History of Cass’ Marina

– by Mary Gidley with some updates

Napa Street Pier with fish boats

Before the Marina, Cass Gidley had a commercial fish dock on the Napa Street pier. Cass leased it from the Associated Dredging Company in about 1959 and in a couple of years it became a huge operation that included a salmon packing plant, a fish market, and a fish and chips restaurant on the dock (before Salt’s downtown). I met Cass in Eureka about the time he started the business and came down to Sausalito to work with him. We bought and unloaded salmon, albacore, and crab. Having been a commercial fisherman, Cass wanted to make sure that the fishermen got an honest weight when they unloaded, and a cold beer. At the height of the salmon season up to 300 boats would be tied alongside the dock, 5 boats deep. We bought and sold more and crab than all of San Francisco, Cass claimed. We also had a fleet of 13 bright yellow ears for the fishermen to use.

A family of Sailors

Cass’ Rental Marina, started in 1961, was the first sailboat rental on the Bay and only a sideline at first. We started with one sailboat for rent, 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 fiberglass seemed the way to go. I remember that the first boat was pink. At the time the Marina was getting underway we were living aboard our 28 foot Friendship sloop, the Tia Mia, with Sharon and Lupe, and Huckleberry, the dog. Although the fish business was thriving, Cass did not get along with the new person we leased the Napa Street pier from and eventually decided we should sell it and concentrate on the Marina. 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. Cass, however, was able to lease the property next to the Napa Street pier from the City and managed to bring in floats and docks and dredge the channel next to the Cruising Club, (in the middle of the night). He also 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 kids played in the mud on low tide and camped on Do-Do Island (created by the dredging operation).

Cass’ Marina around 1978 – posted by Katherine Alexandria Haas

The sailboat fleet soon grew to more than 20 boats, most of them 19 or 20 footers and a couple of 27 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 thankful 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 known and loved the boat for a long time. About this time Bob and Lois Counts showed up and were interested in buying the Marina. Bob had just retired from the military and was looking for something to do. The timing was right. We bought the Yo-Ho-Ho and sold Cass’ Marina to the Counts, (although we stayed on for another season to help with the transition). We moved aboard the Yo-Ho-Ho and began chartering the boat on the Bay and in Mexico.

Cass’Marina around 2008

For 40 years Cass’ Rental Marina and Sailing School was run by the Counts.  In the last several decades it was Lois Counts herself who 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.

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.

Over the past several years, the team has 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 2015, we’ve made great recent progress – we have signed our lease with the City, completed engineering and architectural plans, and secured docks and a ramp.  We are currently raising funds for site renovation and to finish restoring our fleet of traditional wooden boats…with the goal to be on the water in Spring 2016!