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Fishermen Angry After Another Boat Left to Wreck on Shore

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.

The Seastar lies on Kehoe Beach.
© 2022 California Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response

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.”

Could she have been saved from becoming another wreck?
© 2022 California Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response

“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.

We understand the Seastar has now been cut up and removed from the beach.
© 2022 California Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response

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.

Update:

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.”

14 Comments

  1. Greg Clausen 11 months ago

    I don’t understand how the CG would let the boat wash ashore and create a bigger hazard? And letting boats go adrift in the ocean is just as bad

  2. Murphy Sackett 11 months ago

    They can’t drop a anchor! Wow maybe they need some more training at our expense. Bet my 15 year old daughter train them.

  3. MM 11 months ago

    Regarding the update, how is it possible that not one person on the USCG crew could figure out the anchor? Or ask one of the fishermen who were clearly involved. I adore the USCG and am very grateful to them, but this was poorly handled, both for the deceased and his community and for the delicate environment of the West Marin seashore. A tragedy in so many ways. My heart goes out to Ryan’s family. Peace.

  4. Inge Lorentzen Daumer 11 months ago

    What a glaring lack of Training of their S&R crew by the USCG! My only hope would be an immediate rectifying of this omission, by USCG personnel….this should never happen again.
    My heart goes out to the fishing community

  5. Paolo Sheaffer 11 months ago

    I am thankful for the Coast Guard, but their explanation in this case is just so lame and weak. Prayers to Ryan’s family.

  6. Peter Adams 11 months ago

    A basic re-think of the role of the coast guard is in order. They are doing what they have been instructed to do: save lives and not property. Once lives are saved, why not do what they can to save property? I wonder if other nations’ coast guards follow similar procedures. This is not the first time rescuers were ordered not to interfere by the CG when their assistance might have prevented a vessel from being wrecked.

    • jim gossman 11 months ago

      Exactly. Re-think, with input from those involved in incidents. A few years ago I was also ordered to “stand down” in Monterey Bay at an event I was the coordinator for; rather than allow me to grab the bow line of a capsized boat (and pull it away from the committee boat). Once crew was safe they just declared it a salvage operation, called for a commercial tow, and the boat was basically destroyed.

  7. Jim Gossman 11 months ago

    Another ridiculous response by CG. Sounds a bit like their response to me that they” didn’t have training in sailing or anchoring ” and refused to help me when I needed assistance. . A couple weeks after my incident a Thistle capsized near me, and the response by fire department and CG was also ridiculous…A quick response of resources, but they just took the crew off, and let the boat drift onto rocks. When I asked fire dept officer on beach why they just didn’t tow it the couple hundred yards to the boat ramp, he said it was “too risky “. Ridiculous!!! So, when the boat drifted to shore, I got in and de-rigged and bailed it , and two wing-foilers in wetsuits walked it over to a spot where we could lift it onto their trailer. Do we need to form civilian safety patrols because the “pros” have been so hamstrung by bureaucrats that we can’t rely on them for common sense response to regular problems. I’m not a basher, but I’ve already caught enough flack for my opinion that something is not right. I hope someone with authority is listening, and makes positive changes. We need them! A week after the sailboat capsized, while out on a friend’s trawler to practice docking, we got pulled over too! They say “their mission has changed”, so I guess frivolous inspections are ok, but preventing property and environmental damage is not . I’ll send pic of Thistle drifting so you can see conditions . While I’m lucky to be on the water more than most , I’m not so lucky with cg encounters.

  8. Hardy Wronske 11 months ago

    A chain rode on a windlass can be pretty dangerous and I might hesitate to let a young Coastie try to figure it out. They are highly trained, but probably didn’t grow up around wooden trawlers. Very sad to see a wooden boat get destroyed.

  9. Gus van Driel 11 months ago

    I have nothing, and I mean nothing, but respect and gratitude for the services the U.S. Coast Guard renders to the boating community, frequently at their own peril.

    But, this is ridiculous. No one on the crew knew how to deploy the anchoring system, are you serious????? And there would have certainly been other ways to keep the boat from crashing ashore and getting destroyed. And not one of the crew or the shore base support could think of a solution???? That is incredible and unacceptable!

  10. Rand Launer 11 months ago

    I’m sorry to see the loss of a sailor and fisherman. It’s very sad. The U.S. Coast Guard’s action regarding his vessel is very disturbing. The arrogant lack of cooperation with professional fishers and the inaction resulting in the loss of a worthy, large, expensive boat is plain scary.

  11. milly Biller 11 months ago

    I saw Parker Diving driving by today, and figured that they are on it. They are fantastic, but the access to this beach is a long trail . I have to imagine that this will cause even more damage, despite the care that i would expect from Parker. So much sympathy for Ryan’s family.

  12. Sailorette 11 months ago

    With the fishermen in the immediate vicinity, I agree. The CG should have asked for assistance.
    If they were too embarrassed to ask for assistance, the could have googled the anchoring system or figured it out via a YouTube video.
    ~Or~ They could have deployed one of their anchors and tied it to the bow of the SeaStar.

  13. Ken brinkley 11 months ago

    Common sense seems to be lacking in the Coast Guard response. Sunday quarterbacking is easy but this calls for a deeper inquiry!

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