The Maritime Report: Coast Guard expands security

The Maritime Report: Coast Guard expands security

Dave Bloch

Lots of news and events on the water this week!


Alameda is officially a Coast Guard City, and we are all used to seeing the big white ships docked at Coast Guard Island, across from the Alameda Marina.

This week, many Estuary users and businesses (for example, marinas and dredging companies) received a letter and diagrams from the USCG informing them of plans to greatly increase the security zone around the ships, including dredging that larger area much deeper than it is now. The letter was a surprise, since it informed the recipients of a public comment period that had ended about six weeks before. Your reporter isn't clear about how that original notice got past everyone, but I'm sure the federal notification procedures were followed; it's just important to pay attention!

The letter included the somewhat shocking plan that the Security Zone (which gets marked out on the water with orange-and-white floating barriers) was going to be expanded 200 feet out into the Estuary. That would leave a very small strip of water; barely adequate for the large dredging barges stored between this area and the Park Street Bridge. It would also be impossible for all but a very small sailboat to be able to tack upwind, and would create some serious bottlenecks for boats entering and leaving the Alameda Marina.

The cause of all this? Changes in security requirements for Coast Guard ships, especially after the October 12, 2000 terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. The Navy's guided-missile destroyer was attacked by suicide bombers while it was harbored and being refueled; 17 sailors were killed, and 39 were injured.

Similar expansion of security areas are happening all over, but it does appear that the Coast Guard has some flexibility in applying the new regulations.

A meeting was held last week, and concerns heard by the Coast Guard. They agreed to continue to accept public comments, although no deadline was given. The following day, the Coast Guard issued an e-mail pulling back from 200 feet of encroachment to 75. Comments are indeed being sent to the Coast Guard by Estuary organizations and businesses; watch this space for news about changes and decisions.


One of sailing's most interesting events is the Three Bridge Fiasco, sponsored by the Singlehanded Sailing Society. It is also among the largest, with close to 400 boats participating in this year's race, which took place last Saturday.

The Fiasco gets its name because all the boats start out front of St. Francis Yacht Club on the San Francisco waterfront. The boats must pass under the three bridges - the Golden Gate, Richmond/San Rafael, and the Bay Bridge - and return to the start line. They can do the course in EITHER DIRECTION, so the skippers have to study the tides and currents (which are very predictable) and the weather forecasts (which can be iffy at best). The two-way start makes for some interesting interactions when the opening gun goes off, as boats head towards each other from both sides of the line.

The Fiasco is also called a "pursuit" race. This means that boats that are slower by design (being short, or being heavy, are both things that slow boats down) start before faster boats. In fact, the starting times are spread out over more than two hours! The idea is that if every boat was sailed perfectly, in the same wind and same currents, they would all hit the finish line simultaneously. That doesn't happen, of course, but the pursuit race system means that more boats are crossing the finish line much closer together. It makes for some more exciting finishes (even though the timing gets factored out of the rankings later).

Interested in seeing the names of the boats, and all the winners? Go visit the SSS Website at and you'll see a link to the results right on the home page.


In the sailing community, the death of a friend or family member is often recognized by an "Eight Bells" ceremony. The idea comes from the days of a sailor's watch being marked each hour by the ringing of a bell: Two bells at the end of the first hour, four at the second, six at the third, and then eight bells to mark the end of their watch. "Eight bells and all is well" is a time-honored announcement that has made it into the land vernacular as well.

There was a special Eight Bells ceremony at Island Yacht Club this month, as it marked the passing of James Rhoda, the very first Commodore of IYC when it was formed in 1970. Dozens of his family and friends from around the country gathered at the club for dinner, music, and the celebration of his life. Jim and his sons and brothers were well-known in sports around the Bay Area, and there were big displays of photos, newspaper clippings, trophies and lots of memorabilia. It was a happy and meaningful afternoon, and emphasized the closeness that develops around the members of our local organizations.