April 23, 2012 – Raccoon Strait
While Saturday's weather conditions were
as close to perfection as one could have hoped — as evidenced by
day-long traffic jams as city-dwellers tried to make their escape to
the beach — Sunday was a little brisker, with more typical
summer-like winds. Those 25-knot+ winds are why Capt. Doug
Workmaster, skipper for Captain Kirk's San Francisco Sailing'
Sausalito-based Santa Cruz 50 Bay Wolf, was in the right place at
the right time to save a young man's life.
Workmaster, out on a four-hour charter
on Sunday, had already made quick work of a run up the eastern side
of the Tiburon peninsula to Red Rock, and back into the lee of Angel
Island when he realized that there were still two more hours to go
in the charter. "I decided to make the same run for a couple of
reasons," he explains. "First, Central Bay was pretty foggy and
cold, and also because I wanted to check our new sail plan."
As Workmaster and first mate Brian
Coggan got Bay Wolf moving past Bluff Point at the eastern entrance
to Raccoon Strait, they saw a partially swamped yellow kayak with no
one aboard. Initially suspecting that the kayak had simply been
blown off a beach, Workmaster realized someone was most likely in
the water when he spotted a paddle floating about 20 feet away from
"The water was just starting to ebb, and
there was about a two-foot wind chop," recalls Workmaster. "As we
passed the kayak, we heard a very weak call for help." After
spotting a young man in the water, he set to work getting the boat
in a position to pull the man aboard. Once to windward, Coggan
snagged the man with a boat hook, and with the help of Workmaster,
pulled him aboard.
"Adam was dressed in only boardshorts, a
lightweight PFD and glasses," Workmaster says. "He told us through
chattering teeth that he and his friend Alex had paddled from
Paradise to Angel Island, and were returning when they got
separated. He capsized and decided to start swimming for shore."
Workmaster estimates that Adam, 23, was
about 400 yards from shore when Bay Wolf picked him up. "He left his
kayak and paddle to swim for shore, but I don't think he would have
made it. He told us he thought he was in the water for about 30
minutes, but Dr. Art, the man who'd chartered Bay Wolf, and I think
it probably wasn't any more than 10-15 minutes. Considering his
level of hypothermia, he probably only had another 5-10 minutes
Adam was taken below, redressed in warm
clothes and wrapped in blankets while Workmaster and Coggan
communicated with the Coast Guard about their suspicions that Adam's
friend might also be in the water. Bay Wolf, the San Rafael
fireboat, and the Sausalito-based Catalina Tahiti all commenced
searching for the friend, which was thankfully unnecessary. "For the
next 20 minutes, we had an increasingly tense time as we searched in
vain," recalls Workmaster. "Then the best phone call came in — Alex
and his kayak were safely ashore. Sweet!"
In the meantime, Adam had improved
significantly, and Dr. Art believed he could easily make the trip
back to Sausalito, rather than try to dock Bay Wolf, which draws
eight feet, at Sam's on a falling tide. "Once we got back to
Sausalito, we put him into the care of his parents," Workmaster
says. "I'm thankful for the support and teamwork of Brian, and that
we happened to have a medical doctor onboard."
We bet Adam and his folks are even more
thankful. Great job, Bay Wolf crew!
- latitude / ladonna