An Avoidable Disaster

An Avoidable Disaster

A few short weeks ago, RBRA sent out a newsletter stating that Richardson’s Bay can become extremely dangerous, fast. Sadly, this prescient warning was not heeded.

During the severe wind event that stretched from January 18th to 19th, at least 16 vessels went adrift. Two of these vessels collided, resulting in one vessel sinking and the occupant narrowly escaping with her life (her dog was not so fortunate).

Less than two weeks later, another storm rolled through the anchorage. This time two inoperable, unseaworthy vessels sank at anchor. One of the vessels was occupied and the occupant placed a distress call to the US Coast Guard. The USCG rescued the vessel occupant during the height of the storm and safely transferred him to shore.

One of 16 vessels that went adrift during the January 18th/19th wind event. 
One of 16 vessels that went adrift during the January 18th/19th wind event. 
Vessels that were unoccupied and inoperable were towed to the Army Corps of Engineers debris dock to prevent any further damage to members of the public, the environment or private property. 

Stopping the Inflow

                                                                                                                                                                                        

At the beginning of January 2021, there were 110 vessels in the RBRA anchorage. That compares to 130 vessels at the same time last year.

There is a growing narrative that this reduction is the result of the RBRA confiscating boats and evicting people from their homes. This is simply not true.

Historically, there has been an annual inflow of approximately 10 to 20 derelict, junk, or otherwise unoccupied vessels to the RBRA anchorage. These boats are dumped, sold, or otherwise discarded from anchorages throughout the Bay Area.

In July of 2019, the RBRA adopted a resolution that specifically sought to address this inflow of derelict, unseaworthy vessels. In June of 2020, this effort was reinforced through the RBRA’s adoption of a Transition Plan that expanded management priorities for unseaworthy vessels.

An unoccupied, unseaworthy new arrival to Richardson’s Bay. 

Setting the Record Straight

                                                                                                                                                                                        

The RBRA’s enforcement policies were all made in public settings with community input, including from members of the anchorage itself, yet there is a growing narrative that these enforcement efforts are actively displacing people living on the anchorage.

As this newsletter and the last make clear, mother nature – by way of wind, rain, rough seas, and vessel decay – is routinely claiming boats on the anchorage. The RBRA and its partners are working desperately to raise the level of safety and seamanship on the anchorage in order to protect lives and property.

The 85-foot “Suisun” sunk during a recent weather event. The vessel’s occupant was rescued by the US Coast Guard. 
In addition to connecting the vessel’s occupant with local social services for emergency housing, the RBRA covered the cost of raising the boat, so the occupant could attempt to retrieve his personal property. 
Despite these efforts, some are now alleging that the growing encampment in Sausalito’s Dunphy Park is the direct result of the RBRA’s unoccupied vessel enforcement.

At the time of this publication, there are about a dozen tent structures in this encampment with approximately nine people residing there. At least five of the individuals in the encampment currently have vessels anchored out in Richardson’s Bay. The others never lived on the water and are simply there for political organizing. Only one individual in the encampment can claim to have been displaced from a vessel that was on the anchorage, and his story is discussed below.

What Would You Do?

                                                                                                                                                                                        

In late September 2020, an approximately 30-foot-long unnamed sailing vessel arrived in the Richardson’s Bay anchorage. The vessel had no registration, no propulsion or steering, the decks were delaminating and exhibiting signs of advanced decay, and the standing/running rigging was fatigued beyond its useful lifespan. Accordingly, a Notice of Marine Debris was posted on the vessel on October 1, 2020.

On at least 3 separate occasions between October 1, 2020 and present-day, RBRA staff and law enforcement visited the subject vessel. Each time, the occupant was informed about the 72-hour limit for anchoring in Richardson’s Bay and reminded that his vessel was identified and posted as Marine Debris. Unfortunately, the occupant refused to comply with the rules and regulations for anchoring in Richardson’s Bay.

Despite these warnings and trying to work with the occupant for over three months after the original Notice of Marine Debris, the vessel went adrift during the January 18th/19th wind event. It was likely that the vessel had collided with one or more vessels as it careened through the anchorage. 

On Sunday, January 24, 2020, it was brought to staff’s attention via social media that the vessel had indeed sustained damage during the high wind event and that the vessel occupant had requested removal from the vessel due to a vertical crack forming along the hull.  

Given the forecast for more severe weather on January 26, 2021, the excessively dilapidated condition of the subject vessel, knowledge that the vessel had already gone adrift once before and sustained damage, the fact that the vessel was anchored in violation of the rules and regulations for anchoring in Richardson’s Bay, and the knowledge that the occupant had departed the vessel (presumably because they feared for their safety in this vessel), the RBRA took action to protect the public and environment and towed the subject vessel to the Army Corps of Engineers debris dock.

                                                                                                                                                                                        

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