Michael Rainy: Waterfront Diplomat

By Steefenie Wicks

While sitting in a marine class in Terra Linda, Michael Rainy, the harbormaster for Sausalito’s Schoonmaker Marina, decided to check his phone. He had been expecting a text from a client who wanted to bring in a 130- footer, and planned to arrive that day from Los Angeles. Just as he was about to make a connection, a text came in with an urgent, “Please call marina.” Not only was the vessel in but it was escorted by the Coast Guard and the Sausalito Police boat. He replied to the text: “I’m on my way.”



Rainy has been the Schoonmaker harbormaster for the past 26 years.

Schoonmaker is one of five different marinas located on the Sausalito waterfront. The thing that makes Schoonmaker Marina different from the others is its open beachfront location, making it an available spot for vessels both small and large. Rainey’s day-to-day involvement with the very well to do and the not so well to do is a test of his skills in diplomacy; he will be the first to tell you that “The guy with the 200 footer has as much rights as the guy in the 30 footer when it comes to respecting each other while living on this common denominator, the water.”

The ship that had caused such a commotion was the “Spearfisher,” a stealthy-looking vessel that was caught doing 40 knots under the Golden Gate Bridge. Rainy was not at all surprised by the size of the vessel or the fact that she was so fast. Being the harbormaster of a big berth marina can present its problems, but all can be solved with a clear understanding of the situations. The captain of the “Spearfisher” was quick to speak to the authorities and the situation was soon taken care of, after which the captain turned to Rainy and said, “This happens all the time.”

Schoonmaker is listed as a big boat marina, so they can dock vessels that are well over 100 ft., maxing out at 225 feet. They are in demand, for as the price of fuel goes up the captains of these vessels like to know that when they pull up to a dock that they can plug in to 100 or 200 amps and let their equipment recharge.

Rainy remembers the experience of taking his father, who at the time was 75, on tour through one of the really big boats docked in the marina. As they walked on the red shag carpet that was wall to wall in the engine room, his father just shook his head. Then they traveled above deck to the pilothouse where all the ship’s controls were placed; behind that sat a gym with workout equipment. Then they crossed the gym to open the glass doors where the helicopter was parked. Michael said his father just stood there looking from one end to the other, and he could not stop saying, “Oh, my god, oh, my god.”

As harbormaster, Michael Rainy explains that when you purchase a marina it does not come in a box. To maintain and efficiently run its day-to-day existence, you must know all aspects of its overall structure. Rainy remembers that he was hired after one of the worst storms that had taken place in this area, in the winter of 1989. He begins, “That was the year that the outer concrete docks broke up into many pieces. Then a trimaran that was anchored out broke loose from its moorings and began to ride the huge waves that were building, making it end up with a section of the vessel trapped under the crumbling concrete dock; it was a mess. If there is one thing to fear on the water, it can be the wind. You have no control, it just doesn’t stop, there is no off button, only the aftermath of the destruction that it can cause.”

Schoonmaker is a one of a kind Bay Area marina because it is a recreational marina, “meaning,” says Rainy, “that you don’t have to climb over a fence to get to your boat. We are not industrial or located in an industrial area. You can come and park and plug in and get shore power and use shower facilities.” Schoonmaker is very much an open space marina that does not discourage use.

Rainy enjoys seeing the big boats come in as well as the familiar sight of a small vessel that makes a returning visit each year. Above all, it’s the people he deals with every day who make his day. He feels that boating people have a common attitude, which means that 95% of the time this guy or gal coming to his or her boat is in a good mood. They are happy to be here because they love their boats, which are now part of this Sausalito waterfront. In this community of the haves and the have-nots, we really do learn to live together, which in the end is what it’s all about.