Last Friday morning I was motoring out of South Beach Harbor aboard my 1972 Ericson 32 Sospiro, heading home to Alameda after taking my mom on an overnight trip to the city. While we were exiting, we passed a US Coast Guard vessel. I waved, they nodded, and we continued out of the marina into the flat calm of an early morning on the Bay.
Suddenly, I noticed that same boat approaching my stern quickly. So quickly I could barely wrap my head around what was going on. All I could think was, “What did I do wrong?”
The Coast Guard pulled up alongside Sospiro and asked when she had last been boarded. The answer was never. They informed me they would be coming aboard for an inspection, so I slowed down and two officers came on deck. I asked my mom to take the helm, so I could focus on the inspection. Despite it being her first overnight adventure on the boat, my mom was cool, calm, and collected. I was the opposite of calm; quite flustered, in fact, while trying to quickly produce the required items.
The officers requested to see my driver’s license, registration, life vests, two fire extinguishers and a horn, and asked if I had a working marine head, and oil and waste discharge placards displayed in visible areas. The only thing I failed to locate was the registration, which I had pulled out the day before to show the marina. Luckily the displayed and current CF number was sufficient. All in all the inspection was quick, and Sospiro received a certificate of passing. I hear once you get inspected you can flash your inspection, should they come alongside to ‘pull you over’ again.
I asked the Coast Guard why they had chosen my boat to board, and they informed me that they are increasing routine inspections around the Bay. I have a great appreciation for the Coast Guard’s ensuring boaters are taking safety seriously. Two items I don’t recall being questioned about were my VHF, which was on, and flares, which I have in an easy-to-access compartment.
This incident got us thinking about how many of our readers have been boarded by the Coast Guard for a routine safety inspection, or perhaps something else.
Do you keep a checklist of safety equipment on your boat? Do you go through a check before you leave the dock?
We recommend all sailors get in the practice of doing checks every time they take their boat out. If you want to ensure you comply with the USCG, you can download and print this checklist that clearly outlines the required items: https://www.usps.org/national/vsc/formtool_files/a7012.pdf.
We firmly believe safety on the water should be the utmost priority for all sailors. For this reason, we have partnered with the Safe Boating Campaign, the National Safe Boating Council, and the US Coast Guard to bring you our new podcast Good Jibes. Good Jibes will launch next Wednesday, bringing you sailing stories, tips, and inspiration.
To ensure you and your crew have many more safe days on the water, visit https://safeboatingcampaign.com/ for resources, courses, and information. Safe days on the water equal more days on the water.
During Saturday’s Delta Doo Dah event at Delta Bay Marina, four West Wight Potters — Horizon Bound, ReGale, Senior Center and SeaDog — cruised over from Delta Marina in Rio Vista. Six of the little trailer-sailers had gathered in Rio Vista on Friday, and their crews enjoyed dinner at The Point Restaurant. But the nonagenarians in the fleet (that refers the age of the sailors, not the boats!) wisely chose to stay out of the hot sun on Saturday. A few others followed the fleet over by car.
Along with Delta Doo Dah’ers, some of the Potter Yachters tried out Delta Bay Marina’s little solar electric boats.
“Dave Kautz, Abby and I took out one of those electric boats, and the motor quit, so we sailed back with hat assist,” reports Jim ‘Goose’ Gossman, commodore of the Potter Yachters. “They had warned us about overheating, and blowing a circuit breaker — which is what happened. When it cooled down, we reset it, but sailed all the way back anyway. After all, we are sailors!”
“All four boats passed the safety inspection, and got ‘don’t board me’ stickers.”
“ReGale is a 1973 Potter 18, built by HMS, the original US manufacturer of the West Wight Potter 14,” said Goose. “The company changed hands several times, making Potter 15s and 19s, which were evolved versions. I also have Gale, a 1966 Potter 14, which I rescued 20 years ago — before I knew what a Potter was. She was a complete basket case, and I commenced making her whole again using whatever boat parts I could scavenge. I put my dinghy’s Honda 15 on it, twin rudders made from the leeboard and rudder of my Naples Sabot, and a Lido 14 rig. I ended up winning the Cruiser Challenge in 2009 with her! ReGale is her big sister. I’ve taken both to Puget Sound with other Potters several times. They are amazing boats.”
“Going back to Rio Vista, we baked, but eventually got enough breeze to cool off and get about an hour of nice sailing.”
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The COLREGS address a lot of the circumstances for when vessels meet at sea, but even the most detailed guidelines can’t address everything. Returning to our slip at the Corinthian Yacht Club, under power, we were concerned about the right of way over a large inflatable pink flamingo. It apparently had no propulsion, no steerage, a potentially meaningful but unknown display of flags, and a clearly ‘not my problem’ attitude about the situation. Fortunately a nudge from the tender helped us all avoid an intense round of ‘harbor rage.’
We should know better by now.
In an earlier mishap, we were out at Berkeley Circle to watch ILCA and 420 dinghies in the West Marine US Sailing Open regatta. With just two aboard, we went to furl the flailing jib without keeping some tension on the jib sheets. Of course, it didn’t go well, or quickly, and the resulting macrame would have made a 1960s hippie proud.
