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February 17, 2017

Mariners Dodge Widespread Debris

On Tuesday, the Coast Guard issued a warning to mariners about debris in the California Delta. In this photo, marine debris surrounds a navigation daymark in the Sacramento River.

© 2017 Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Mendenhall / USCG Aids to Navigation Team

Given that this is one of the rainiest winters on record in the Bay Area, no one should be surprised to see abnormally large amounts of storm-generated debris in waterways and marinas throughout the San Francisco Bay and Delta — debris that could easily damage or disable both powerboats and sailboats. 

But some say the current amount of organic debris and wind-tossed trash is unprecedented in recent memory. One outstanding example is that a huge section of a tree drifted into Angel Island’s Ayala Cove anchorage a few days ago.

There have been reports of more marine debris in San Francisco Bay than normal due to recent weather conditions. This photo was taken from Tiburon on Wednesday.

© Michael Moradzadeh

It is unclear how much the massive Oroville Dam blowout has contributed to the mess, but it appears to have had a substantial impact, as the dam’s spillway flows into the Feather River, which flows into the Sacramento River. And that now-rain-swollen river, of course, drains into San Pablo Bay.

As this satellite image shows, it’s a straight shot — more or less — from Lake Oroville to the Pacific Ocean, by way of the Delta and Bay.

© 2017 NASA

The harbor in downtown Tiburon has been clogged with debris for days. Staff at Corinthian Yacht Club have been working on cleanup, and a little more clears out with each tide cycle. So far, no plans are afoot to cancel or postpone this weekend’s Midwinter Series finale at CYC. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is alerting all mariners to be ultra-cautious when navigating Bay and Delta waters. Needless to say, powering after dark these days is a very bad idea. 

The water in downtown Tiburon was not looking friendly to ferries or recreational vessels on Wednesday.

© Roxanne Fairbairn
This photo of the fairway between C and D docks at the Corinthian was taken this morning. The photographer says this soft debris is composed of tules and water hyacinth, apparently scrubbed from the Delta.

© 2017

"It is very important that mariners remain cognizant of the hazards in their areas," said Lt. Marcia Medina, acting chief of Sector San Francisco Waterways Management Division this week. "Mariners should stay informed and aware of weather conditions and monitor the progress and strength of currents through their local television, radio and Internet."

In addition to checking the lines and snubbers on your boat with extra caution, the Guard further advises owners of small craft, such as kayaks and paddleboards, to secure them well and be sure they are clearly marked with contact info.


If you decide to ride out all the bad weather off the water this weekend, here’s a suggestion: Why not catch up on reading back issues of Latitude 38, and ‘Lectronic Latitude posts? Both are free and online. 

Clipper Sailor Recognized for Bravery

Clipper Race sailor Gavin Reid climbs the mast of a stranger’s boat to go to the aid of a crewman stuck at the top.

Mission Performance
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

During one of the Clipper Round the World Race Australian legs last January, from Hobart, Tasmania, to the Whitsunday Islands, the Clipper 70 Mission Performance answered a distress call from an unrelated sailboat. "We suspended racing, turned around and motored south for a couple hours to their position," said San Franciscan Mike Moore, a crewmember aboard Mission Performance. They came across M3, an Australian TP52, which was disabled with a line wrapped around the propeller, a damaged mainsail, and a sailor stuck at the top of the mast.

At daybreak, Mission Performance crewmember Gavin Reid, a young English rookie sailor who is deaf, volunteered to swim over to the other yacht. Moore wrote in his blog at the time: "Rather than a complicated boat-to-boat transfer, we got a line across to them, tied it to Gavin, and he jumped in and was pulled to the other boat — good thing he was in his drysuit!"

Reid found four crew largely incapacitated and unable to help the fifth man. Using the one remaining staysail halyard, Gavin was able to hoist himself two thirds of the way up the 65-ft mast, then climb the rest of the way hand over hand on the swaying mast to reach the crewman. He spent two hours untangling the lines to free the man and help lower him down safely.

Gavin Reid, 28, had no sailing experience prior to signing up for the Clipper Race.

© 2017 Anne Hammick / OCC

For his bravery, the Ocean Cruising Club recognized Reid with their 2016 Seamanship Award. Reid had already been named the UK’s Yachtsman of the Year. See the story and video on BBC News here. Read about the other OCC award winners for 2016 here.

"Now that the days are starting to become a little longer and dare I say drier soon, we’ll be hopefully enjoying some late afternoon and early evening sailing once again," writes Chuck Bullett, vice commodore of Berkeley Yacht Club.