THE HISTORY OF CASS GIDLEY MARINA – A narrative by Mary Gidley
In the early 1960’s Cass Gidley operated a commercial fish dock on the Napa Street pier. He leased the dock from the Associated Dredging Company and in a couple of years it included a salmon packing plant, a fish market, and a fish and chips restaurant. Having been a commercial fisherman himself, Cass wanted to make sure that the fishermen got an honest weight, and a cold beer, when they unloaded. I met Cass in Eureka about the same time he started the business and came down to Sausalito to work with him. At the height of the salmon season more than 100 boats would be tied alongside the dock. Cass claimed we bought and sold more fish and crab than all of San Francisco.
At first, the sailboat rental was just a sideline. We sharted with one sailboat for rent in 1961. It was a 27-footer tied up on the south side of the pier. All his life Cass had been a wooden boat man but for rental purposes fiberlass seemed the way to go.
Although the fish business was thriving, Cass did not get along so well with the new person we leased the pier from. Eventually we decided to sell it and concentrate on the marina. Cass was able to lease the property next to the Napa Street Pier from the City and managed to bring in floats and docks and to dredge the channel next to the Cruising Club (in the middle of the night, no less).
We built an office (where I cooked our family meals) and some smaller structures for the business. In those days, we slept in a trailer that was under the bushes. Our daughters played in the mud when it was low tide, and camped on Do-Do Island (which was created by the dredging operation). By that time there were several boats for rent. It seemed like every time I came to work there would be one of a different color. As I was designated the bookkeeper and bill payer, it was a bit unnerving.
Earlier days at Cass Gidley Marina
Cass’ Marina was the first sailboat rental on the Bay. The sailboat fleet soon grew to more than 20 boats, most of them 19 or 20 footers. We had a sailing school that was also a big success. People who were not members of a yacht club and didn’t own a boat of their own were grateful to be able to learn to sail and to rent a boat and be out on the bay.
Then in 1968 the Yo-Ho-Ho, a beautiful 54-foot Alden Cutter was up for sale. Cass had loved the boat for a long time. About this time Bob and Louis Counts showed up and were interested in buying the Marina. The timing was right. We bought the Yo-Ho-Ho and sold Cass”s Marina to the Counts. We moved aboard the Yo-Ho-Ho and began chartering the boat on the Bay and in Mexico, where our son Memo was born.
For forty years Cass’ Marina was run by the Counts. In the last several decades Lois Counts ran the business and carried on its traditions. She was the person responsible for “Good friends always welcome”. Lois departed in 2009, and the marina was abandoned to the City of Sausalito.
A NEW VISION FOR THE MARINA – A COMMUNITY BOATING CENTER
In 2010, a group of waterfront community members began working together to bring to life their vision for a community boating center in Sausalito…a place that provides affordable access to boats and the water, preserves our maritime history through education and skill-building, and promotes stewardship of our local bay and ecosystem. This was the beginning of SCBC (Sausalito Community Boating Center) at Cass Gidley Marina.
The team established a 501(c)(3) non-profit, arranged an exclusive negotiating agreement with the City for the Cass Marina site, and developed a strong network of community partnerships and support. As of early 2017, further progress includes securing a lease with the City, completing most engineering and architectural plans, and passing City Design Review for Phase I of site renovation (abutment, ramp, docks). We are currently raising funds to complete construction of our critical Phase I “Access” – which will give us safe access to the water and the ability to begin programming on the water.
Former Cass Gidley Marina in operation.
Signing of our lease with City of Sausalito – December 2014