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Aldebaran Sinks

Hayden Brown designed and built Aldebaran, starting her in 1971.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Local sailors will be familiar with the sight of the beautiful 70-ft ‘pirate ship’ Aldebaran plying the waters of San Francisco Bay — she won last year’s Great San Francisco Schooner Race and is the official pirate boat of the Vallejo Pirate Festival — but the merry 4th of July fireworks cruise aboard the schooner came to a tragic end when she ran up on the Richmond Jetty. Owner Hayden Brown designed and built Aldebaran over the course of 40-some years, and has taken well over 1,000 people out on the boat for charitable causes.

"We were coming back from the fireworks around 10:30 p.m.," he told us this morning. "I had the GPS map on but hadn’t zoomed in because I was looking for the entrance buoys. All of a sudden I saw a flash of water and realized that we were heading straight for the breakwater. My first thought was to turn, but I decided to take it straight on so the side of the boat wouldn’t get crushed."

A tragic miscalculation has left her grounded on the Richmond breakwater.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Brown says that Coast Guard pulled all 19 people aboard safely from the boat, but that Aldebaran has suffered tremendous damage. "There are several holes now, but the boat is stabilized in the mud. Parker Diving tried to pull her free yesterday but they were unsuccessful." The next step, he says, is to get a barge crane on the scene to pull her free.

At high tide she’s completely awash. There but for the grace of God…

© Paige Brooks

So Aldebaran sits awash on the Richmond Jetty, waiting for her own rescue. Brown says he’s fairly certain he and his crew can fix her ferrocement hull if they can get her raised soon, but the cost of such an operation could easily bankrupt the 77-year-old and his wife. They’re hoping friends and fans will contribute to their Go Fund Me fundraising campaign to restore the unique schooner. We wish the Browns and Aldebaran all the best for many more years of Bay sailing.

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