As a matter of fact the ferry isn’t a boat at all. It is more like a house or a street car or a park full of pretty benches. It doesn’t sail, it only plies, plies between two given points at stated intervals, and could anything be more dull. Nothing is more prosaic than a ferry unless it be an ironing board.
Even a barge is superior, and a barge doesn’t pretend to be a boat. A barge goes somewhere and it gets mussed up by the real salt sea, and so do flat, old scows, honest and rough and sea-going. Any boat in the bay is superior to the effeminate ferry. Even the boat to Sacramento has a bit more atmosphere. As for tug boats, they are little, but O-my as they pull the great, impotent barges after them. Pilot boats have quite an air making the big, dignified steamers look foolish being yanked here and there. The tidy fisherman’s motor boats look rather unimaginative, all tied in rows at Fisherman’s Wharf, but they go somewhere, sometimes away down the coast and from their sides the long nets reach away down into the sea itself.
How the real boats in the bay must despise the ferry. Think of being called a boat and never once sailing out of the Golden Gate. How maddening it must be. If the ferry had any spirit at all, some day it would just switch about and go chunking out to sea. Imagine then the concern of the staid commuters from Oakland and Alameda to say nothing of the citizens of Berkeley and Marin County, to find themselves being borne away from their vegetable gardens and fresh eggs out to sea in a wooden boat.
I suppose there are many people living right here in San Francisco who have never sailed away out of the Golden Gate, people who have been bound economically or by love or duty, and have had to ply like the ferry daily between two given points. But can there be a man who has seen tall-masted schooners and long-bodied ocean-going steamers pass in and out of the alluring Golden Gate, and has never longed to sail away to the enchanted South Seas, or to Alaska. Such a man is not a man any more than the ferry is a boat.
If I could choose the boat I’d sail away upon, it would not be a coast-wise steamer, nor the prim Alaska packers nor even the steamers to the Orient. I’d choose me a four-masted schooner, carrying freight and going somewhere, anywhere, no one knows where. And then some day the wind would die or some night the wind would howl and there would come to me a great longing for or a ferry that should take me home at night in a safe and prosaic manner.
In Connecticut now, and in Illinois and in Utah too, it is lilac time. Lilac time — I’ll stop, if you please, to say the words over lovingly. In San Francisco now the lilacs are in bloom but it is not lilac time. In Golden Gate Park the rhododendrons are blossomed into gorgeous mounds of color but they are not an event in San Francisco, only an incident. In “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” set in the mountains of Virginia, they are the dominant background.