Rescue crews aid boaters stranded by extreme low tides this week

jlavelle@thetribunenews.comJanuary 1, 2014 

Rescue crews were busy this week helping boaters stranded in mud during the afternoon extreme low tides in the back bay area of the Morro Bay estuary.

Cal Fire, Morro Bay Harbor Patrol and the CHP all participated in the rescues.

On Monday, two kayakers became stuck in the back bay, which is the far south end of the estuary near Los Osos. One kayaker was able to wade through the mud to shore, but his companion went in the opposite direction to the remote Morro Bay sand spit, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Paul Lee said.

With the sun setting, rescuers decided to use the CHP helicopter to pick her up.

On Tuesday, a sailboat got stuck in the mud and Cal Fire officers used a rescue watercraft to check on it. The sailors decided to wait for the high tide lift the boat out of the mudflat, Lee said.

On Wednesday, a man and five children got stuck in the Back Bay mud in two canoes. A Cal Fire crew donned wetsuits and crawled out on the mud with ropes attached to shore, then hauled the group in one by one.

“There’s a lot of pushing and pulling and it’s a lot of work,” Lee said.

The CHP’s Cessna airplane flew over the estuary to make sure there were no other stranded boaters, he said.

This week’s extreme tides, sometimes called king tides, occur when the moon is closest to the Earth and the sun and moon’s gravitational pulls reinforce each other.

This week, the tides occurred at a prime time when people were on the water: late afternoons of a holiday week with sunny, mild weather. The king tides will last through Friday.

Lee said many people didn’t realize how quickly the tide can go out and leave them stranded. ”It’s very important to watch the tide,” Lee said. “Being aware of your surroundings is absolutely critical when you’re on the water.”

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