I went out to Yellow Bluff in Sausalito yesterday (Friday, November 5) to take photographs of kayakers playing in the tide rip that forms there on strong ebb tides. Saw something which I found to be disturbing, which I wanted to run by others and see what they think.
Note - to see a larger version of the photos, click on the photo and then under "Actions" click on "View all sizes". Flickr changed the system, so this is not as easy to do as it used to be.
This picture above shows the Yellow Bluff tide rip from the bluff. Current is going from left to right, and creates a choppy condition in this location. There are 3 kayakers in the rip, though at least one the boat is of a coloring that is hard to see.
The rip is the roughly triangle shaped patch of rough water you can see. On the right side (as we look at it) is calm water - that is an eddy and the water there is actually going the opposite direction from the rip. The calmed water outside of the choppy water is going the same direction as in the rip, but doesn't have the underwater geography causing the current to form any waves there. Plenty of open water out in the Bay for boats to get through - this is not an area of limited navigation.
Kyakers go to play in these waves. When conditions are right, there is a train of waves that slowly moves forward in the rip, which the kayaker can surf. But there is also a lot of chop, so a place where even experts need to constantly work to control their boats. When I am in the rip, I keep a good distance from other kayakers for safety reasons.
Empress of Sausalito, a 90 foot commercial tour boat that does Bay Cruises, parties, etc., looking to run straight through the rip. I took notice because I was surprised such a large boat would be that close to shore and it also looked like he would go close to the kayakers.
Still approaching the kayakers. This is looking like he is going to be much closer to them than I would care for.
Close up to show how close he got. The three paddlers were all experienced, so able to control their boats - but what if they had been more novice and got thrown off by the chop (or the Empress' wake)?
Empress of Sausalito continuing on to (presumably) its dock in Sausalito. Thankfully no one bumped into another.
Here is a PDF summarizing the rules of navigation. I would say that the Empress was overtaking the kayaks (all where facing the same way, though the kayaks were not making any forward progress against the current, so this could be argued) and that it would have been against Rule 8 for passing so close should a collision have occurred.
So, what do you think? Do you think the Empress put the kayakers at undue risk? If so, what could the kayakers do different next time to help reduce this risk?
ps - one reason I am posting this is to provide specific info for future reference on the Empress, as others have mentioned times they have had close calls with the Empress. Those times are hear-say. But should a situation happen in the future, by putting what I saw on the web, there will be some public info that could possible be used to show a history.