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Ever has the glamour of the sea enveloped San Francisco. From the sea came Don Juan Manuel Ayala in the San Carlos in 1775, charting a course through the fog and opening the Golden Gate. From the, sea also came the Argonauts, transforming the somnolent Yerba Buena into the city, of San Francisco. And from the sea, up to the time of the railroad, came practically all of the goods with which the merchants of the city did business. Today with the sea ebbs and flows the tide of wealth that makes San Francisco the key port of the Pacific. The banks and exchanges of California and Montgomery streets, the foreign trade and insurance offices of Pine street, the downtown skyscrapers - all reflect in some way San Francisco's debt to the sea.
From the sea also comes health. The breezes that blow from it and the fogs that drift down over the ridges combine to give San Francisco a paradoxical climate - winters as warm as those in the south and summers that are matchless for their exhilarating coolness.
San Francisco shows a higher per capita industrial output than any other American city of its class because of its ideal working conditions.
A city conscious of its obligation to the sea, San Francisco has always been interested in its waterfront, which perpetuates Spanish origins in its expressive name of Embarcadero - the embarking place.
The skyline of the city is no longer stenciled by the towering masts of sailing ships discharging or loading cargo, or lying in the stream or in Richardson's Bay awaiting charters, as in the days when wheat was king of California's great central valley. The virility of the waterfront of San Francisco, however, is as persistent as in the age that provided Frank Norris with his epic themes.
The masts and yards of older outline have given place to stubby cargo booms of liners, freighters and tramps of multiple flags and nationalities. Along the Embarcadero they disgorge upon massive concrete piers silk, rice and tea from the Orient, coffee from Central America, hemp and tobacco from the Philippines, and all manner of odds and ends from everywhere. On the piers commodities are piled in apparent confusion, yet each lot moves with precision in or out of yawning holds at the shrill blast of the foreman's hoist whistle.
Along the Embarcadero you may see craft of every rig under the sun from a Chinese junk to a Transpacific passenger liner. Human types are even more contrasting, knots of Chinese and Singalese strolling behind South Sea Islanders, Portuguese or Cornishmen, whose speech recalls snatches you may have heard on the East India Dock Road in London.
Jack London heard and answered the call of the sea from the Embarcadero of San Francisco, and Stevenson found the atmosphere of his Wreckers there.
Sailors - trade winds - ships - what lurking thoughts of adventure, realized or denied, do they not summon in all of us?
Along the Embarcadero
Types of men are much in contrast here as types of ships