Harry Hazzard, a veteran of 11 Baja Ha-Ha’s, including 10 with his Beneteau Frers 51 Distant Drum, had to leap into San Diego Bay on Friday or Saturday morning to save his life. He’s fine physically, but his boat is a complete loss and he’s lost most of his possessions.
“I was motoring from California Yacht Marina in Chula Vista to Shelter Island Boatyard about eight miles away for my annual haul-out,” Hazzard told Latitude in a phone interview this morning. “I’d only gone a little way and was about an eighth of a mile off the Marine Group yard when I heard an unusual noise from the engine area and thought I smelled plastic or rubber melting. I assumed it was a belt going bad. So I went below to investigate.”
The Frers design has the engine compartment farther forward than on most boats. It’s only a little ways behind the mast, and one of the main access points is from beneath a salon seat directly above the engine.
“I was lucky I was a little off centerline when I lifted the engine cover, because as soon as I lifted it, it went off. Had I been centerline, it would have gone off in my face.”
When he says “it went off,” he doesn’t mean there was an explosion as such, but super heat and flames coming up from the engine area.
“The fire was already going pretty good, with fiberglass and other stuff burning, so I couldn’t breathe because of the chemical fumes. I rushed up to the fresh air in the cockpit, and almost as soon as I was up the companionway, flames were coming up the companionway after me. I could feel the heat all the way in the back of the boat. There was nothing I could do to combat the fire.”
In addition to the fire itself, Hazzard had other safety concerns. “I was standing by two diesel tanks, the boat had two propane tanks, I had two medical oxygen tanks in the bow, and two dive tanks in the salon.”
The engine was still running, so he directed the boat toward shore. By the time fire was starting to burn the dodger and bimini, Hazzard felt he had no choice but to jump into the water. It was from there that he watched the mast collapse and came to the realization that all his important papers, and a brand new mainsail, were going up in flames.
Two young Mexican workers from the Marine Group rushed out in a small boat and pulled Harry from the water. Harry thinks he was in the water for about 15 minutes. He had no sense if the water was cold or not.
He was immediately approached by several people wanting to salvage the boat in order to claim salvage rights. “I told them that I didn’t want to talk to them, and, finally, to fuck off,” says Harry.
Not that it would have mattered, but the San Diego Harbor fire boats were slow to arrive. Most of them had been eight miles away at another boat fire at Half Moon Marina.
Distant Drum was taken to the Marine Group yard, where it was hauled and inspected by a fire department investigator. Tomorrow the boat will be inspected by surveyors representing Pantaenius, the company that insures the boat.
Hazzard still has no idea why the boat caught fire. “My bilges were spotless. You could have eaten off of them,” he says. As for Harry’s future, it’s up in the air. “I’m homeless, jobless and loveless,” he told Latitude.
Before you become buried under the avalanche of tasks and obligations that the new week holds for you, let us remind you that today through next Monday is Fleet Week, when roughly a million people will flock to San Francisco Bay to tour naval vessels, rub shoulders with active-duty personnel, and marvel at the jaw-dropping feats of aerial acrobats who fly fighter jets and stunt planes.
As you’ll see on the event’s official website, ship tours happen all week along the San Francisco waterfront between piers 22 and 35 — and they all are free of charge. Given that most boaters love nothing more than to check out other people’s boats, you’ll probably find it fascinating to take a few tours and hob-nob with their crews.
The highlight of the week, of course, is always watching the air shows that take place noon to 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This year the lineup seems to include more death-defying air teams than ever: the US Navy’s Blue Angels, the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 and France’s Breitling Jet Team. In addition, various vintage stunt planes will also be performing, and yet again, a United Airlines jetliner will do a flyby. The annual Parade of Ships takes place Friday, October 7, from 10 a.m. to noon.
Although the prime air show viewing zone for boaters — just off the Cityfront — can get quite chaotic, it’s always great fun to be in the heart of the action, and doing so might just leave you with a renewed sense of patriotism. If your weekdays are flexible, be aware that the same air show is performed Friday, when there’ll be far fewer spectator boats on the water. By the way, bleacher seats along the Marina green start at $55, so we think it’s only fair that your guests bring lunch and drinks. Speaking of beverages, be aware that every law enforcement organization in the Bay will have assets on the water during the shows, and will undoubtedly be on the lookout for BUI candidates. So have fun, but be safe out there. And if you come away with any killer photos, we’d love to see them.
Fall began on September 22, but someone forgot to notify the weather gods that control the conditions on San Francisco Bay. As a result, the Alcatel J/70 Worlds on September 28-October 1 endured/enjoyed full-on summer-style breeze, combined with the kind of big square waves that a new-moon-driven ebb kicks up on the relatively shallow waters of the Berkeley Circle.
Adrenaline must have been keeping the crews warm, as the competition was fast and furious. Afternoon wipe-outs were not uncommon, and several teams won at least one race in the 12-race, 1-throwout series.
Many recognizable names peppered the fleet, mostly in the tactician position. Among them, John Kostecki served aboard the winning boat, Paul Ronning’s Catapult. Kostecki, it may be remembered, grew up sailing in the Bay Area and went on to sailing’s so-called ‘Triple Crown’ (a silver medal in the Olympics and wins in the Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup).
Full results, race reports and photo gallery links are available at www.stfyc.com/j70worlds2016.