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More than 100 boats honor the five dead sailors

23 April 2012

More than 100 boats formed a solemn flotilla in Belvedere Cove Saturday evening in memory of five sailors from the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere who were killed in a tragic accident near the Farallon Islands during a race a week ago, reported by Paul Liberatore via the Marin Indepenent Journal.

Special to the IJ/Jocelyn Knight

A bagpiper on one of the boats played a mournful rendition of "Danny Boy" and the balmy air reverberated with the crack of five gunshots fired in honor of each of the dead and missing crew members of the sailboat Low Speed Chase.

No one was more moved by the unprecedented maritime memorial than Anne Kasanin, mother of 46-year-old crewman Marc Kasanin, whose body was pulled from the ocean by rescuers shortly after the 38-foot yacht was swamped by high waves and dashed on the Farallones rocky shore at the halfway point of the April 14 race.

Her eyes red with grief, she stood on an overlook near her Belvedere home with several of her neighbors, watching the boats form a memorial circle in the cove below and listening on a radio tuned to the Coast Guard channel as her son's name was called out along with the others.

"The number of condolences from the community has been heartwarming," she said, expressing the hope that bodies of her son's four missing crew members will be found so their families can at least have some closure.

A Coast Guard search was called off last Sunday night for Redwood High School graduates Alexis Busch, 26, of Larkspur, and Jordan Fromm, 25, of Kentfield; visiting researcher Elmer Morrissey, 32, of County Cork, Ireland; and Alan Cahill, 36, a Tiburon boat technician, professional sailor and father of two. He is also originally from Ireland.

Most of the boats in Saturday's ceremony came from the San Francisco Yacht Club. It concluded a heavy-hearted week for club members and many others in the boating community. The Beach Road Belvedere club, home to the stricken yacht and its ill-fated crew, managed the Full Crew Farallones Race. The fatalities were the first in its 142-year history.

"The whole town has been in mourning," said Ann Morrison, one of the Kasanin's Belvedere neighbors, as a fireboat shot multiple streams of spray into the balmy air and the multitude of boats blew their horns in one last tribute to the fallen sailors.

"I've lived in Belvedere since 1955, and I've never seen anything like this," she added as the sun set, casting the San Francisco skyline in a soft, rosy glow. "This has been so moving."

Saturday's ceremony began with a stately procession of boats — sailboats, motor vessels, yachts and all manner of crafts — led by a Coast Guard life boat. Many of the boaters laid flowers and wreaths in the water.

"We wanted something momentous to commemorate their memory," said Paige Brooks, one of the organizers and a close friend of Marc Kasanin, who grew up in Belvedere. "We want to honor their loss on behalf of the larger boating community. A lot of times you're alone in your grief. But in this case it's shared by a lot."

The families of the four crew members whose bodies have not been found got a brief glimmer of hope that they will be recovered when researchers on the Farallones spotted a body clad in an orange life vest floating off the shore of the islands Saturday morning. They reported the sighting to the Coast Guard, but by the time a recovery vessel arrived, the body had disappeared.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Caleb Critchfield said that the scientists couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman, and there is no way of knowing for sure that it was one of the missing sailors.