Yesterday I sailed from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. Hilary, friend of mine asked if I’d help her and her dad move their boat, a Sydney 38 race boat. It’s regularly in a slip here in Santa Cruz, but they’re participating in the Spinnaker Cup next weekend, which goes from San Francisco down to Monterey. I enthusiastically agreed, then she said we’d be leaving Monday morning, 2 AM, which only made me shutter a little.
Being on the water in the morning is some of my favorite time, but is often no good for putting sails up, so we motored out of the harbor and up the coast. Unfortunately, when the wind did pick up it was at our bow the entirety of the ride. The ride is a slow and steady one with views of plenty of open water (sans Channel Islands) and a look back on shore with The One along side us the whole way. Still, a view from the sea is kind of like from the air with it’s spectacular scale and intricate detail.
Throughout the day we traded the helm off, while each of us grabbed a few minutes of sleep. By the early afternoon we’d arrived at The Golden Gate and began navigating the “Potato Patch,” the portion of water that is in constant turmoil between ocean swell, wind fetch, and tidal ebb or flood. Fortunately the swell wasn’t too large (2-3). Even so, we were surprised a few times while surfing the swell in by the sudden impact of waves on their way out. There wasn’t much in the way of traffic, but there were a few cargo vessels and we had to be mindful of their impending arrival.
Unfortunately, just before we were to cross under the bridge, we were detoured when Hilary saw a man jump from the bridge. It only took a minute or two for a CHP helicopter to arrive and an announcement to come across CH 16. “PAN PAN US Coast Guard US Coast Guard. Reports of Person in the water near Golden Gate Bridge. All vessels lend assistance.” With our eyes where Hilary pointed us we then saw signal smoke and I turned the boat toward it. I quickly gave the helm to Scott, Hilary’s father and owner of the boat and set to work with Hilary managing the search and rescue. Hilary quickly had eyes on the person and I hustled back to the ‘life-ring.’ Scott drove us up along side the individual who was silent, motionless, but head above water and conscious. My first throw was taken by the wind, but a second go allowed me to get it above him and he grabbed the line. Mean while the boat was in the middle of some of the worst section of sea, directly under the south span of the bridge. Scott handled the boat nicely while Hilary communicated over the VHF the patient’s condition. With good driving, we had enough stability for me to grab “Ben” and pull his head and chest onto the boat. I struggled immensely with the life lines and know now in the future that I need to understand the quickest way to remove the safety wire. As I pulled his legs onboard, my hands had trouble holding the putty that had been his femur. With his pants to his ankles, I struggled awkwardly. Eventually we got him eighty-percent onboard and wrapped in a blanket at which point I was able understand he was Alert and Oriented x 1, knowing his name, birthday, and home state, but not his current orientation. Shortly after a US Coast Guard boat pulled along side to deliver Will, a man dressed in a Tyvec suit and mask ready for a far worse outcome than he’d found. Will managed the patient as we put the throttle to full (sans sails) and headed, escorted by Marin Fire & Rescue and USCG, North to the Coast Guard Station Golden Gate in Salsulito. We were greeted by about 30 folks from various agencies. With efficiency they docked us removed the life-lines, stabilized the patient, transported, and even cleaned off the boat. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves transiting the bay without our passenger thinking, ‘did that really just happen?‘
We arrived shortly at the St. Francis Yacht Club and docked the boat, grabbed a quick ginger ale, rented a car, and then headed back to Santa Cruz.
It was a long day even without the excitement, but it’s nice that we could participate in a rescue instead of a recovery. We’re hoping “Ben” recovers well.