Firefighters rescue kayakers in Morro Bay Estuary

October 3, 2011

Kayaks stuck in Morro Bay Estuary, photo by Margay Edwards


Cal Fire paramedics and firefighters made a heroic rescue Saturday evening after a father and daughter became stuck in the mud in the Morro Bay Estuary.

Brian Kelly and his 8-year-old daughter Erin headed to Morro Bay earlier in the day to get a view of the seals and otters from their kayaks. Having moved recently from Colorado to Lompoc, the pair was experienced at lake kayaking but unaware of the effect the tides have on the ability to navigate through the estuary, Brian Kelly said.

Brian Kelly parked his car near the estuary in Los Osos and he and his daughter paddled over to Morro Bay in separate kayaks. At about 6 p.m., during low tide, they headed back towards los Osos and became stuck in the estuary mud.

Julie Tacker was hosting a barbecue on her Los Osos patio when she noticed the father and daughter’s repeated attempts to get through the muck. Tacker called Cal Fire after Brian Kelly attempted to get out of his kayak while stuck near the center of the estuary.

“The mud is similar to quick sand,” Tacker said.

Firefighters arrived and attempted to get the Kellys into a channel where Morro Bay Harbor Patrol could pick them up. At

Brian Kelly

about 7:22 p.m., the patrol’s rescue boat retreated back to Morro Bay.

And while Brian Kelly’s red kayak appeared firmly lodged in the mud, his daughter’s smaller blue kayak had began to drift which worried Tacker. She emailed Cal Fire to tell the battalion chief there appeared to be a young child in small kayak that had separated from the larger one.

Battalion Chief Phil Veneris responded less than 10 minutes later saying that Cal Fire was still on the scene and planning to send a firefighter through the muck to the stranded kayakers.

“No way boat could get them,” Veneris wrote in the email. “Jenkins is mud boy.”

Paramedic Robert Jenkins donned a wet suit, grabbed one end of a large rope and crawled into the estuary on his hands and knees.

“I drug the rope out about 400 feet,” Jenkins said. “It was dirty.”

After Jenkins tied the rope to the kayaks, six firefighters began pulling on the rope from a private dock, running from back to front like a fire brigade until they drug the Kellys to safety at about 7:50 p.m. Though muddy and cold, neither of the Kellys was injured.

“I was scared for my daughter,” Brian Kelly said. “She is a trooper.”

Robert Jenkins

Erin Kelly

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

So what’s the big deal? I spent a night out on the bay stuck in the mud in an aluminum boat. You wait 6 hours and the tide comes back in and you refloat and go back to your destination. Rescue? Give me a break. It’s not a though they were surrounded by sharks. Oh, BTW I was about 10 when it happened to me. A bit cold, but I did survive without a heroic rescue.

Man, it’s a slow news day. They been pluckin’ Valley dwellers outa the slime forever. I think they should release some Gators & sell tickets when it happens. Good Parks Dept. revenue getter!!

These folks were lucky that they weren’t in Alameda. In Alameda, the “public safety” personnel would have just stood there watching and waiting for them to die.

We are incredibly lucky in Los Osos to have a stellar Emergency Response team. They don’t just do fires or ambulance trips.

I wonder if tide tables could be posted at launch sites?

Can I ever hear the words ‘Los Osos’ without hearing the name Julie Tacker!! For once it was good that she had her nose in other peoples business.

I thought the same thing! “Why is it ALWAYS Julie Tacker?”

Last I heard she was living in a trailer with her boy friend. Hmmm must have run out of propane.

They should have just sent them each a jacket and a number 1 combo meal from McDonalds and called it good till the tide rolled in. Now THAT would have been heroic.

Pretty amazing how things change over the years. I got stuck out there myself in a kayak as a kid about twenty years ago. Had to just wait it out for the tide to come back in…

Nice job. But, a “heroic” rescue?

Thank you Cal Fire crews for a great job!