SIGHTINGS missing the mark(s) When the Yellow Bluff buoy disappeared from its perch southeast of Sausalito late last fall, few noticed. When the limiting buoy near Anita Rock went AWOL in January, racers assumed it would be back. But when the X mark off the Golden Gate YC race deck went for a walkabout in March, folks started scratching their heads. Eight months after the first mark went missing, race committees are still scrambling to find alternate destinations for their racers. Back at the bar, talk has shifted from who touched the mark to who took it. So we went searching. And it turns out, we weren’t the only ones wondering when the buoys will be returned. But first a little background: The YRA owns and maintains 13 of the yellow balls and cans of steel that dot the Bay and form a race track for sailors at a cost of $10,000 a year. Expenses for the marks named for Tom Blackaller (YRA #16 near Crissy Field) and Bob ‘Big Daddy’ Klein (XOC on the Berkeley Circle) are covered by private foundations. Several others — namely A and B buoys just off St Francis YC’s race deck, and X, off Golden Gate YC — are maintained by those clubs. Regardless of who pays for it, each buoy is held in place by a 750-lb. rail car wheel and connected to its ball by approximately 500 pounds of chain. The fixtures are, in a word, hefty. Once it’s set, a mark will usually last five or six years, a surprisingly long life-span considering the harsh cocktail of salt water, heavy vessel traffic and strong currents that engulf the hulking pieces of metal. “Most sailors have a pretty good idea of what goes on at the Bay’s surface with regard to tides and currents,” explained GGYC Rear Commodore Ray McKeating, a recent expert on the topic. “But on the bottom, the current is twice as strong and things move around significantly.” Although the YRA hires a diver to do routine maintenance on its marks, there are times, be it by the hand of man or nature, that the buoys take off. Yellow Bluff (YRA #15) causes the most trouble. YRA Executive Director Laura Paul says it’s gone off station twice in the last two years alone. So it wasn’t entirely a surprise when the YRA received a phone call from the Coast Guard in late November alerting them that Yellow Bluff was floating off Point Bonita. The culprit, an outbound ship, snagged the mark and set the entire contraption — buoy, chain and anchor — free to wander. X buoy’s attempt at freedom was more surprising, especially to the members of GGYC. They say they had no idea the mark was their responsibility until it was returned to their dock for safe keeping. With that in mind, you can bet the mark had long since passed its service-by date. The story behind the Anita Rock mark, however, is just plain odd. According to the YRA’s Paul, some out-of-town sailors — who had the best of intentions but were, shall we say, off the mark — got it in their heads that the mark had wandered into enemy territory and
continued on outside column of next sightings page Page 110 •
• July, 2007
Spread, with a well-placed smash of the champagne bottle, co-owner Grace Bodle christens the newly-restored classic as ‘Eros’. Inset, a line drawing shows her impressive lines and sail plan.
The July 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.