He felt the earthquake while driving to Sausalito. It rumbled at mid-span on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a sharp quake. 

   This Sunday morning was dark.  Looking west out into the Pacific Ocean, the horizon was nite-like. It was 7:30 in the morning.  

   He approached every trip to his racing shell with caution.  His trip over the bridge was a way to check the swells and waves in the Bay and the weather, wind, tidal rips and other crafts on the Bay.  The quake unsettled him. He always feared being on the bridge during a quake.  No one knew for sure how the bridge would handle a powerful earthquake.

   He exited the bridge and drove towards the Sausalito boathouse.  No one was on the water.  The boathouse was locked.  He prepared to launch his twenty-four foot racing shell. 

   He took the oars down and laid them neatly on the dock.  He went back to the truck to get his water container.  As he locked the truck, he felt another aftershock rumble.  The rigging of several small boats parked on trailers rattled and clinked.

   Carrying the fiberglass shell was always a challenge.  He placed it into the water, secured the oars in the oarlocks, the inflatable life vest and water container straps into the shell's top framing. 

   The water was calm in the harbor, but there were no birds. A small duck family could always be seen around the dock area.  Today, no ducks, no birds.  

   He squatted into the shell, tightened the footstraps, locked the oars and pushed away from the dock. He worked his way through the tight inner harbor out into Sausalito’s main channel. There was little morning wind. As he moved south to the Bay, he could still hear the tinkling and rattling of boat rigging, the effects of another aftershock.  He reminded himself the safest place to be in the Bay Area during an earthquake was in the middle of the bay.  

   The tide was exceptionally low. He noted that when he launched the shell. 

   As he looked to his left, the dock pilings were clearly exposed, green tide strips along the pilings. Much deeper than than usual. He was now past the city’s sewage treatment plant. He steered close to shore.

   Suddenly, there was a loud rumbling. 

   He could hear it from the water. Dirt started rolling down the hills. Several trees were dragged down from the small cliffs lining the shore.  He rowed farther out from shore. As he moved towards a yellow buoy he noticed that the water line was dropping. The tide was rushing, ebbing fiercely, something he had never seen. 

   The bay was dropping about an inch a minute. He was confused. Should he beach his shell or row farther out to mid-bay. 

   He tried to head for shore, but the powerful ebb tide was carrying him towards the Golden Gate.  He aimed at an extreme course right for shore. He would have to risk rock slides.  He had only a minute or two to beach the shell or he would be past the cliffs and clearly in the main channel.  From that point he would be carried through the Gate and out to open sea. 

   As he reached ten feet from shore, he jumped out of the shell and began swimming to shore.  As his body was carried past a cluster of rocks, he grabbed firmly. He pulled himself onto the rocks. The water was receding faster. He climbed up the rocks and laid back to catch his breath. The bay had dropped by three feet since the last aftershock.

   Having rested for a moment he began to climb the small cliff. As he looked back into the bay, he could several small sailboats drifting rapidly towards the gate. A Coast Guard boat had left its base in Yellow Cove near the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Its engines were in full power, yet the boat, which was headed into the Bay was being pulled as well towards the Gate.  
   He reached the top of the bluff. He spanned the entire Bay. Dark clouds now covered the San Francisco and the East Bay.  In the Oakland Hills, he could see lightning and faintly hear thunder. He began running down the road that led to the Fort Baker Coast Guard station. As he turned towards the station, he could see the Bridge. The Bay had dropped at least three feet below mean low tide. Several sailboats berthed in the small harbor were listing as their keels rest on the harbor bottom.

   Another rumbling began, a deep growling sound that quickly sounded like a roar. 

   The earth was shaking but not like an earthquake. Not a swaying movement but a steady bouncing shockwave.

   Then saw several miles off shore a wall of water, a monstrous wave ten miles wide and nearly an hundred feet tall.  


(Written before the film, “San Andreas” portrayed the same frightening image-AB)

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