Missing Los Altos windsurfer rescued

Cathy Caton, 62, survives after being stranded in San Francisco Bay

The rescue swimmer who plucked a stranded windsurfer from the San Francisco Bay Tuesday morning after she spent the night floating in the water said the woman was "calm, cool and collected" when he reached her.

"She was in really good spirits," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabe Pulliam said of 62-year-old Los Altos resident Cathy Caton.

Caton had headed out windsurfing from the shoreline near East Third Avenue in Foster City on Monday afternoon and was supposed to meet her husband back there at 5:30 p.m. When she didn't show up, he became worried, especially since Caton had recently undergone chemotherapy and didn't have her normal strength, he said. He called 911, and the Coast Guard was notified at 7:20 p.m.

Caton had apparently become stranded after a sail on her board failed Monday evening, and crews searched more than 82 square miles overnight before spotting Caton around 6 a.m. about half a mile north of the San Mateo Bridge with her arms draped over her surfboard, Pulliam said. Pulliam was lowered to her from the helicopter, and hoisted her to safety.

"It was a complete team effort," Pulliam said. "It started with the survivor wearing the right gear."

Caton's husband, Steven Hamman, said Caton was wearing a wetsuit with gloves, boots and a hat, and had a personal floatation device. She also had a radio with her, but the batteries died in the middle of the night. As she floated in the dark, she could see rescue crews searching for her, but couldn't get their attention, her husband said.

"She was shouting and they went by," he said. "Fortunately she got spotted before she got too cold."

Once she was back on shore, Caton opted to head home with her husband instead of going to a hospital.

"She's fine now, though a little cold," he said.

Pulliam said Caton was lucky, and was helped by the fact that the water in that area is about 70 degrees -- much warmer than some other parts of the Bay.

"Some of these situations don't turn out as well as we hope," Pulliam said.

— Bay City News Service

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Like this comment
Posted by AC
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:26 am

hooyah AST2 Pulliam

Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Good gear and she stayed with her board. The only thing she might have done extra is carry a flare.

Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm

More details from Latitude 38:

It would be easy to assume the worst if you'd heard a 62-year-old windsurfer had been missing on the Bay for more than 13 hours, but Cathy Caton's rescue Tuesday morning after spending a very long night getting sucked in and out of South San Francisco Bay was a surprisingly happy ending to a potentially deadly story. Caton and her husband, Steve Hamman, 63, took off from the Foster City shoreline Monday afternoon around 5 p.m. for a quick half-hour ride. A broken mast left Caton disabled and adrift. It must have been terribly frustrating — and probably quite frightening — when her handheld VHF's batteries died shortly thereafter, not to mention when she discovered her strobe light's battery was dead.

Just after dawn on Tuesday, a Coast Guard helo crew spotted Caton just north of the San Mateo Bridge. They dropped a rescue swimmer and hoisted Caton aboard. A very experienced windsurfer, Caton was wearing good protective gear — a wetsuit, hat, gloves, PFD — which the Coasties noted helped her survive the night. Another factor was that conditions were calm and relatively warm. The retired doctor later declined to be taken to the hospital, instead opting to head straight home — and no doubt to a very hot shower.

Check those batteries!!

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 6:49 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

My kind of woman!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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