Fleet Week: Fighter Jets and Missile Destroyers Oh My

"When I was visiting mom, I stayed in your room and it was like you never left". My sister was right - walk into my room in North Carolina and it is like I never left. On the TV stand, there's not a TV, but rather a couple model jets. Open my closet and you'll see shelves of boxes, one of which being a box of G.I. Joe action figures and another Bed Bugs (The game, not the real thing), but more importantly the game Battleship, the best board game ever made (And yes, I've already seen the trailer for the movie and will probably be seeing it on opening day).

Needless to say, when I returned to the city last weekend to fighter jets flying overhead and missile destroyers and amphibious assault ships docked in the bay for San Francisco Fleet Week, I was a kid all over again. Fleet Week is the one week of the year when active military ships dock in the San Francisco Bay and all the single ladies get all dolled up for the sailor boys, with some even dressing up as sailors themselves. However, relevant to my interests, ships like missile destroyers and assault ships are open to the public to tour for free. I will neither confirm nor deny whether I made machine gun noises aboard an assault ship. However, my favorite part of Fleet Week was the air show, which took place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Between 12:30 and 4 p.m., Canada's aerobatics team, the Snowbirds, and the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels squadron took to the skies. This was an important year for the air show since this is the centennial year of Naval Aviation.

While the Blue Angels and Snowbirds were flying overhead around most of the Bay Area, most of their maneuvers took place just over the bay waters. Many people head to Marina Green and Ft. Mason in the Marina to watch the show, where "premium" seats are even available. This is where the most unobstructed views of the Fleet Week air show are, offering great photo opportunities. However, I wasn't too keen on getting a crick in my neck from looking up and wanted to have at least some of my hearing left for the rest of the weekend, as evidently there's not a hybrid fighter jet that has a quiet engine. So when I got an invite to a Fleet Week party hosted by Gilt City at a mansion in Pacific Heights that overlooked the bay, I knew where I was spending my Saturday afternoon. There was something in the invite about craft beer, appetizers, and wine, but I was already sold.

Not only was I getting a lot, but I was also giving something Saturday afternoon. Hosted by Gilt City San Francisco, the Fleet Week viewing party in Pacific Heights benefitted My New Red Shoes, with all proceeds going to the nonprofit. My New Red Shoes is a local organization that provides shoes and clothes to homeless youth and children in the Bay Area. When I arrived at the home, I grabbed a beer and found a spot on the second floor balcony that overlooked the San Francisco Bay, including views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. I scanned the crowd, putting every female twentysomething's face into an imaginary 80x80 avatar box, as I was meeting one of my Twitter/Tumblr friends, Krista, for the first time. From the balcony, I saw what looked like Krista below, in effect whispering her name, so as not to draw too much attention to myself, which I believe in turn brought even more attention.

After a commercial jet did a few air donuts above the bay, the show got kicked off with the Canadian Snowbirds, which were reminiscent of synchronized swimmers, but in the air, as the planes showed such perfect harmony in their maneuvers. The CT-114 Tutor airplanes would climb straight into the air before diving back down and pulling up just before the water. Next up were the Blue Angels. As they flew upside down above the San Francisco Bay waters, I wondered what the Vegas odds would be of how long I could fly upside down in one of the F/A-18 Hornet jets before my lunch would come up. I was giving myself a five seconds. Shortly afterward, the Blue Angels quickly turned from the bay toward Pacific Heights, flying just overhead, so close that I could have thrown a baseball and hit it, or at least thrown it high enough that it was at the same elevation of the planes.

This was just my second Fleet Week event, the first being in New York City a few years ago, and it certainly won't be my last. The common complaint that I heard from people watching the air show around Marina Green was that it was too loud. Being perched on the hill in Pacific Heights, we were further away from the actual show, making it much quieter, with planes flying directly overhead just a handful of times. Thus, I've made it a priority this year to make friends with people with rooftops in Pacific Heights, so this becomes my annual viewing area. If you plan on touring any of the ships, they are open daily on the weekend, although I recommend arriving early, between 8 and 10 a.m. to beat the crowds. The waterfront in the Marina offers closer photo opportunities, but you may want to bring a set of ear plugs.

Thanks to Gilt City, of whom I was a guest of, for throwing a great party. They didn't ask me to write about it, nor did they provide any editorial oversight or slip any money under the table. I actually do really like Gilt City, even if I had to look up the definition of gilt and am not sure if I fit under the definition of "being covered with gold". They are a part of the Gilt Groupe, which also owns Jetsetter, who I've followed for a long time - partly because deep down beyond the flippy flops, jeans, and baseball cap, I like to think of myself as progressive jet setter. I have a seersucker suit which has to count for something. Krista wrote a great post on Fleet Week(end) with some pretty pictures. I can't take credit of the photo with the wine glass and of me and her, as that was her doing.