An as-yet-unexplained incident at Bodega Bay last week, in which a 30-year-old crab fisherman lost his life, has become a focal point after allegations that the US Coast Guard allowed the deceased’s drifting vessel to run aground. The 42-ft commercial fishing vessel, Seastar, washed up onto Kehoe Beach, a reminder of other boats that are often left adrift after a rescue or other operation at sea.
We spoke with Bodega Bay fisherman Tommy Bailey, who had earlier been on the radio with the deceased and told us more about what happened, and about the community’s concerns.
The incident began on Thursday night when the captain of the Seastar, Ryan Kozlowski, was out crabbing. A few other commercial boats were also in the area, and the captains would check in with one another on a regular basis. Tommy told us that at around 8 p.m. the other boats were calling it a night and that Ryan had said he would check a few more pots before returning to port. The next morning the fishermen realized that Ryan had not returned to shore.
The Coast Guard reports that when their boat crew arrived on scene at around 10:15 a.m., the Seastar was unmanned and adrift near the rocks. They then began searching for the vessel’s captain.
“He’d been fishing in around 27 fathoms of water,” Tommy said. “He was experienced, a master mariner. He’d stopped running tugs in Alaska to come down here and fish.”
Tommy told us that other fishermen were also in the area searching for Ryan, and that some had tried to board the Seastar to stop it from running aground. One mariner had already made it aboard and was told by the Coast Guard to get off the vessel.
“They were not allowed to recover the boat and bring it back to port.”
When Ryan’s body was recovered, it was transported to Sonoma for a positive ID. The Coast Guard and partner agency vessels remained on the scene until it was confirmed that they had found the Seastar‘s captain. The vessel itself remained adrift during this time.
“The guys are super-disgusted,” Tommy said. He claims that if they had been allowed to board the drifting vessel it could have been saved, rather than becoming a wreck on the beach.
USCG spokesman Brandon Giles said, “The Coast Guard’s initial decision not to tow the vessel was made because there was a possibility of the missing fisherman being entangled in the crab pot lines.
“The Coast Guard remained in an active search stance until a positive ID of the body was confirmed by the Sonoma County Coroner. During that time a second Station Bodega Bay boat crew was launched to attempt to tow the Seastar, but the boat crew discovered the Seastar had drifted and ran aground.”
“Why didn’t they just drop the anchor, tie the boat off?” Tommy added. “Save everyone a huge headache.”
While mourning the loss of one of their own, the Bodega Bay fishing community, which Tommy described as “tight,” is rallying to help Ryan’s family by salvaging what they can from the boat and the fishing equipment.
“He had insurance,” Tommy said. But the boat itself is now worthless, a result that the locals believe could have been avoided.
“They need to be held accountable,” Tommy added, and referred to a previous incident involving the the 90-ft American Challenger, which was wrecked north of Dillon Beach after it broke free from its towline and was not recovered. The Point Reyes Light wrote, “It took nearly 10 months for a review to determine that the removal could be funded by a federal oil spill trust, during which time the Challenger sat derelict on a rocky and inaccessible stretch of shoreline.”
Ryan, whom Tommy referred to as “the kid,” had been running Seastar for around three or four years. “I saw him just last week.”
Ryan’s death is under investigation. In the meantime the Seastar has been pilfered for what can be sold, and the rest is being demolished and removed from the beach. Though, allegedly, not before some fuel had leaked from her battered hull.
Richard James, an Inverness resident who advocates for state legislation to prevent oil spills, told Point Reyes Light, “I would like to see the Coast Guard have a public meeting and explain what happened.” James’s words echo those of the Bodega Bay fishing community. “We’re just so disgusted,” Tommy repeats.
Bodega Bay fisherman Dick Ogg has created a GoFundMe page to honor Ryan’s “life and spirit” and “offset the loss of his vessel and support his family.” He is aiming to raise $20,000. The fund, which appears to have been started two days ago, has already raised over $14,000 — further testament to the nature of the small community that Ryan called home.
Friday, March 4, 1:10 p.m.
We have received the following from USCG spokesperson Brandon Giles in response to our question as to why the Coast Guard had not deployed Seastar‘s anchor:
“The Coast Guard Station Bodega Bay boat crew had never seen or used an anchor system like the one aboard the commercial fishing vessel Seastar to drop an anchor. The boat crew did not drop the anchor on the Seastar before shifting to a search and rescue stance because they did not know how to safely and effectively operate the anchor system onboard the Seastar.”
Tired of scanning another QR code and just finding a beer list at your local brewpub? Now you can scan a QR code to join summer beer can racing. Or sail over the horizon. Or, if you print and post the Latitude 38 Crew List flyer on some underutilized, outdated bulletin board, you might alter the life of some person you don’t even know by connecting them with their as-yet-unknown sailing future.
Summer is coming, the days are getting longer, and the rains will be stopping. (Actually, what rain?) The most active sailing season is ahead, and boats will be looking for crew to race, daysail, head to the Delta or sail down the coast. The Latitude 38 Crew List has over 500 people on it, looking to become crew, or skippers looking to find crew. There are always more crew looking for boats than there are boats looking for crew, but that’s because every boat needs only one skipper and usually many crew. You can sign up right here, right now so you don’t have to run around looking for a bulletin board with a QR code on it.
Signing up on the Crew List may just change your life. Printing and posting our QR code Crew List flyer may just change someone else’s life. It never hurts for new crew to show up with a six-pack of their favorite beverage (in the old days we used to say beer) to be consumed after a day of sailing. A lot of boats have changed hands during the pandemic, with 2021 brokerage sales up 28% over 2020. That means there are a lot of new owners who may need a hand.
So post it or scan it, then sign up and go sailing.
