bases, and some fantastic recovering wetlands. There are plenty of opportunities for sailing, fishing, kayaking, or just walking along the waterfront (and perhaps enjoying a drink at the new Mare Island Taproom).

Add to that the fact that Vallejo is officially the most diverse city in the United States, and you really won’t run out of this to do.

2. OpenROV

Did you know that we have a bit of a science crush on OpenROV? No? Where have you been?

Led by David Lang and Erik Stackpole, OpenROV is a scrappy team of robot builders and explorers who want to reshape the way exploration is funded and provide access to the tools of discovery for everyone. They just launched version 2.7 of their tough little robot and we can’t wait to get our hands on one. It is the finest underwater robot you can buy for less than $1000.

3. Upwell

Speaking of scrappy teams, if you had to assemble my three favorite ocean champions and put them in a room in the Mission, you’d have Upwell. The legendary Tide Report** has been a bat-signal for ocean issues for the last 2 years, rally Team Ocean around a single cohesive message. I had the opportunity to work with numerous Bay Area NGO’s during my time on the west coast, and there is no group the works harder or are more committed to the ocean than this team.

4. Nerds for Nature

If you live in the Bay Area, want to spend your weekends exploring the oceans, parks, and urban ecosystems around California, and have a penchant for technology, you should check out the Nerds for Nature monthly meeting. It’s open, free, and incredible. We met some of our closest new Bay Area friends through Nerds for Nature while driving robots in Lake Merritt, flying drones around Mare Island, mounting monitor change brackets on Mt. Diablo, or just hanging out in San Francisco figuring out new way to use technology to help save the planet (and, for that matter, developing guideline for the responsible use of that technology).

5. Elephant Seals

They make great .gifs!

*Techies might think I’m talking about peripherals here, but sailors know that the term “hot swap” originates with shared bunks on crowded vessels.

**Note: for the last half-year I was a writer on the Tide Report.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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