Marin sea lion statue falls into sea during storm

Sausalito’s sea lion statue along Bridgeway will be reinstalled in the spring following a tumble into the sea during the latest round of powerful Pacific storms.

Restoration of the statue and its concrete base, which was installed in 1966 and fell from its mount Sunday night in almost equivalent fashion 19 years ago, is overdue, said local historian Mike Moyle.

“Everybody loves the sea lion statue,” said Moyle, a Sausalito resident. “It’s been around for a long time. It’s kind of an emblem or an icon of Sausalito.”

The statue is located near 400 Bridgeway, between Princess and Richardson streets. The current iteration in bronze was cast in 1966 and designed by sculptor Al Sybrian about a decade prior.

Smooth and rounded, the sculpture appears to emerge elegantly from the exposed rock outcropping where it stands at low tide. At high tide, the sculpture may appear surrounded on all sides by sea. At all times –– at least when it’s not dislodged –– the face of the sea lion turns away from the water and toward the sky.

Moyle said the sculpture appeared to be dislodged as early as Jan. 4 in the aftermath of one of the many winter storms which have battered the Bay Area. For a few days, the sculpture was rotated about 90 degrees.

City Councilmember Janelle Kellman said the statue was “in good hands” and in the care of the Public Works Department.

Public Works Director Kevin McGowan said the city hired a crane company to pick up the statue Tuesday evening during low tide. The sea lion will be stored in the city’s maintenance yard while the base concrete support for the piece is repaired.

“The repair should occur later in the spring when the weather is more conducive to this type of work,” McGowan said.

McGowan said city officials reviewed the base last week and found that the bronze pins had broken out of the concrete support, which was itself cracked and broken.

“This is not uncommon in a tidal area and with an object that is pushed and pulled by waves and the tide,” McGowan said.

Moyle said the original sculpture was made in 1957 out of concrete. Sybrian and the city soon found that the material could hardly withstand the constant weathering of the wind and waves.

The Sausalito Foundation spearheaded the recasting of the piece in bronze in 1966 at Foundry 3 in San Francisco. A plaque located nearby commemorates its installation.

In his biography by Terence Clarke of San Francisco, Sybrian is described as a “vagabond bohemian artist.”

A city commerce and history website called OurSausalito described him as a “habitue of The No Name Bar and Smitty’s Bar, and a popular companion and conversationalist.”

He, like other locals, enjoyed peering out over the coastal rocks at the sea lions, which danced and frolicked there. His experiences there guided his conception and inspiration for the piece, according to the site.

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