How Tomales Bay’s SS Point Reyes became one of the Bay Area’s most Instagrammed attractions

If you’ve lived in the Bay Area long enough, you’ve probably seen someone on Instagram.

As I approach the weathered, tilted ship that ran aground in Tomales Bay on a sunny Saturday afternoon, a mix of about 15 people move around, circling and inspecting the abandoned boat. Some peek inside its exposed entrails, a rusty engine encased in cobwebs visible under fallen wood and twisted wires. Others take photos in front of the attraction, doing their best to capture themselves, the boat and the bay behind, which is no easy task. A few brave people board what remains of the collapsed and scorched stern.

It’s not uncommon these days for a place to become popular just for its instagramability, but this charming scene literally endures thanks to the photographers in the area, who developed a liking for the place long before we all got so hooked. to our phones.


Shipwrecks in this area were unfortunately quite common in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so much so that you can see a map of them on the National Park Service website. The land was advancing unexpectedly 10 miles into the Pacific Ocean with its rugged edges, making it easy for ships to crash into the dark and dangerous waters. Yet Point Reyes was still along major shipping routes, and so, until the Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870, more than $ 750,000 in ships and cargo were lost on the rocks, according to the NPS. At least 50 ships and countless lives have been lost, even with the light that eventually guided the ships through the thick, relentless fog.


But this particular fishing boat, nicknamed the SS Point Reyes, is not a wreck at all. The boat was built in 1944 as a WWII launch boat that brought soldiers from aircraft carriers in the bay area to port, said Rebecca Dixon of Dixon Marine Services at Point Reyes Light in 2016. She said it was then used for salmon fishing. many years.


The ship was then acquired and operated by Merrel Rocca Sr. on Tomales Bay in the 1960s and 1970s, according to author and historian Dewey Livingston. Then a local resident bought it and moved it to Inverness, planning to restore the ship. He eventually washed up on the sandbar where he now resides after a storm and has been there for – at least 20 years.

The owner never looked into the project and the boat was in danger of being eventually pulled for wetland restoration in the 2000s. But after local outcry, largely from photographers in the area, the boat was allowed to stay.

Unfortunately, it was also the photographers who almost led to the boat’s final destruction in 2016, when some visitors allegedly attempted to take a photo of the boat against the backdrop of sparks and accidentally set the vessel on fire. It erupted around 1 a.m. on February 22, 2016, according to Point Reyes Light, which said the fire lined the edges of the stern and flames had come out of the engine housing, turning bright blue as witnesses watched. .

The Inverness Volunteer Fire Department, Marin County Fire Department and National Parks Service responded, fighting the flames until around 4 a.m. “It’s a lot more dangerous now and there is more debris. … It should probably be removed, ”Jim Fox, the Inverness fire chief, told the newspaper at the time.

It died out before too much damage was done, but the boat has lost even more of its stern and remains charred in places. Even after the fire, locals insisted the boat stay, and people still flock to view the ship every day, although the ability to get close depends on the tides and the season.

Today, Marin County Parks ranger staff say the boat resides on unincorporated county land sandwiched between private plots. Who maintains the area is unknown at this time, according to Marin County spokesman Brent Ainsworth.

Today, the once-white paintwork is now weathered with a deep, dirty tan, pieces of wood are missing from the hull and bow, and rust is shining on the sharp metal, but that doesn’t stop influencers from pose seductively against the sumptuous backdrop of wetlands at low tide. While the stern of the boat is so sunken and damaged that it is possible to board, don’t. It’s dangerous and really, the photos are far better.

If you fancy lying down on secluded beaches or filling your stomach with freshly caught oysters, you might miss the view of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. It’s tucked away behind the Inverness store, so just plug it into your GPS and make sure you bring shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit wet.


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