Monday, August 14, 2006

Saved by the Coast Guard (and John Gomes)

Yesterday, I DID get my chance to test my waterproof camera - in the water, as well as on the coast guard rescue boat. First, many many thanks to John Gomes who kites out of the St. Francis Yacht club for coming to my aid when my kite inverted and twisted inside out under the golden gate bridge.

He's the man... with a waterproof VHF radio tuned to emergency channel 16. Kiting around one handed, he radioed the coast guard and directed them to me, all the while kiting back and forth around me to make sure I was OK as I was getting pulled out to sea.
Kiteboarding outside the Golden Gate Bridge My fellow kiter Austin Stewart was taking pictures from Crissy Field - here's a shot of Aaron Gershenberg, Young Sohn and I kiting outside the GG bridge at the north tower.

Kite Under the Golden GateAs I was kiting, I managed to get a shot of my kite passing under the bridge. This is the last shot I took on the water before I dropped my kite trying to salvage Young's board, which blew apart when he was lifted by a gust and the leash tore the grab handle off his board. Young washed up at the South tower construction site , and managed to hitch a ride from the Park Service back to Crissy Field :)

After trying several times to relaunch with my inside and outside kite lines (on both sides) twisted together, the kite finally took off, and immediately smacked the water, hard enough to pop my center strut. After that, the kite was completely unstable, and I knew I was toast (while in the water for 30 minutes - I kept wondering if Great Whites like toast) so I attempted a self rescue. Amazingly, even with the kite full of wind trying to pull me back into the Bay, the currents were so strong (the Bay is BIG, and when it empties, it ALL goes through the golden gate) that I went straight west out to sea gulping water in a losing battle to hold my own against the current. Without the additional help from my 'sail', I would have drifted a half mile & out of sight (5 Mph current = 1 mile in 12 minutes) in 5 or 6 minutes.

Boat to the Rescue The coast guard from Station Golden Gate came within 15 minutes. After a ride back to Crissy, they dropped me and my gear in the water 20 yards out and I swam it back in. The Coast Guard folks said they rescue 10- 15 kiters per week - we water people all owe them a big thanks. Without them we would be shrinking in numbers daily. Here's the crew that saved my ass.... Im sure they though I was nuts when I took out my camera and started snapping pictures on the boat. :)

And here is the crew - to whom I owe a big THANKS!!!
Coast Guard Rescue Party

Coast Guard Rescue Party

Coast Guard Rescue Party

Coast Guard Rescue Party


Blogger Unknown said...

So the kiteboard washed up one the rocks at Fleming Point in Albany the next day, due east from the Golden Gate and Crissy Field. The tide must have shifted. Good idea to have the phone number marked on it.

8:58 PM  
Blogger kiteVC said...

Wow. Here's what the tides looked like yesterday...

High Tide 2:56 AM 5.47 feet
Low Tide 8:50 AM 0.60 feet
High Tide 3:37 PM 6.17 feet
Low Tide 9:46 PM 0.99 feet

we were under the bridge around 5:30 - the coast guard recorded my 'save' at 6:00 PM. 5 feet of the surface of the bay moving out til 946 PM, then back in til 4 in the morning,

High Tide 4:05 AM 4.80 feet
Low Tide 9:34 AM 1.37 feet
High Tide 4:19 PM 6.27 feet
Low Tide 10:55 PM 0.72 fee

a modest movemen tout (3 feet) then a big gusher of 5 feet back in. thats probably what shot it across the bay along with a steady wind last night..

10:20 PM  
Blogger Susanna Lee said...

Good Lord Bill! What a brush with danger...was this the first time rescued by the Coast Guard in the Bay?

12:33 AM  
Blogger kiteVC said...

I windsurfed at Crissy field pretty regularly from 1989 to around 2000 - 11 solid years, and never a need for a Coast Guard rescue(although many of my windsurfing friends have been picked up during that period).

After some experimentation in 2000, kiting became mainstream for me in 2001 - and this is the first time I've been rescued.

Under the bridge or outside of the bridge, which is where we were, the word is "WHEN NOT IF" - confirmed by the crew on the cutter : 10 - 15 per week (all around Crissy, but not all under the bridge).

In our case, 2 of the 3 of us did not get back on our own. Young's kite stayed up, so he had enough power to drag to the rocks at the base of the bridge and was met by a ranger with a machine gun (gotta protect that bridge :) ) who arranged a ride to Crissy via the park service.

4:26 AM  

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