All in all just another great day on the water.
Earlier this week we reported a US Coast Guard mission to rescue a 23-year-old woman who had accidentally swallowed antifreeze while sailing from Astoria, OR, to Hawaii with her father. The story received numerous comments, many praising the efforts of the Coast Guard, which, due to the position of the vessel, required the coordination of crews from four USCG sectors and air stations, plus a paramedic from the San Francisco Fire Department.
The other frequent comment was regarding the question, “How did the woman accidentally swallow antifreeze?” We contacted USCG’s 11th District search mission coordinator, Douglas Samp, to ask that, and other questions.
“I don’t know,” Samp replied. According to the woman’s family, the pair had left Astoria on August 9. They had been planning the trip for two years and everything was reportedly going well — they were fishing, and having a good time. Samp was unable to disclose the woman’s name, but said she was being treated in the ICU department of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG). The woman’s father is currently sailing their vessel, Cibola, to San Francisco, and is expected to arrive this weekend.
Samp went on to say that it had been a busy week for the USCG, as they had responded to another two sailboats calling in emergencies, and a report of a sailor who was overdue after departing Santa Barbara for San Diego.
On Wednesday we received an email from Coyote Point Marina’s harbormaster Mark Bettis that a sailboat named Tiger Princess had been dismasted and activated its EPIRB approximately 200 nm west of Cape Mendocino. Samp confirmed the EPIRB was activated at around 5:50 a.m. and that the sailor also made a VHF mayday call. The EPIRB was Japanese-encoded; hence the incident was reported to Japan’s Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).
USCG launched a C-27 fixed-wing aircraft out of Air Station San Francisco and located the Tiger Princess approximately 260 nm west of Bodega Bay. A nearby merchant ship, Falcon One, had been alerted to the situation and was able to divert and recover the vessel’s sole occupant. The ship proceeded to Los Angeles.
In a separate incident, the sailing vessel Leviathan was transiting approximately 370 nm west-southwest of Point Conception when in 60-knot winds it encountered difficulties with its sails. The solo sailor then started motoring; however the engine failed and the vessel was now adrift. The M/V MSC Antonella, which was on a voyage from Ensenada, MX, to Yokohama, Japan, happened upon the stricken vessel and picked up the sailor. MSC Antonella continued to Japan, where the American Citizen Services at the US Embassy Tokyo and Rescue Coordination Center Japan have been notified.
Lastly, Samp told us that a 62-year-old had departed Santa Barbara aboard a wooden 1940s racing sailboat, headed for San Diego, and had failed to check in with his friends ashore. According to the friends, the sailor had been checking in every few days. The USCG opened a search. The vessel was located at a fuel dock in San Diego, and the sailor was eventually discovered to have gone ashore to visit a friend.
While we often hear stories of USCG’s rescue missions, it was interesting to chat with Samp, who oversees four USCG sectors. Most of the stories the community hears involve missions in which the Coast Guard is actively involved in recovering injured or stricken sailors. What we don’t hear about is all the work that goes into simply monitoring the movements and communications of the possibly hundreds of vessels that can be on the water at any given time.
In conclusion, we urge all sailors to be safe, comply with safety and safety equipment guidelines, and be thankful that the USCG is keeping an eye out for us all.
Oh, and by the way, if you happened to see a helicopter with a red flashing light hovering above the water over near the Bay Bridge (during those horrendous winds that raged through the Gate) on Tuesday evening at around 7 p.m., the mission was a training exercise involving a helicopter from Air Sector San Francisco and vessels from Station Golden Gate. So even when they’re not out saving people, the Coast Guard crews are busy practicing for the real thing.
But wait, there’s more!
This report landed on our desk just as we were about to publish:
“SAN FRANCISCO — The Coast Guard and partner agencies are salvaging a disabled sailboat Friday after rescuing a man from the boat approximately a half mile west of Rockaway Beach Thursday.”
“Coast Guard Sector San Francisco’s incident management division personnel contracted Parker Diving to tow the disabled 30-foot sailboat to the Army Corps of Engineers facility in Sausalito Friday as a precautionary measure to prevent pollution due to the amount of petroleum and flammable products aboard.
“It was determined that it would be unsafe to remove petroleum and incidental hazardous materials while underway, so they are scheduled to be removed after the sailboat is moored in Sausalito.
“The boat operator contacted Coast Guard Sector San Francisco watchstanders Thursday morning reporting his sailboat was anchored and disabled approximately a half mile west of Rockaway Beach.
“Watchstanders directed the launch of a Coast Guard Station Golden Gate 47-foot Motor Life Boat (MLB) crew at 7:32 a.m. The boat crew arrived on scene at 8:31 a.m. and transferred the man to the MLB after he reported feeling faint.
“Due to potentially hazardous materials aboard the boat the MLB crew determined it was unsafe to tow the boat, re-anchored the sailboat, and transferred the operator to emergency medical services personnel at Station Golden Gate where he was reported in good condition.
“There were no reports of pollution Thursday evening.”