The rescue swimmer who plucked a stranded windsurfer from the San Francisco Bay this 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.