Forbes Island

Forbes Thor Kiddoo built his dream houseboat back in 1980 up-river from San Francisco. Essentially, it’s a huge concrete barge topped with a fantasy island; festooned with palm trees and flagpoles, as well as a 40-foot lighthouse.

It has a 1,200 bottle wine cellar and a sandy beach. For many years, it was anchored off Sausalito and patrolled by a gnarly pack of unreasonable German shepherds when Forbes was absent.

The living area was at the waterline with antique portholes and eyelevel to both the fish (with their unblinking gaze) and the bodiless Barbie doll heads bobbing past (also not blinking). The whole place was kitted out like a swashbuckler’s damp dream. Forbes owned a boatyard and the workmanship was magnificent. It’s what we call in the pirate lair business a ‘Full Nemo.’ This term from the great film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Near the end of the 20th century I materialized at a party on the island, and all I can really remember is that I was physically on the island—because for some reason the event is somewhat blurry in my mind. I vaguely recall seeing one of the dogs eating a jelly donut on the beach; the red jelly glistening in the setting sun, as it oozed menacingly from his kisser, but not much else. Let me say, life on the island in the late 80s was pretty loose. I’m sure I had fun. Pretty sure. I must of­, right?

I’ve had a boat on San Francisco Bay for 40 years, and I often cruised by waving to Forbes, who was perpetually attended by a swirling congregation of splashy characters. Then—one day—the island went missing! Damn, just a hole in the water where the island had been.

I figured it had been seized by the DEA or sailed off to warmer waters, but no. It had gone to the yard for refitting. Then a few years later it miraculously reappeared as a restaurant at Pier 39.

‘Hey, hey, he, he get offa my cloud…er dock”

To dine there, one had to voyage about a hundred feet in a tiny ferryboat from the pier to the island and descend into the half-submerged dining room. The island was berthed in The City (a note on capitalizing The City: San Franciscan’s think there is just one ‘City’ on earth, cute urbane provincials that they are) from about 2000 to 2015. When the lease was up, the island was ejaculated from Pier 39, and it can now be found in a tiny marina up the Sacramento River Delta.

In the end, Forbes Island was just too wacky for San Francisco. Waaaht? It was in San Francisco where the fortune cookie was invented along with, television, the silicon breast implant, and 22 of the 37 new genders. What-a-world! What a world! 

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  • Jim Wickett says:

    Great edition, Jamis!
    Missing you,

  • Susan Stucky says:

    And there it is right in our front, or is it back yard.

    Susan Stucky

  • Watched it launch in the 70’s, windsurfed to it in the 80’s switching places with Forbes and now launch my ski boat every weekend next to it in the delta. Cool place

  • Tyler MacNiven says:

    I had dinner there once. Soon after I sat, the wake from a passing ferry rocked the whole island for about 5 minutes. I was seasick for an hour. Immersive experience. Food was great!

  • Ollie says:

    Yes yes right on our backyard
    Catch in this one. Plus some of
    You have actually been on the island

    Love the clips.
    As always thanx

  • Kelly Porter says:

    With a name like Forbes Thor Kiddoo, anything is possible …

  • Jestdi says:

    I was fortunate enough to tour Fobes Island when it was being built, in dry dock in Sausalito – he was friends with my aunt. We also attended an opera at Stern Grove with him. I was 16 (1976). Quite an exotic experience for a midwest kid.

    I visited the Bay area again in 2002 and eating at Forbes Island was at the top of my list. It did not disappoint.

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