Friday, June 21, 2024

Sailboat Washes Ashore – Shipwreck Beach Lives Up To Its Name

As the sun came up on the morning of Thursday, May 4, early joggers were surprised to see a sailboat, a 35-foot ketch, being washed helplessly towards the beach in front of the Coronado Shores, slowed only by a bow anchor desperately dragging along the sand bottom. No one was on board.

The sea was not a friendly place in the hours leading up to this sailboat’s demise.

The vessel appeared on the horizon the night before, anchored just 500-600 yards offshore. That in itself is an unusual sight. For the owner/skipper to leave the vessel unattended through the night proved to be a huge mistake, or, did he just not care?

Yet another storm blew through Coronado the night of May 3, bringing with it rain and gusty winds.

Every year or so vessels wash up on our beaches, from North Island, south to Imperial Beach. Usually the owners can’t afford a slip or mooring for their vessels, and seek to anchor them near Zuñiga Jetty, in the lee of Point Loma. This area is a grey area of jurisdiction that provides them free, but unprotected anchorage. Many of those owners live out of state.

It is not known why or when the owner of this sailboat left her at anchor just a few hundred yards off Coronado Beach. She appeared there on the night of May 3, and was a shipwreck by the following morning.

Wind, tide and current slowly pushed this unattended sailboat into the surf line during the night. By 7:30 am the keel was dragging on the hard bottom. Her bow pointed out, deck awash, past the point of no return; like a drowning victim gasping for one final breath.

Had the owner arrived within the hour, with a vessel capable of pulling the yacht off the beach before the onset of high tide, she might have been saved. No such luck.

A small squadron of pelicans investigate the newest “furniture” along South Coronado Beach.

While the crippled sailboat, theoretically, could still be pulled off the beach by a towboat (at subsequent high tides), every moment she sits on the beach, keel bouncing off the bottom at the mercy of the surf, the chances of her ever becoming seaworthy again move from unlikely to impossible.

This image taken from the upper fire escape of El Camino Tower at the Coronado Shores gives a breathtaking view of the latest addition to Shipwreck Beach.

By 11 am, she was listing to starboard, bow angled out with waves washing completely over her deck, ripping sails from their masts and resembling more a derelict, than a once fine sailing yacht.

At the time of this writing, the sailboat was being given informal last rites by those few on the boardwalk speculating her end was near. Vessel Assist had been notified, said Coronado Lifeguards, but high tide came and went.

On New Year’s Day, 1937, the gambling casino, Monte Carlo, broke from her moorings three miles offshore and came crashing onto Coronado’s South Beach, just a few hundred yards from where the unfortunate sailboat now rests.

The gambling casino Monte Carlo is seen here in January 1937. The owners never surfaced, and the remains are now a permanent part of Coronado legend and lore. Photo courtesy Coronado Public Library.

The Monte Carlo remains today, visible only when the sand covering her skeleton has been washed away by powerful storms, such as we had this year.

Not since 2016 has the shipwreck Monte Carlo been this exposed. A series of vicious storms pulled away her veil of sand, much to the delight of beachgoers, media and local historians.

When Monte Carlo met her demise on this beach in 1937, Tent City was still in operation along the shoreline. Today, the Coronado Shores exists there. What hasn’t changed, is the sea. It remains a visually rewarding friend to those who are prepared, or a vicious and unforgiving enemy to those who don’t respect its power.

Story and Photos by Joe Ditler

Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call [email protected], or (619) 742-1034.

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