Friday, October 26, 2012

Rescued From a Wave-Swept Rock -- October 26, 2012

From the 15-March-1899 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. The same lighthouse still stands at Point Bonita, on the north side of the Golden Gate.  Crab fishing is still dangerous work.  Click on the image to see a larger version.


Terrible Experience of a Crab-Fisher off Point Bonita During Yesterday's Storm.

FIVE short blasts and a long one from the lighthouse station on Point Bonita created consternation in shipping circles yesterday morning. It was the distress signal, and the first time it echoed across the Golden Gate was when the mail company's steamer City of New York went ashore in a fog below the lighthouse.

When the signal blew for the second time yesterday the wind was blowing 60 miles an hour from the northeast, the fog had shut down until it was impossible to see across the Golden Gate, squall after squall struck the lighthouse, and it was a nasty morning.

During a lull in the storm the lightkeeper fancied he heard a cry for help.  He waited until the squall had passed.  The cry came again, and again was drowned by the gale. The keeper made a tour of the reservation, but the fog was so thick that he could not see anything, nor could he locate the direction from which the cries came.  It was then he sounded the distress signal.

Across the Golden Gate John Hyslop was on the lookout for the Merchants' Exchange, while a short distance from him was the lookout for the Golden Gate Life Saving station. Hyslop was the first to make out the "distress signal," and he at once notified the exchange. It did not take long to let the tug companies know, and in a few moments the Shipowners' Company had the Sea King and the Spreckels Company the Relief on the way to the scene. The King had a good three-quarters of a mile start, but the Relief overhauled her at Fort Point and was easily first to Point Bonita. Captain Clem Randall slowed down and made an examination of the shore line, but could see no trace of a disaster.

Half a dozen crab nets were out, but there was no sign of the crab boats, and the captain remarked to his mate: "I wouldn't be a bit surprised if a few fishermen had been drowned."

From Point Bonita the Sea King and Relief went out through the north channel and up the coast as far as
Bolinas. No sign of a wreck could be seen nor was any vessel in distress sighted, so both tugs returned to port.

In the meantime the life saving stations had been notified and Captain Hodgson of the Fort Point station, Captain Varney of the Golden Gate station and Captain Smith of the South Side station soon had their boats in the water and under way.  Smith and his crew had to go from four miles south of the Cliff House to Bakers Beach, as they could not launch their own boat, but even with that handicap they were not far behind the others. When they all got across the Golden Gate no trace of a disaster could be found. Captain Hodgson ran his boat in as close to the beach as possible and then jumped ashore, taking with him a gun and shot line. He clambered up the face of the cliff and joined the lighthouse keeper, who was waiting for him.

At that instant the cry for help came again. It seemed to come from the ocean side of the promontory and thither the men made their way. Another faint and despairing cry brought them to the cave where the new life saving station is to be built. The men made their way around the cliff and heard the cry of help distinctly.

Clinging to a rock, over which the waves broke every few seconds, was a fisherman. His boat was not far away, bottom up, but the rock was the better refuge, and to it the fisherman clung.

Hodgson and the men from the lighthouse did not waste any time about getting the man off the rock. He was on the outermost end of a small reef and hard to get at, but with the aid of the gun and the shot line he was finally landed on the beach more dead than alive. The boat, although capsized, was anchored, and after some dangerous work it also was secured, righted and anchored in a sheltered spot.

The crab fisherman's name is Antone Razeto. According to his story told in the lighthouse, he went out early to catch crabs. It was not blowing hard and he did very well. About 9 o'clock it began to blow and he made up his mind to get back inside. An hour later it was blowing a gale and the fisherman found he could not weather Point Bonita. He got into the little cove and there came to anchor, but the big seas came rolling in and capsized the boat. He got on the bottom, but was washed off again and again.  Then he managed to get on the rock and to it he clung, calling for help every time there was a lull in the wind, until his rescuers came. Had it not been for Captain Hodgson of the life-saving station Razeto would have undoubtedly been drowned, as there are neither life lines nor boat at the lighthouse. To the lightkeeper belongs a good share of credit, however.

On the way back from Bolinas the tug picked up the lifeboats and towed them to Fort Point. Razeto was too exhausted to be moved, so he was left at the lighthouse.

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