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High Winds & Waves Wreak Havoc

The wave-battered 34-ft sloop Sunyata was towed back to the Half Moon Bay anchorage Friday evening.

© 2009 Jeff Berman

In contrast to all the cheerful family bonding and much-needed relaxation that was enjoyed over the holiday weekend, gale-force winds and big seas plagued mariners all along the California coast.

Within sight of the Half Moon Bay anchorage, a U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue team made a dramatic rescue Friday evening of Matthew Runte, 49, of Walnut Creek, who had apparently been thrown from the 34-foot sloop Sunyata not far from Pillar Point. However, after spending perhaps an hour in the water, Runte, who was wearing a lifejacket, was not breathing and could not be revived. His unidentified shipmate did survive without major injuries.

On Saturday, about 60 miles to the north, an elderly couple drowned a few miles north of Bodega Bay while attempting to pull up their crab pots before the worst of the weather arrived. The bodies of Nikolaos and Eudora Afentakis, 83 and 78 respectively, were found near Salmon Creek amid the wreckage of their 20-ft fishing boat.

That same day, six mariners were hurled out of their fishing boat when it was capsized by a breaking wave, estimated to be 8 to 10-feet high, at the entrance to San Diego’s Mission Bay. All were rescued without serious injuries, as were the two lifeguards who were towing the fishermen back in — the lifeguard’s tow boat also capsized.

These and other recent incidents serve as evidence that winter storm warnings and high surf advisories are no joke. Regardless if you are going sailing, fishing or whale-watching always check several weather sources before heading out, and be sure all your safety gear is on board and working properly.

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