Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sailor Missing, Bound for Farallones

According to news reports, Jim Gray, 63, founder and manager of Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center is missing after he left Sunday morning for what he told family was a day sailing trip to the Farallon Islands to dispose of his mother's ashes.

Gray left early Sunday in his 40-foot C&C yacht, Tenacious, from a marina near San Francisco's Fort Mason. A U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said Gray called a family member on his cell phone about 10:30 a.m. to say he was sailing out of cell-phone range and would call when he returned in range. His wife reported him missing shortly after 8:30 p.m. Sunday when he did not show up and calls to his cell phone went unanswered.

The Farallones are 27 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge and are known not only for their desolateness...but as well for the rough, shark infested waters that beat upon the few, barren rocks that make up the lonely outpost. The islands are the site of many shipwrecks, including the liberty ship SS Henry Bergh, a converted troop carrier that wrecked in 1944, pieces of which can still be seen from the island today (all hands were saved).

The coast of Northern California makes for tough sailing when compared with gentler Northeastern U.S. cruising grounds like the Chesapeake or Narragansett Bays. Though the day was clear and sunny when Jim set off...who knows what he encountered out there. My thoughts and prayers are with his family for his safe return.

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