Elizabeth and Jeffery Easterling, Killed in San Francisco Boating Accident
|Exclusive to SF Weekly|
|Elizabeth and Jeffery Easterling's empty boat washed ashore near Eagle Point|
The El Sobrante couple, 50 and 59 years old, respectively, were tackling difficult conditions in an area renowned among boaters for being a challenging place to sail, SF Weekly has learned.
Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Junior Grade Jeremy Pichette could not confirm if weather was the main culprit responsible for the couple's lethal plunge overboard from the 33-foot sailboat. But he said that conditions on Sunday were dangerous, with six-to-eight-foot offshore swells and eight-to-10-foot-breaks.
The aptly named Captain Kirk Miller, who owns Captain Kirk's San Francisco Sailing Charters, said San Francisco's weather makes the city's offshore area the trickiest place to sail in the country. "It's quite treacherous. The convergence of winds, currents and waves makes it very challenging," he said. The captain said this combination is ominously known as the "The San Francisco Wind Machine."
In fact, Pichette said San Francisco is considered to be the busiest Coast Guard sector in the United States. Last year, the division logged 1,664 search and rescue calls. Pichette said distress calls are increasing annually as more people hit the high seas, especially during the summer.
Pichette did not have statistics detailing how many sailboat accidents occur in San Francisco's waters each year. Miller, however, believes there are very few because of the scare factor associated with sailing in San Francisco. He said most people who go out the first time "have gotten the shit scared out of them" and quickly retreat to shore to learn skills to survive the ways of the waves. He said the accidents that do happen are usually caused by people who either go beyond their capacity or the capacity of the boat.
Miller says real trouble is due to what he dubs the "Triangle of Death"; the three leading causes of sailing fatalities. Those would be: reckless use of motorboats, booze, and not wearing life jackets. Wearing a life jacket, he said, can be the difference between life and death.
Pichette said it is not known whether the Easterlings were wearing life jackets.
Image | From CBS5 video
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