Carquinez Strait by ferry tour.

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Carquinez Strait by ferry tour

Fresh and salt waters mingle in the swift tidal flow that ebbs and floods through Carquinez Strait, 30 miles northeast of San Francisco. On a new ferry tour, you can venture out into the swirling waters that link San Pablo and Suisun bays near the mouth of the Napa River.

You’ll first cruise along the Vallejo and Mare Island waterfronts. Your tour operator, the Mare Island Ferry Service, has shuttled workers to the Mare Island naval shipyard since 1854.

Heading downriver, the captain of the 65-foot, 70-passenger ferry Heron talks about Karquin Indians, Spanish explorers, maritime activities, and Mare Island shipbuilding during World War II. You’ll see bayside industries (a massive wheat silo, a sugar plant, refinery tanks) and the California Maritime Academy. You’ll reverse course under the Carquinez Bridge and pass by the decommissioned nuclear sub Nautilus, which made the first undersea crossing of the North Pole in 1958.

Refreshments are available on board. Tours last about an hour and are scheduled according to demand, except on Saturdays (there’s a regular 12:30 tour) and Sundays (2 P.M. tour). The fare is $4; $3.50 for students, seniors, and servicemen. Reservations are suggested; call (707) 643-7542.

The ferry terminal is on the Vallejo waterfront behind The Wharf restaurant, which is at 295 Mare Island Way.

Photo: Mare Island ferry heads in to pick up waiting passengers, then cruises under paired spans of Carquinez Bridge

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