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Sailboat Explosion Alarms Sausalito Waterfront

On Monday morning we received an email alerting us to a sailboat explosion in Sausalito. It was rumored to have occurred at Pelican Yacht Harbor. A quick phone call to harbormaster Janet Erickson, who said she had been inundated with calls, revealed that the explosion was actually on a boat anchored in Richardson Bay, not at the marina.

Erickson said that although she couldn’t see the source of the explosion, she did experience the resulting percussion while standing on her own boat. “It sounded like a hunk of wood had hit the hull,” she said. “It was loud!” She later witnessed a person being wheeled up the ramp and talking to the paramedics in attendance.

We later received a report from Curtis Havel, harbormaster for the Richardson’s Bay Regional Agency (RBRA), confirming that the explosion had occurred on the Richardson Bay anchorage in the early evening last Sunday. Havel said while both Southern Marin Fire Protection District (SMFPD) and the US Coast Guard (USCG) responded to the distress call, they were yet to provide a formal incident report.

According to Havel’s email the explosion occurred on an approximately 35-ft sailing vessel named Folie Douce, which was at the time occupied by a man believed to be a Mr. Mark Culver. The SMFPD and USCG were able to extract Mr. Culver before the vessel sank. “Mr. Culver was very lucky and survived with only minor injuries/burns — it is my understanding that Mr. Culver is currently in the hospital,” Havel wrote.

The boat’s owner was very fortunate to have sustained only minor injuries.
© 2021 Curtis Havel

Havel said the explosion was likely to have been caused by a propane leak. “Propane leaks are one of a mariner’s greatest fears. Propane is heavier than air and tends to pool in the bilge of a vessel. If a spark reaches the pooled-up propane, it effectively acts as a bomb. This is likely what happened to the Folie Douce.”

Following the explosion, Folie Douce sank on her anchorage. Havel added that “the explosion likely damaged the vessel beyond any chance of repair without extraordinary financial effort.”

sunken boat after explosion
Although the masts are visible above the waterline, much of the hazard remains below.
© 2021 Curtis Havel

“Although it was an accident, it is the responsibility of the vessel owner to arrange for retrieval and disposal of the vessel. I’ve made attempts to reach the vessel owner to ascertain their plans for retrieval and clean up, but none of the contact methods have been successful.”

Currently the sunken vessel is a navigational hazard, and a threat to the environment due to the presence of fuels, engine oil and other hazardous materials. Havel wrote that in the event of Mr. Culver’s failing to take responsibility for his vessel, he has initiated summary abatement proceedings to remove the vessel as soon as possible. In this case the RBRA will organize professional salvors to retrieve the vessel at their earliest convenience and tow it to the Army Corps of Engineers debris yard, where it will be surveyed and disposed of properly.

Folie Douce, as she looked about a year ago.
© 2021 Curtis Havel

Havel noted that Folie Douce was on the anchorage prior to the vessel census of August 2019, and that she was was inoperable and not a part of the Safe and Seaworthy Program.



  1. Rochelle hamblin 2 years ago

    What does inoperable mean here? No sails even?

  2. Mark Anderson 2 years ago

    SAD…LOOK how anchor chain is wrapped around the Snubber line . Lack of the most simple of anchoring maintenance…..sad to see ANY BOAT die.

  3. Joseph H DiMatteo 2 years ago

    Sad indeed as a propane leak can happen on the best maintained vessels afloat. BUT this looks like just another chapter is the sad tale of Richardson Bay and the fleet of derelict boats that are a blight to the area.
    The inability of local authorities to get rid of the derelict boats, and their irresponsible owners, is the saddest part of this tale.

    • Donna Matcovich 2 years ago

      The environmental consequences are the worst part. Visual blight is one thing, toxins in the Bay has consequences for innocent birds and marine mammals. We all have a duty to protect the environment.

    • Rich Brazil 2 years ago

      Well said Joe. Guess we’ll just have to wait until all the derelict boats blow up, or sink due to storms.

  4. badornato 2 years ago

    Tell us more about the census and the inoperable part and the safety seaworthy program.

  5. Rich 2 years ago

    I’ve seen too many things go wrong with propane that is piped into boats. With modern technology it is very easy to use electricity and inductive cooking, diesel heat and options that make a great alternative. I was near Pt Conception one day when a Mayday came across from an anchored boater who just had an on board explosion. They were preparing dinner and sank within about five minutes. Hopefully, those who use propane will double check and make sure they have working safety shut off switches and pay attention to fire extinguishers, training and overall safety measures

  6. Memo Gidley 2 years ago

    Yes, lets get all the anchor out boats gone so we can have more tent cities like now forming in Dumphey Park! And the innocent birds and marine life…such a huge affect compared to even the smallest oil spill like what happened last week in Richmond!

  7. Robert DaPrato 2 years ago

    Please sue the owner for all of the expenses incurred to save the Bay and taxpayers!

    Put all others on notice for prosecution to the full extent of civil and criminal charges!

  8. Martin Thomas 2 years ago

    The Raccoon is waiting to be put into action against the derelict “boats”. Time to get her out there. Aren’t registered? Can’t pass the CG inspection. Can’t navigate a 3 mile course under your own sail or motor power? Yoo hoo Raccoon!

  9. Jon 2 years ago

    If my memory serves me well, I seem to remember a M. Culver advertising for crew for a trip south on the Baja HaHa aboard a 37 foot sailboat. I wonder if he made it south, and if so, if this boat was the one which was advertised for the trip. From the looks of the boat floating in the photo, and the fact that it is now at the bottom of Richardson Bay, my guess is it never made it and that is probably good for any would be HaHa sailors.

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