The Saddest Type of Stories

Published on April 21st, 2019

When John P. Buser, in his early 70s, went for a solo sail on April 17, the air temperature was in the low 70s and the wind offered an easy outing in San Diego, CA.

A Navy pilot veteran and an avid sailor and racer, as well as past commodore of the Ancient Mariner Sailing Society in San Diego, Buser set out for a mid-week escape off the coast on his 1963 Kettenburg 50 named Rendezvous (above).

It would be his last.

Buser was last heard from about 1:30pm by phone when he reported his position to be about a half mile from shore, and with winds picking up to the mid-teens, he told a friend he’d be back in the slip by 3:30pm.

But when he didn’t return per his plan, the Coast Guard put out an emergency alert at around 4:30pm to all nearby mariners to be on the lookout for the yacht. A Coast Guard cutter found it within a few hours, about 8 miles off Point Loma.

But Buser was not onboard.

A search from the sea and air went through the night, and continued at first light the following day but was soon suspended, as the chances of surviving in the 61-degree ocean lessened. Despite

“They searched for three times longer than it was calculated he could survive,” said family friend Steve Wright, who also joined in the search with three of Buser’s children.

With the absence of storms, and the rarity of white caps, it is easy to embrace a leisurely sail on San Diego Bay. It is not known what led to the accident, but it is a harsh reminder that when solo sailing, safety can never sleep.


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