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‘Briar Rose’ and the Brown Pelican — A True Story

While the headline rings like a fairy tale, this story is true. Jack Sloane and his crew Richard vonEhrenkrook were sailing from Bodega Bay to San Francisco Bay last Friday for the Master Mariners Regatta, when they were visited by a large brown pelican. This bird didn’t just drop in, it hitched a ride aboard Jack’s classic Tahiti Ketch Briar Rose.

The pelican makes a safe landing aboard Briar Rose.
© 2024 Jack Sloane

“As we left Point Reyes to port, the nonchalant avian almost set down right on Richard’s head, startling us both as it brushed its wings against the mizzen and alighted on our stern, less than a foot away from where we were sitting in disbelief,” Jack writes.

Clearly this bird knew what it was doing.
© 2024 Jack Sloane

“For more than an hour she calmly perched there, joining us on a starboard tack toward the Farralones. As we rolled wildly in the heavy seas, the pelican expertly compensated, swaying back and forth on webbed feet. After a slightly tumultuous jibe, ‘Peli’ (as Richard dubbed her) decided to move on and flapped off toward the islands.”

This video shows the bird to be an experienced sailor.

“We decided the visit was a good omen,” Jack continues, “especially after we went on to place second in the hard-fought Gaff II Division race on Saturday! We were also recognized for having traveled the farthest in order to participate.”

Briar Rose gets her rail wet on her way to second place in the Master Mariners Regatta.
© 2024 Jack Sloane
The spoils of victory.
© 2024 Jack Sloane

Jack and Richard finished their weekend with a 13-hour beat back home to Bodega Bay — sans pelican.


  1. Harvey Hoefer 3 weeks ago

    These pelican visits on private yachts (fishing boats receive them more often, I heard) don’t seem to be that rare. It happened to us as well on the way back from Drakes Bay a couple of years ago. That young pelican sat next to me while steering my Vidö for about 1/2 hour before he decided to leave. I have a lovely picture of this event – but I can’t show it here in the comment section. He seemed to be quite happy enjoying the ride. A lovely bird!

  2. golde wallingford 3 weeks ago

    This is amazing that it showed up in my email just now. First of all Rich von Ehrenkrook is my brother-in law, whom I have not seen in decades. Secondly, I was on a boat, the Zanadu, in the master mariners regatta in SF Bay in 1976, that won…and I went on to crew (signed on as cook) on that boat to Hawaii. My first experience out of SF bay!) After a disastrous start, breaking a piece in the steering mechanism, just after entering the coastal currents….losing radio contact with the coast guard after giving our navigational position, and then finding all the flares we tried to shoot up were old and not functional….we limped our way back in to Pelican Harbor in Sausalito (with the help of the US Coast Guard) what a godsend that was….ordered a new piece, repaired the broken part….got a new captain (Art Merseau sp?), thank God, and went on to sail to Hawaii, making our landfall in 15 days…..thus beginning an amazing adventure of my sailing career…eventually sailing to New Zealand…and after 4 yrs of sailing…capsized in a 10 meter boat (did a 180..lead ballast in the keel brought us back up) 1000 miles off the coast of NZ on my way to the Austral Islands in French Polynesia. After landing in Fr. Polynesia…I retired from sailing…heading to the mountains for a while. I would love to hear from Rich von Ehrenkrook ( there can only be one!?) …and find out how he got into sailing and re-unite with him. Also I would love to hear from Billy Martinelli ….who originally got me into sailing all those years ago.

  3. Rich Brazil 3 weeks ago

    A bird aboard is always a good omen; until they poop!

  4. Carliane Johnson 3 weeks ago

    This is cute “good omen” story but it is always curious when a wild animal chooses to have close contact with humans. There have been recent reports of dead/starving pelicans and sea lions along the Central Coast and I don’t think anyone knows the cause yet. Maybe a correlation?

  5. Dean Dietrich 3 weeks ago

    We were visited by a pelican somewhere in the South Pacific (long ago) that had a hole in its bill. We assumed he was slowly starving because the fish he caught probably dropped through the hole. He left after about an hour. Very sad.

  6. Jeanne Sloane 3 weeks ago

    How often does any of that happen? You can’t make this stuff up.

  7. Jim Shubin 3 weeks ago

    While anchored in San Simeon (north of Morro Bay), I was cooking on the small grill on the aft deck of my Farallon Clipper Mistress when a pelican landed right next to the bbq. I happened to be below getting the chicken ready to grill and a the bird stood right in the middle of the companion way. I could not go up as it kept sending his sharp bill into my face. The only thing I could do is go and use the forward hatch. I went aft and tried to send it away but gave up. I put some chicken on the grill and the bird sat and watched. I gave it a small piece that I washed in salt water and he lifted it’s head and swallowed it. What a suprise! The bird finally left.

  8. John Smith 3 weeks ago

    While serving in the U.S. Navy we were returning to Hawaii from Japan when the morning of the second day at sea an albatross hooked up with us and landed on our signal bridge. The bird would rest then fly above us and then roost on our signal bridge at night. When we passed just south of Midway Island the bird lifted off and flew in a circle and peeled off northward. This was in April 1974 aboard the fleet tug USS Takelma ATF-113.

  9. Judy Martin McCandless 3 weeks ago

    On a breezy day, 1000 miles into a Pacific Crossing on our 35 ft cutter rig, we had a visit from a small egret. She stayed forward far from us, sheltered on deck, beside our overturned dinghy for a day. A delightful distraction, she apparently needed a rest from a long flight. The next day she was gone.

  10. Randy Grenier 3 weeks ago

    I was trolling for Salmon of of Rocky Point on my Newport 30 about 10 years and had a juvenile pelican land on our cabin. He stayed with us for half an hour . we offered him several anchovies before he decided to take flight. A memorable day on the ocean

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