Tales of epic sailing failure... on the West Coast

This tale has an index; a preface, which presents two points; and a main body. This paragraph serves as the tale's index, the next will be the preface and then all remaining content will be the tale itself.

To preface my tale, I need to put forth two points. Firstly, I would like to make clear that my favorite branch of the United States Armed Forces is the United States Coast Guard. Secondly, I have no sailed Synchronicity in both the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

So, now, let's get to the meat of the story. I am giving away my Hobie 16, Synchronicity, before I move back to Boston (have I mentioned that I'm moving back to Boston?). As is my way, I would far prefer to gift Synchronicity to friends or friends of friends than to try to sell her for some hundreds or a thousand dollars to someone random through Craigslist. As such, Synchronicity remains in my social circles and goes to Denise H. and Ted S.

If you're going to give away a catamaran to folks who haven't rigged or sailed a catamaran before, clearly you should go out sailing with them; this is, of course, more clear if you haven't managed to sail your own catamaran since bringing it out to the West Coast. So, Denise, Ted, and I grabbed Synchronicity, grabbed her rigging, and headed over to the Treasure Island Sailing Center, which is a wonderful small boating facility with a convenient ramp if your boat is light enough to carry by hand. For a nominal fee, we were able to park car and trailer, as well as launch boat.

With about six (6) knots of wind and reasonably calm waters, we were able to pick up a fair bit of speed, even though we were intentionally spilling quite a bit of wind (it's been a while, no reason for us to go overboard (literally or so to speak)). All in all, quite a wonderful sail.

At some point, when we were half a mile or so out from Treasure Island (a few tacks in), there was a funny sound; the sound was as one piece of metal clanking against another. I'd say that we were moving at a decent 8-12 knots (the rudders were singing), and I thought it was just one of our water bottles banging against the trampoline frame. A few moments later, there was another clank and I asked if anyone else heard it. Others had heard it but, without any particular idea of what it was, we didn't have much reason to pay attention. A few moments later there was a loud snapping noise, the port shroud snapped, and the mast crashed into the Bay; the event took no more than a fraction of a second, all told.

Luckily, nobody was caught by the freed cable or the plummeting mast. Unluckily, our mast, sails, and rigging were no longer in our boat. After the "oh shit" moment had passed, it was time for save the boat and don't drift into that barge mode. Did I mention that we were right in the midst of a number of large stationary barges that are moored in the Bay just south of Treasure Island? Well, we were.

Taking all the rigging down from on the boat proved hopeless, so I hopped in the water and started working from there (quick aside, wetsuits are amazing). With a fair bit of wrangling and removing all the battens from the mainsail (another aside, small knives are great when you can't untie ropes and need them free in a hurry), we managed to haul everything back onto the boat.

Having brought paddles in case anything got hairy, we started paddling for Treasure Island. Paddling, with the currents and, more so, the wind, got us worse than nowhere. Despite our efforts, we were traveling parallel to Treasure Island and mostly in the direction of the Bay Bridge.

Eventually, we managed to get the attention of a passing tugboat (really and truly an absolutely massive tugboat). The tug offered to call the Coast Guard and drag us to a nearby buoy, which we graciously accepted. Tossing us a rope as thick as my forearm, we tied up to the tug and they slowly started towing us (the delicacy exercised by the captain was a work of art).

Eventually the Coast Guard showed up (they had another capsize to deal with first). After some discussions between us and the Coast Guard boat, as well as the Coast Guard boat and their base, they offered to tow us back to Treasure Island (quite generous in the face of the general Coast Guard policy of helping individuals in danger but avoiding any direct involvement in salvage operations). We graciously accepted the offer, thanked the tugboat and were slowly dragged back to Treasure Island.

Returning to shore, and hauling the boat out, we took stock of our situation. None of us were particularly injured (torn cuticles and a few fiberglass splinters from the battens don't count for much), the boat wasn't in terrible shape (snapped shroud, cut ropes to hold the battens), and we even sailed for a while. All in all, for a pretty epic sailing fail, everything turned out pretty well in the end.