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SFPD Marine Unit Officers Pull Eight Young Sailors from Bay Waters

October 1, 2016
Sergeant Dan Laval - Marine Unit

Historic Sea Scout boat “Viking” had capsized

On September 3rd, 2016 at approximately 3:30, Officers Todaro and Thomas were on patrol in SFPD Marine 7.  Officer Todaro was the boat’s Coxswain and Officer Thomas was acting as the deck hand.  Just outside the Hyde Street Pier they observed a Blue and Gold Ferry, stopped dead in the water, with what appeared to be a floundering sailboat directly to the side of the ferry boat.  The location was approximately ½ mile North West of Fort Mason. The officers immediately responded to the scene to investigate the possible sailboat in distress.  The sailboat turned out to be the local Sea Scout historic 30 foot whaleboat, “SSS Viking” from the Sea Scout ship in Aquatic Park.

The conditions on the bay were very challenging with 3-4 foot white capped waves, and an occasional larger wave, 20 plus knots of wind from the west and a strong easterly ebb tide.  The opposing wind and tide created a rapid, steep and confused wave pattern. Upon their arrival, the officers immediately realized the sailboat was capsized with 14 juveniles, ages 7-17, and two adults, age 18 and 25, in the water hanging onto the approximate 1-2 feet of the sailboat’s freeboard which was still above water.  The conditions were such that the rough water was constantly washing over the heads of the people in the water, sometimes separating them momentarily from the sailboat.  The officers immediately formulated a rescue plan, notified the United States Coast Guard and requested additional rescue assets.

Officer Todaro maneuvered SFPD Marine 7 into position, and Officer Thomas deployed a life ring with a tether towards the people and instructed then to grab onto the ring while Officer Thomas pulled them towards our boat.  On several occasions, the people were too heavy to lift over the side of the boat due to water having filled up their sailing gear and boots.  Officer Todaro was then required to leave the helm and assist Officer Thomas in pulling people over the rail. 

Officer Todaro and Officer Thomas were able to rescue eight of the people in the water, before the USCG Motor Life Boat arrived on scene and rescued the remaining eight persons in the water.  Of the 16 rescued victims, 12 were transported to various hospitals for evaluation for hypothermia.  All victims were ultimately released from evaluation and have a new sailing story to tell…

After the officers rescued the 16 young sailors, the officers relocated the capsized boat, which was now floating outside the Golden Gate Bridge and assisted in its recovery, thereby preserving the historic boat, so it can be enjoyed by future generations.