Coast Guard officials Tuesday were investigating an accident in which the venerable schooner Diosa Del Mar--believed to be one of the oldest registered vessels in California--broke up and sank on a reef off Catalina Island during an annual firefighter's race.
The captain and all 12 passengers, reported to be members of Southland fire departments, were plucked unharmed from the sea by rescue boats that converged on the scene moments after the Monday afternoon incident. Coast Guard officials said the 67-foot schooner broke apart in the waves and sank to the ocean floor.
The schooner, built in 1898 and certificated by the Coast Guard as a commercial charter vessel, was participating in the 10th Annual Firemen's Race at the time of the accident. The race is sponsored by the Anaheim Fire Department and features sailing competition between area fire departments.
"It's just a get-together for the firefighters and their families," said Long Beach firefighter Jay Shaffer, one of the participants.
Although Monday's race drew participants primarily from Los Angeles and Orange counties, groups of firefighters traveled from as far away as San Francisco to compete. In all, there were more than 500 firefighters traveling in 115 boats. The race started about 11 a.m. Monday in Long Beach and was to end about 20 miles away in the Isthmus Harbor section of northern Catalina Island.