Nicole Breault of San Francisco and Daniela Moroz of Lafayette are two of the three finalists for US Sailing’s 2021 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award. Both are St. Francis Yacht Club members.
- Daniela Moroz won the Women’s Formula Kite European Championship and her fifth Kite Foil World Championship. She currently ranks sixth in the Formula Kite World Sailing Rankings.
- Nicole Breault is the 2021 US Sailing Women’s Match Racing Champion. She ranks as the top female match racer in the US and third in the world. She also serves as tactician and main trimmer on her J/105, Arbitrage. Read the next story in ‘Lectronic Latitude to learn how you can benefit from Nicole’s match-racing expertise.
- The third finalist is Anna Weis of Fort Lauderdale, FL. She’s another StFYC member. We’ll soon be seeing Weis on San Francisco Bay, as she’s now a sailing crewmember for the USA SailGP team.
Finalists for US Sailing’s 2021 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award are:
- The reigning Sunfish North American Champion, Conner Blouin of Tampa, FL. Blouin also won the US Sailing Championship of Champions and the Waszp North American Championship.
- Dave Hughes of Miami, FL, a member of the winning teams at three Class National Championships in 2021: Etchells, J/24s, and the Atlantic Class. Hughes and his teammate, Stu McNay, won the 470 North Americans.
- Harry Melges IV of Fontana, WI, who won two E Scow National Championships in 2021 (the 2021 and the rescheduled 2020 championships), the E Scow Inland Champs, and the E Scow Spring Champs, plus the Melges 24 Gold Cup.
The 2021 US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Award winners will be announced live at StFYC on March 24. The event, held in conjunction with the US Sailing Association Awards, will be livestreamed for all members of the sailing community to enjoy.
Match Racing Clinic Series
“Calling all would-be, green, or rusty match racers of the Bay Area! Nicole Breault (four-time US Women’s Match Racing Champion) will coach a Match Racing Clinic Series at St. Francis Yacht Club in J/22s on Thursday evenings, 5:30-8:30 p.m., March 10, 17, 24, 31, and April 7 and 14,” writes Bruce Stone. “Four skipper spots are available, and a total of 16 participant spots (four boats at four per boat). You can enter solo or bring a team. March 10 is classroom-only; subsequent sessions are drills and scrimmaging. No need to be a member of the St. Francis. The program fee is $125 per person. Register here.”
“Try out your new-found skills in the one-day Bunny Bash, a Grade 5 match racing regatta on Saturday, April 16. Invitations will be issued first-come, first-served, with priority extended to teams participating in the Match Racing Clinic Series. Contact [email protected] if you have questions. Come out and play!”
Pacific Offshore Academy
You can access several of the Pacific Cup’s previous seminars online. They include a virtual Town Hall and Peter King’s presentation, Instruments for Offshore Performance; plus more on the Pac Cup’s YouTube channel. Coming up this month are a Medical Orientation by George Washington University on March 23; and an in-person seminar at North Sails San Francisco loft (actually in Sausalito), Sail Repair Underway, on March 26, 10 a.m.-noon.
Newport to Ensenada Race
NOSA will help racers prepare for April’s race to Ensenada with hybrid seminars, March 10 at Del Rey YC and March 31 at Dana Point YC. Both will also be available online.
Island YC will close out their four-part series of webinars about weather and conditions with a talk by Bay Area tall-ship sailor Martin Spizman. “We explore a variety of data-gathering instruments and their uses in enhancing maritime safety and enjoyment in this final webinar of our Weather Series,” writes Ros de Vries, commodore of IYC. The webinar will start at 7 p.m. on Zoom. “Bring your questions around weather prediction and observations, as there will be the opportunity to answer your questions during this interactive webinar. If you have already registered for our four-, three- or two-class packs, no need to register again. You will receive the Zoom invite via email.
“Buy a pass for this final session:
- $15 non-members
- $10 for members and for Women Sailing Seminar attendees and instructors with coupon code
“A Zoom link will be provided the day before the event. Can’t make it? We’ll send you a recording afterward.”
Wooden Boat Festival
The Wooden Boat Festival’s online Ask an Expert Winter Series will present Susan Brittain’s LGBTQ+ and Finding My Way in the Marine Industry, on March 17, 5-6:30 p.m. This session is free.
San Francisco Sailing Science Center
Get the Boater ID
The US Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Skills & Seamanship course qualifies graduates for the California Boater Card. The next session will be held online Monday nights March 29-May 3, 7-9 p.m. The $75 fee includes the textbook. Register via email.
Mike … is a great fan of Latitude 38, perhaps our “biggest fan” according to Joan Mellon. Joan tells us, “Mike picks up his Latitude 38, faithfully, every month at Santa Cruz Yacht Club or West Marine. There is no getting his attention when he sits down and begins to read cover to cover!” The winning ticket was in the February issue that Mike collected at West Marine.
When we asked to know more, Mike wrote, “We sail the Catalina 320, La Vida, although not frequently enough, cruising the Bay and a near-annual trip to the magnificent, warm Delta.” He also told us, “Say hi to the folks at Latitude 38. You guys do a great job.” Thanks Mike!
We sent Mike a yellow Latitude 38 hat, which we imagine he will wear proudly aboard La Vida on his next sail, and perhaps everywhere else too!
If you want to find your own Golden Ticket, keep reading Latitude 38. The tickets are tucked inside random copies of the magazine. We don’t know how many, or when, but we know they’re out there, somewhere.
You can pick up the new March issue from your favorite or nearest distributor. Or, to be sure of getting a copy each month (because you never know when you might get stuck at home for 30 days, or go everywhere but to a place where you can find Latitude 38), subscribe! We’ll send a copy of every new issue directly to your mailbox.