Sky crane retrieves wrecked yacht from Farallones

April 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Crews took advantage of a small window of time to salvage the Low Speed Chase racing yacht and bring it back from The Farallon Islands. The boat Low Speed Chase was lifted and flown 28 miles on Monday in a delicate salvage operation. It was the final leg of an ill fated voyage. Five people died on that boat on April 14 in a race to The Farallon Islands.

The 15,000 pound yacht was hoisted from the rocks and brought to the Half Moon Bay Airport just before 7 p.m. It was really quite something to see the big boat dangling midair and there were plenty of spectators as the boat was coming in and they kept saying "amazing."

The entire operation went quickly and smoothly, taking about three and a half hours to complete from start to finish. A special helicopter carried the 39-foot sailboat from The Farallones, where it crashed into the rocks during a sailing competition nine days ago. Dozens of locals gathered at the airport to witness the salvage operation first hand.

"Quite amazing, since it's such a big helicopter to carry an entire boat of that size," said Juergen Pfeiffer, a Moss Beach resident.

Ballard Diving and Salvage won the bid to retrieve the boat -- an estimated $200,000 job. The operation began hours earlier at The Farallones, where a dive crew spent hours preparing the boat to be hoisted.

There were a number of obstacles including rocky terrain, unfavorable weather, and a fragile ecosystem. The large waves along the shoreline are what killed five of the eight crewmembers of the Low Speed Chase. Four of the bodies were never recovered. Given those circumstances, spectators couldn't help feeling emotional as the boat made its way toward the airport.

"I couldn't help but feel so sad for the people that were lost and the families that were lost," said Liz Murphy, a Moss Beach resident.

"You were thinking of the people who were caught in that. We have a lot of friends who are sailors and it's kind of like, it's a ghost boat in a sense," said Clark Capers, a Moss Beach resident.

It's unclear how long the Low Speed Chase, will remain at the airport. It's now fenced off and covered with a tarp. As for the salvage crew, they returned to their office in South San Francisco, although they didn't want to speak about Monday's efforts. They say their contract forbids them to talk about it publicly. Spectators, meanwhile, say they're happy the sailboat is off The Farallones -- a wildlife sanctuary.

"Certainly for the environmental reasons and just it doesn't belong there. It's not in its natural habitat," said Tom Corso, El Granada resident.

The salvage crew retrieved the boat just in time. Birds are expected to begin laying eggs next week, so if the crew missed this window of opportunity, they would have waited until October.

San Francisco police have finished their investigation into the incident. They say there was no criminal negligence involved and they are turning over their work to the district attorney.

They have also updated the information on the crew. We had been reporting James Bradford was the captain, he survived. Now police say Alan Cahill, a Tiburon boat technician, was at the helm and he was one of the victims.

Alexis Busch Public Memorial at AT&T Park:
A public memorial will be held for Alexis Busch, a week from Monday. The San Francisco Giants announced that the memorial for the former bat girl will begin on April 30th at 1:00 p.m. at AT&T Park. Those who wish to attend should enter through the Willie Mays Gate starting at 12:30 p.m.


Load Comments