FORT BRAGG, Calif., 04/09/22 – On a foggy but beautiful morning in Fort Bragg, the highly anticipated Slack Tide Café is open. Barking sea lions are visible from the deck, somersaulting through the water and swallowing fish. The person queuing in front of this reporter exclaimed, “I’m so glad I can bring my own reusable cup!
Not your average pit stop for pastries and coffee. The Noyo Center for Marine Sciences, a leading marine education organization and a cornerstone of blue economy goals for Fort Bragg, purchased the building (and named it Carine’s Landing) with donor support in February. Since then, staff and “an incredible network of volunteers” have spent time polishing, scrubbing, painting and coordinating all the backstage needed for opening day last weekend.
The cafe serves something different from the usual port seafood dishes, offering a wide range of smoothies, tea and coffee drinks (the latter from Black Oak Coffee Roasters) as well as bagels, muffins, yogurts, salads, homemade sandwiches and other treats, many of which are made in local establishments or with local ingredients. One day soon, this menu might include beer and wine. The cafe also provides the Noyo Center with an oceanfront home for after-school programs, science conferences, and events — and eventually, for research based here.
“It’s a complete game-changer,” Lynne Sullivan, Noyo Center operations manager, told The Mendocino Voice. “As a marine science organization, having this access is essential and a very big step for us.”
Dreams for the future are big too. They always are when it comes to the Noyo Center; since the center was established in 2015, it has grown into a multi-building operation with a discovery center on Main Street, an interpretive center on the Noyo Headlands and plans for a vast ocean science center and adjoining lab, or “la-bone-atoire” overlooking the sea. 73 foot blue whale skeleton).
Michael Hicks, the Center’s director of development, credits this to the “dedicated and energetic staff,” particularly executive director Sheila Semans, whom Sullivan calls “fearless.” Income from the café will help support Center operations, but Hicks also feels that carrying out the café – an unusual undertaking for an organization of this size in a rural area – is a great trial run to implement their vision for the Science Center. oceans all the way. .
“All of these rooms may seem like different parts of the city, [but] it all helps build the skills we need to do it on a larger scale,” he said in an interview with The Voice. “I always say, if someone would give us a big check to go build the Ocean Science Center today, that’s great. But do you have the manpower builder? Do you have the experience and expertise to know that this isn’t something you can just turn on? All of this builds momentum towards it, while doing a great job now.
The Center’s higher goals for the Slack Tide Café include applying for a change of use permit to conduct research in the building, developing an abalone broodstock program to try to bring the number of this organism back vital and the establishment of a purple sea urchin aquaculture that can source united with local restaurants from the North Coast’s exhaustive supply of overpopulated sea urchin.
But coffee can be used for education even before these ambitions materialize. Aside from a new employee who brings expertise on the small details of coffee (like using an espresso machine), all of the employees are existing Noyo Center employees with a wealth of marine science knowledge. Sullivan witnessed this on opening day, when a couple came curious about the decline of the abalone and the sunflower starfish. The barista behind the counter had experience as a research assistant with both of these animals and answered their questions about local sea life while making coffee.
“Not only did they receive a cup of coffee and pastries, but they also came away with a deep understanding of the ocean and what we do as an organization in the community,” Sullivan said. “It really struck me – you can’t get that at Starbucks.”
Slack Tide Café also prides itself on using reusable materials, including encouraging those who wish to bring their own cups to fill with coffee.
“This is an opportunity to educate the public about low impact consumerism,” Sullivan said. “A lot of what we promote or talk about with the public is to reduce the impacts of plastics in the ocean.” In 2018, the United Nations estimated that about 800 species of marine life have been affected by debris in the ocean, the majority of which comes from plastics. Microplastics can also be found in seafood consumed by humans.
Beyond the education offered by the organization, sitting on the deck of the Slack Tide Café offers a unique experience of Mendocino County’s coastal environment, with a view of both the natural and commercial world of an active port. Sea lions feast on fish and seabirds fly overhead, while fishing boats head out into the open waters. It is a complex ecosystem; just being here brings you closer.
“[Noyo Harbor] has played such a vital role in this community throughout its history,” Hicks said. “I like the energy here. … We really want to be part of it. We want this place to continue to be an emerging place where people can come and join the present and what is on offer now, while learning about this history and how it can be intertwined.
The Slack Tide Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Find a menu and more information here.