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Low bridge shears off schooner's topmasts

Jan 1, 2003

The 145-foot West Coast training schooner Californianwas sheared of its topmasts in May after a navigational error resulted in the vessel passing under a low bridge.

Californian, which is operated by the Nautical Heritage Society in San Clemente, Calif., as a training vessel for school groups and private charters, was being piloted under the Benicia Bridge upriver from San Francisco Bay when the incident occurred.

"Both topmasts hit the bridge, and when that happened the flying jib stay sprung the jibboom and bowsprit upward," said Steve Christman, founder and president of the Society. "It was the result of someone not watching where they were going."

Despite having its spars torn from their fittings, the vessel was not heavily damaged, according to Christman, and was put back in service almost immediately.


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