More than fleets for the week

Photo: Jason Rodman / Flickr

Batten down the hatches, it’s going to be a wild one!

Every October, the armada known as Fleet Week sails into town. Naval convoys, Coast Guard contingencies, stunt pilots, and those extreme free-stylers in the sky, the Blue Angels, show up to wow the masses. Some people love it, some people hate it. Either way, you are caught in the middle of it unless you abandon ship and head out of town.

The Marina is used to commotion surrounding big events. When Fourth of July fireworks were held off Crissy Field, the traffic leaving the show clogged Marina streets until 11 p.m., but we survived. Most recently, the first America’s Cup preliminary races brought tens of thousands of spectators (thankfully, many by public transportation), and again, we survived.

Fleet Week returns from Thursday, Oct. 4 through Monday, Oct. 8 with a major presence on the Marina Green, as in previous years. However, they are not the only stars in town this year. The first weekend of October 2012 may just set a record for the number of simultaneous major events.

Closest to home, Fleet Week will join forces with the second installment of the America’s Cup World Series. The America’s Cup Village will be on the Little Marina Green from Oct. 2–7, with AC45 racing sandwiched in between naval ship parades and Blue Angels exhibitions during the weekend (see “On the Bay,” page 13 for details on the ACWS schedule). Add sailing fans to flyboy fans, and you have sellout crowds.


On Thursday, Oct. 4, the Blue Angels warm up for the weekend with maneuvers practice between 1–5 p.m.

On Friday, you can watch the “preview” version of the weekend show from 12:30–4 p.m. A slightly smaller practice show, but smaller crowds as well.

On Saturday, the big guns arrive – first by sea. The Parade of Ships enters the bay at 11 a.m., after which vessels will be berthed along the waterfront and available for tours. The air show will take place from 12:30–4 p.m. with the Blue Angels scheduled for 3 p.m., weather permitting. Following the air show, the America’s Cup boats take to the water for their match and fleet races.

On Sunday, a repeat of the air show takes place from 12–4 p.m., except that the America’s Cup races are scheduled from 1:50–2:30 p.m. A TRX/24-Hour Fitness Competition will also be underway at the east end of the Marina Green at 12:30 p.m.

Both Saturday and Sunday, the Marina Green is the site for Fleet Week exhibits and attractions between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., including a Humanitarian Assistance Village spotlighting San Francisco disaster preparedness efforts and agencies.

To wind things down on Monday, Oct. 8, Fleet Week will host a high school band challenge in Golden Gate Park at 10 a.m. and the U.S. Navy Band will perform at Pier 39 at noon.

A full schedule of events can be found at


That all makes for a busy weekend on our waterfront, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. On Saturday and Sunday, people from the Bay Area and beyond will also be flocking to San Francisco for:

  • Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park Friday–Sunday (600,000 attendees)
  • San Francisco Giants playoffs at AT&T Park Saturday and Sunday (41,500 seats)
  • 49ers against the Buffalo Bills at Candlestick Park on Sunday (70,200 seats)
  • 144th Italian Heritage Parade in North Beach on Sunday (unknown numbers)
  • Castro Street Fair on Sunday (60,000 attendees)
  • Burning Man Decompression in China Basin on Sunday (unknown numbers)
  • Star Princess cruise ship at Pier 35 on Saturday for the day (2,590 passengers)
  • Sapphire Princess cruise ship arrives at Pier 35 on Sunday and departs Monday (2,670 passengers)

“It may seem like a perfect storm,” says Supervisor Mark Farrell, “but what a time to be a San Franciscan with the City showcasing so many incredibly diverse world class events.”

The key is to be sure you and your guests plan ahead.

Muni has a visitor’s guide for all forms of transit during Fleet Week and the America’s Cup World Series that can be downloaded at here.

So once again, we will survive.

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