By Michael Durand
Diners enjoying their meal and the sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean at the Cliff House saw a sailboat in distress in the choppy surf near Seal Rocks. They alerted the restaurant’s owner, Dan Hountalas, who called for help. The U.S. Coast Guard came to the rescue.
That was 42 years ago.
When Hountalas received a note from the people who were rescued thanking him for his help, he had a realization.
“I thought, they shouldn’t be thanking me. They should be thanking the Coast Guard!” Hountalas said.
Since that day, Hountalas has hosted a luncheon at the Cliff House for members from the Bay Area’s Coast Guard every year to thank them for their ongoing service to protect San Francisco’s 15 miles of shoreline and well beyond.
On Sept. 5, the Cliff House continued the 42-year-old tradition with a private reception and luncheon in the Terrace Room that features the same sweeping view of part of the Coast Guard’s territory; the Pacific Ocean and Seal Rocks, the scene of the rescue over four decades ago.
Uniformed service members – most of whom were a long away from even being born the year the historic rescue happened – got to enjoy some time off to mingle with their peers. The Cliff House hosted the food (from the kitchen of Chef Kevin Weber who joined the Cliff House four decades ago, not long after the famous rescue), drinks and the magnificent setting. The service members also got to hear praise from local leaders.
Dignitaries who spoke to commend and thank the members of the Coast Guard included: Master of Ceremonies George Choppelas, a retired judge of the Superior Court of California and a former member of the SF Board of Supervisors; former San Francisco supervisor, state senator and member of the SF Ethics Commission, Quentin Kopp; former SF police chief, Tony Ribera; and Laura Joss, general superintendent of the Golden Gate Park Recreation Area.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed also stopped by to thank the organization and to present to Admiral Linda Fagan, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area commander, a proclamation declaring Sept. 5, 2019 as U.S. Coast Guard and Cliff House Day in San Francisco.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was a fly-by and rescue demonstration by Coast Guard helicopters and boats and their personnel.
Photos by Michael Durand, except where noted.
Categories: U.S. Coast Guard