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Water is the star at Berkeley Bay Festival

By Erika FrickeDaily Planet staff
Monday April 30, 2001

The Berkeley Bay Festival offers boat rides, art activities and educational experiences each year. And each year new people are stunned by what the Berkeley Marina has to offer. 

Saturday, thousands of people visited the Berkeley Marina for the annual festival. Patty Donald, event organizer, hoped they took something home with them that will remind them that the Bay is right next door, and that it belongs to all of us. 

“If they can't touch [the Bay] they won’t care about it,” said Donald. “If you can hold a crab in your hand, you’re going to think about what you put down the storm drain.” 

Part of her goal for the Berkeley Bay Festival is to teach people the importance of this vital resource, and get them to visit the marina for reasons, “beyond restaurants and boats.” 

Patty Donald herself realizes the truth of that statement. Five generations of her family have lived on the Bay, and her grandparents used the Bay as a port for shipping the products from their food and grain business. 

Donald wanted to ensure that young people and adults alike got to touch and look at parts of the Bay normally out of reach, and teaching through doing permeated the event. Each booth offered a hands-on activity for kids — where they colored pictures of fish, separated trash from sea shells on a small area of sand and distinguished male and female brine shrimp from each other. 

Hands-on learning is a method of education that is growing in popularity, and Susan Sepanik from Save the Bay, an organization fighting for bay preservation, explained that this kind of learning is grounded in extensive research.  

“It’s been proven that experiential education is great for kids,” she said. “They learn a lot more if you get a chance to get out on the water.” And, said Sepanik, her organization is very conscious that the educational technique of getting young people to play in and around the Bay is with the intent of “creating Bay stewards for the future.” 

A group of five girls attached to five blue balloons, visiting the festival for Emma Cox’s 11th birthday party, attested to the success of the educational strategy. Brittany Lai, Isabel Callejo Brighton, Aiyana Price, and Rosa and Emma Cox clamored together, “We like learning about the Bay and stuff. We just love nature, we all like animals and nature and stuff.”  

They added that conservation was important because, “We’d rather see them throughout our lives.”  

As if in accordance with Donald’s wishes, those who came were not the usual marina crowd of fine diners and boaters.  

Adamma Ison, whose boyfriend works in the Adventure Playground, said that not enough people know about the Marina, and so the usual visitors are not, as she put it delicately, a “mix of people.” 

But on Saturday, Ison was delighted that a diverse group came.  

“I wouldn’t mind volunteering next year,” she said.  

One favorite of festival participants were 30 minute boat rides, not to be mistaken for ill-fated three hour tours.  

The Cal Sailing Club, Hornblower Cruise Ship, and Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors, all offered rides for groups from four to 75 people throughout the day. The Disabled Sailors association makes sailing available to people with all disabilities, including extreme limited mobility and blindness. The group has three boats, which berth in both San Francisco and Berkeley. Skipper Mark Evju is paraplegic and has the blond hair and deeply reddish brown skin of the permanently sun-burnt. He’s been a sailor all his life. And he said, his acquired disability hasn’t stopped him.  

“I've been in a chair for ten years and there’s nothing — besides skateboarding and rollerblading — there’s nothing I can’t do.” 

Evju tried other sports before he found the Association for Disabled Sailors, and now he races in Disabled Regattas, and takes people out for tours around the Bay. Saturday, his boat took two to four passengers at a time around the Bay. He explained the depth of water, the means of “tacking” into the wind, and assured passengers that the boat couldn’t tip over. 

Those were comforting words to many new boaters, who sailed for the first time Saturday. Katherine Castillo Segovia was one of these. 

“I liked it when I touched the water. It was so cold,” she said. “Some of the water came to my face.”