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Temp Crane for Three Bridge Launching

The Three Bridge Fiasco, which draws the largest fleet of any race on San Francisco Bay, is always unpredictable and filled with drama. Normally that all begins at the start line. but for competitors who keep their boats dry stored at Alameda Marina, the challenges this year began well before the first gun. 

On January 20, a Singlehanded Sailing Society member notified fellow members that the Alameda Marina staff confirmed that the three-ton hoist — the only one of three hoists that has been operable recently — was out of service with a broken motor and would not be available January 28 and 29. A note to tenants said "repairs were expected to be completed in the next few weeks." The announcement drew howls of protest from tenants, who said they suggested alternatives, including renting a temporary crane and installing a motor from a different hoist. But such suggestions were initially dismissed by marina management.

Until a solution was found, owners of dry-sailed boats at Alameda Marina feared that they’d have to miss the biggest race of the year.

© Bob Naber

On January 24, perhaps nudged by an inquiry from City of Alameda officials, harbormaster Paul Houtz announced that the marina was hiring a temporary crane for Three Bridge weekend, and was working with tenants to confirm the most convenient four-hour windows for operation before and after the race. In addition, free guest docking will be available all weekend. 

Houtz said the marina had purchased a new three-ton, motorized vertical mechanism for the hoist. “We’re hoping to have it in by the end of next week,” said Houtz. If the new motor hasn’t been delivered by then, the marina may install a two-ton rebuilt motor as a stopgap. “We plan to get the new motor in as soon as possible," Houtz assured. adding that the marina has recently been reaching out to tenants to gather their email addresses in an effort to improve communication regarding the hoist operation. 

Past issues with the hoist have affected not only Alameda Marina racers, but also race results throughout the Bay Area since many competitive boats reside there. On January 14, a boat that was leading a division at Berkeley YC missed the race because of the broken hoist, and hoist issues forced boats to drop two races of the Oakland Yacht Club brunch series. Missed races can affect the scoring for results for a variety of Bay Area classes and fleets – and fellow racers aren’t keen to benefit from the snafu. "Even if I’m not in the same class as someone who can’t make a given race, SSS scores season standings overall," said Bay Area racer Max Crittenden. "So I have an unfair advantage over somebody who missed a couple of races with his sportboat."

Proposed development at Alameda Marina would dramatically reduce dry storage. In addition to problems with the hoists, some dry dock-storage tenants claim marina officials have been unreceptive to ongoing issues with engine thefts and have retaliated against tenants who have complained publicly by evicting them from the marina.

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Peter Wagner’s Skeleton Key not only placed first in the J/111 division for the second consecutive year, but the crew was recognized on Thursday with the Marine Partners’ Day award.