Low Speed on the rocks – Farallon Islands
When I moved out to northern California from Virginia in 1995 one of my first interests was to learn how to sail performance sailboats out on the Pacific Ocean. We’ll its been over 17 years and many different types of sailboats that I have both crewed on and skippered as an owner. I have also sailed up and down the California coast in small raceboats and in 2001 was lucky enough to race to Hawaii on 52 foot racer.
Now adays, I sail less, but still love the sport and being out on the ocean on my 25 footer Calico. So, yesterday when I learned of the tragic loss of a racing sailboat off the Farallon Islands off San Francisco. It really sadden me, and I know a few of my other sailing mates. We all felt compelled to talk about it, what a tragedy…a real bummer. After reading more about the tradegy and learning more about the circumstances a couple of thoughts stood out for me that I wish I did not feel compelled to put down.
From personal experience I have skippered a similar but smaller race boat in this same race in 2005. I remember being very nervous about it the night before. I was racing one of the smallest boats in the fleet…and I had never sailed this challenging ocean race before. It was a 60 to 70 mile out and back loop around the Farallon Islands 25 miles offshore. Fortunately, we had an incredibly good and exciting race that all of us will remember.
So…when I learned that the boat had sailed close to shore I wonder if to sail a shorter course around the islands. These islands are big, sharp, mean, meanicing rocks that look like they take the greatest of pleasue in smashing small race boats upon its jaged shores. From a sailors point of view, finding yourself in the water is very frighting experience. Especially in the waters off San Francisco. These waters and the Farallon Islands are home to the largest concentaration of great white sharks on the US West Coast. You do no want to find youself swimming in the waters anywhere near this island. It is also freezing cold water.
Next thought, why are crew washed overboard? Because they are not clipped into the boat. In my opionion, it does not matter how calm the ocean ‘looks’ and ‘feels’ out there…you can get hit with a big 10 foot breaking greeny ‘on top’ of the cockpit and roll the boat at any time. If crew members are not clipped in, they are washed overboard – perhaps unconscious. My advice is to take long way around the island and always be clipped in out there.