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Captain Log ID: 103
Title: Coho Anchorage, California
Boat Name(Id): SAGA ( 98)
Sailor Name(Id): Nancy Birnbaum ( 421)
Geo Region: Point Conception
Date of Occurance: 1999-07-05
Latitude: N 34º   26.399'
Longitude: W 120º   26.399'
Sender (if email-in):
Earlier log from "SAGA":  
Newer log from "SAGA":  98
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Gosh, it's only been one and a half weeks since we left Pt. Richmond and our slip in Brickyard Cove to sail south. Jann & I are both new to cruising, but not to sailing. We both started early and sailed "The Bay" often enough to know that we wanted more. Having prepared for this voyage thoroughly, we've made a serious effort to try to foresee almost anything and prepare for that inevitability. And, thanks to Latitude 38 and its readers input, we've learned from others (mis) adventures!

Still, it was a real "wake-up call" so-to-speak, when the deafening roar of a coast guard helicopter 0500 awakened us this morning, shattering the quiet rolling anchorage at Coho. I immediately thought, "Uh oh, we're in trouble! - BIG TIME!" Quickly, I looked out the V-berth port to see if we had drifted or dragged anchor. We hadn't moved. Jann & I both ran for the cockpit. He was first to see and when he said, "Oh My God!" I looked and my heart sank. There by the cliffs, drenched in the bright spotlight and the wind-driven spray of the coasties copter, was a sailboat hopelessly leaning to starboard. I turned around to scan the anchorage and look for our new friends from Morro Bay aboard "Giggles" and to my relief, they were still at anchor. The only other boat with us in the anchorage when we went to bed after an incredibly beautiful day, had come in a day after us. They had never made contact and had anchored way across the cove from us. We could only make out the name on the side: "Grey Eagle". It must be them.

We turned on channel 22 to listen to the unfolding drama via the coasties. They were having trouble contacting the vessel, but finally the 2-person crew now visible in the cockpit, were informed that there was too much surf to attempt putting a man on board. So instead they would have to put a man in the water and he would swim over to the boat and take them, 1-by-1 back to the basket to be plucked out of the kelp and surf. The coastie who called back from the boat, was almost breathless from being tossed around as he told the copter what he was going to do. We were stunned to be watching this drama take place not 500 yd. from us. The surf was pounding against the sailboats' stern, grinding it into the rocky shore. The entire rescue only took 15-20 minutes. Then everyone was safely in the copter and headed for the Santa Barbara Airport.

It was a terrifying site to witness. Out here in this virtually uninhabited, wilderness anchorage where only 3 boats spent the night, in basically benign conditions, (winds low, almost no current, just some small waves rolling through.) We still thanked our lucky stars that it wasn't us being rescued. As the helicopter took off, I found myself uttering one of my mothers' favorite words of wisdom; "But for the Grace of God, go I". Jann seconded that, and we went down to try to get some more sleep, (yeah, right!)

I was up again, early that morning, to get a picture of the beached boat and try to figure out what happened. All I could see was a Bruce anchor dangling off the bow and a badly damaged rudder. She was almost high and dry now, over on her side on the sand, but she didn't look too badly damaged, all-'n-all. We still don't know how these poor folks happened to end up with such a tragedy, but it sure got us to thinking about safety even more than usual.

Jann & I are thankful that we've got extra ground tackle (3, count 'em, 3 BIG anchors, one with all chain rode) and that we know how to use them and check them often when conditions change, (which we had done earlier today!) We also use the instrument alarms for depth and wind extremes. Some might even accuse us of over-anchoring, (if there is such a thing!) We're sure glad the crew of "Grey Eagle" is safe and hope that their boat isn't an entire loss. We'll learn from their lesson to plan and prepare and double-check everything as we make our first voyage.

As soon as we reached our next port, I fired off an e-mail to Richard, the editor at Latitude 38 including a picture of the beached boat. I also sent it to the "'SAGA watchers" back home. It really was something to see and I have to say, I didn't expect to witness it so close to home.

(Note: When we received our next copy of Latitude 38, we found my photo accompanying an article, which described what had happened to "Grey Eagle". The short version is that they did drag anchor while asleep. They awoke to find themselves almost all the way across the anchorage and in the kelp beds. What they did next would ultimately mean the loss of their boat. For some reason they pulled up the anchor and then tried to start the engine. Kelp must have gotten sucked up into the intake and the engine wouldn't start. At this point there was not enough time or sea left to re-anchor. The boat was ultimately hauled off the rocky shore a couple of days later. It had already been stripped of all its gear! While it was being towed, it sank in deep-water offshore. The Lesson: If you're dragging, let out more chain. Put a second anchor down. Never pull up your anchor before you try to start your engine.