Freda Marie Been was born in Arkansas in 1922, moved to Northern California as a girl and later relocated to San Rafael, raising five kids in its Gerstle Park neighborhood and teaching at St. Rose Academy for girls in San Francisco. Throughout her life in Marin, according to her granddaughter and Almonte neighborhood resident Marina O’Neill, Been enjoyed rounding up the neighborhood kids and heading down to Sausalito to rent a fishing boat during summers.

For the past five years, O’Neill has honored her grandmother’s adventurous spirit in thrilling fashion, naming the flagship boat of her Sausalito-based SF Bay Adventures – an 80-foot, gaff-rigged tall ship available for private tours for up to 49 people and public sails – the Schooner Freda B.

“She was an amazing woman,” O’Neill says.

The Schooner Freda B. was built in 1991 and acquired by SF Bay Adventures in 2005, relocating it from Florida via the Panama Canal before sailing it into the San Francisco Bay after an 84-hour transit from Ensenada, Mexico. It’s a replica of a boat that would’ve sailed up and down the Pacific coast in the 1800s.

“We’ve taken the style of boat that is usually reserved for education or novelty and made it into traditional luxury,” O’Neill says. “People get an opportunity to sail on a traditional gaff-rigged schooner and have all the creature comforts that they’d want.”

SF Bay Adventures, which was named the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year in 2013, now wants to focus its attention on the businesses and families in O’Neill’s backyard of Mill Valley.

O’Neill says that in addition to public sails twice a week, she loves creating customized private tours for everything from company team-building outings and weddings to anniversaries and family reunions.

“Any event you want to have on land, we can do on the boat, up to 49 passengers,” she says. “We customize every event.”

While the Schooner Freda B is SF Bay Adventures’ flagship vessel, the firm also serves as a charter broker for 30 partners on the Bay, a group of operators and boats that maintain high standards for service, safety and friendliness, O’Neill says.

SF Bay Adventures’ ability to craft a great private event on the Bay comes from the partnership of O’Neill and Captain Paul Dines, who has been working on the Sausalito waterfront for more than 30 years.

“I bring the hospitality element and he brings the boat and water expertise,” she says.

That partnership was born out of a brief but enlightening 18 months when both O’Neill and Dines worked for the Five Stars charter boat company owned by John Scopazzi, owner of the former Scopazzi’s Restaurant in San Rafael.

“We learned that we worked very well together and complemented each other,” O’Neill says.

 O’Neill and Dines bought SF Bay Adventures in 2005, and have been building it ever since.

“We’ve definitely evolved,” O’Neill says. “This business has grown so much since we bought it.”

One of the major reasons for that, she says, is a laser focus on hospitality. O’Neill has worked in food and hospitality since she was in high school, and served for four years on the Amgen Tour of California’s local organizing committee.

“I learned so much more than I ever would’ve imagined,” she says of the Tour of California experience. “Taking a venue into a new city and going on tour, and being the team behind the scenes creating the experience not just for the cyclists when they roll into town but also guests and VIPs – just amazing.”

That ability to cater to people from all over the world is unique and critical to delivering a great experience, O’Neill says.

“In catering to people from all over the world, you learn about their culture before they arrive,” she says, noting a recent decision to serve kimchi for breakfast to a group of Korean guests. “People still want their creature comforts.”

The 411: SF Bay Adventures’ Schooner Freda B is available for private tours and hosts public sails twice a week. More info.

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