Weekend proved risky on the bay

05/29/2014

At least five pleasant outings on Tomales Bay over the holiday weekend turned life threatening for kayakers and boaters when strong gusts capsized their vessels and left them stranded in the chilly waters. With a mean wind speed recorded above 26 miles per hour in Point Reyes Station and stronger gales perfectly aligned with the direction of the bay, the conditions were treacherous for tourists in the water on Sunday afternoon. With just under 7,000 people streaming to the Bear Valley Visitor Center over the weekend, the National Park Service had a boat in the water throughout three days. At 11 a.m. on Sunday, when two rangers set out on patrol duty, the waves measured one foot high; by 4 p.m., as conditions worsened with stronger gusts and an outgoing current, waves had grown to four feet, spilling water over the bow, said John Dell’Osso, a spokesperson for the Point Reyes National Seashore. These conditions caused multiple vessels up and down the bay—including near Marshall Beach, Laird’s Landing and Millerton Point—to capsize under the heaping waves, whose white foam blew in streaks across the surface. One canoe carrying three people tipped over, and inflatable boat with three occupants also capsized. Henry 1, a rescue helicopter operated by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, sent down a rescue swimmer just south of Blue Waters Kayaking’s Marshall headquarters to lift two adults and one child to shore, said Jeremy Pierce, the Woodacre Fire Department battalion chief. Later, a 42-year-old man and his 5-year-old son, who launched a kayak from Heart’s Desire, were swept across the bay. The struggling seafarers were rescued with the help of the park service rangers, the Inverness Volunteer Fire Department and county firefighters from Tomales, Point Reyes and Woodacre. No injuries were reported.