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 boat.
"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 left."
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