The Bear Class Sloop is a living piece of San Francisco Bay's maritime history. Conceived by Ernest Nunes and Marty Martinson, the first keel was laid late in 1931 by the Nunes Boat and Ways Company, Sausalito, California. By the summer 1932, the new boat was ready for its first sea trial. On lookers reported that Commodore Cliff Smith of the San Francisco Yacht Club praised the effort, telling young Ernest Nunes, "That is a bear of boat." The name stuck and a unique class, indigenous to San Francisco Bay, was born.
By the late 1950s enthusiastic owners, competitive racing, and adventurous sure-footed sailing craft made the Bears the largest one-design class on San Francisco Bay. Never having achieved mass production, the Bear Class was truly home grown as new boats were added to the fleet by an assortment of professional and amateur builders. Active and highly competitive racing continued through the 1960s with as many as 65 boats in the fleet.
Starting in 2009, a core group of enthusiastic Bear Boat owners started to re-acquaint the greater San Francisco Bay sailing community with these wonderful little yachts. Near term efforts were focused on getting the boats out in sufficient numbers to sail, race and reinvigorate the Bear Boat Association. Eight boats are racing in this year’s Wooden Boat Racing Association (WBRA) season. Six boats have been rescued by active owners in the past several years.
The San Francisco Bay Bear Boat Association celebrated the 80th birthday of the launching of #1 Merry Bear in 2012. The SFBBA is active today, organizing racing and social events throughout the year.