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Potter Yachters Sail to the Rescue

West Wight Potter sailors are usually out just having fun, but recently a couple of Potter Yachters became rescuers when they responded to a call for help. Eric Zilbert tells the story.

Last Sunday, most of the Potter Pod left Moss landing for their respective home ports. However, Ed Hultgren and I were good for one more sail. We headed out, motoring to the bell buoy (Mile Buoy) to avoid the chop and light wind in toward shore. We were able to sail through a moderately large and confused sea, planning to do two long tacks and then surf our way back into the harbor.

Just before we were about to reverse tacks, I heard someone calling the Moss Landing harbormaster looking for a tow. Shortly thereafter the Coast Guard was on the radio with the Naiomi, a small (23-ft) fishing boat. The skipper was very concerned he would be on the beach soon. The wind on Sunday was expected to be over 20 knots with gusts to 40.

I located what I thought was the boat, and told the Coast Guard I would be on the scene in about four minutes. I motorsailed to where the boat was (very close to the Mile Buoy) and determined that they were not in immediate danger. I determined that it would be very hazardous to attempt to tow them in, mostly due to the rough seas at the harbor entrance; more horsepower and a bigger engine were needed. However, the skipper wanted to put ashore one crewmember who could not swim. I took the man onto my boat and took him to the harbor.

Meanwhile, Ed arrived on the scene and proceeded to take a line from the Naiomi and conducted a tow to keep them from drifting closer to the beach. Eventually a larger fishing boat came to assist the Naiomi and towed her in.

Ed Hultgren & Naomi Skipper
Ed Hultgren (left) and the skipper of Naiomi both arrived safely at the docks.
© 2021 Eric Zilbert

I was very surprised that for a long period of time, no one responded to the cry for assistance. Just our responding put the skipper and crew at greater ease. It was an exciting end to our day on the water.

A fleet of Potter 19s rest on the beach at Tomales Bay. Eric’s boat Riptide is in the foreground.
© 2021 Eric Zilbert

Goose Gossman added to Eric’s story, which is also on the Potter Yachters’ website

The forecast was 25-30 knots, so we left the dock early, keeping a sharp eye on the leading edge of the fog bank moving toward us with its strong winds. We stayed close to the harbor entrance so we could head in as conditions changed. We had six boats launch — [we were] staying at Elkhorn Yacht Club, which kindly let us squeeze into their guest dock.

The Potters usually monitor channel 69, so I missed the distress call. I had my wife and dog aboard, and had dropped my mast so we could enter Elkhorn Slough after motoring out to look for whales. My boat has a big motor, but towing a larger boat through the harbor entrance would not have been prudent given the two- to three-foot waves breaking across the harbor entrance at low tide.

Thankfully, everyone was safe. As the Potter mantra goes, “We cheated death again!”.

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