Friends remain hopeful for missing Sausalito woman's return

A Sausalito woman, last seen in a kayak, has been missing for almost two weeks.

Missing posters are up along the waterfront, with a picture of 26-year-old Ashley Wells. Wells had been staying on a boat in the harbor.

"She is a free spirit so she may have gone for a kayak ride late that evening and not understood the currents," Sausalito Police Cpl. Brian Mather told KTVU.

Mather has been working to retrace Wells' steps since the evening of March 29-30.

Wells spent the evening bar-hopping a bit in Sausalito with a friend. She took a kayak out to where her friend lives, on a boat, not far off shore.

At some point, past midnight, she got back in the kayak to row to a boat she stays on, just a few piers away.

"From her location where she was to where she was going, was maybe 200-300 yards," estimated Cpl. Mather. But Wells never made it, and the bright orange kayak she was in, has never been found either.

Conditions that night were calm, but the tide was going out, and it's a strong current to fight.

"She did not have her cell phone with her," explained Cpl. Mather, "and we understand there was no flotation device. She was barefoot and just wearing her going-out clothes."

Friends say Ashley, who they call "Lee" was wearing a blue flannel shirt and jeans the night she disappeared. They say she moved to the Bay Area from Missouri a few years ago, and loved her work in the organic produce business.

"She was going to start another organic farm job, and that would have been this past Sunday," friend Summer Abdel told KTVU. "She was really looking forward to that, so all of this is a bit odd and jarring, and leaves us with questions.”

Friends say Wells was confident around the water.

"She's just really enjoying what's going on in her life, " observed friend Emma Williamson, "and she has a lot going for her. She's like a really cool, lovely person, really friendly."

Many in Sausalito's "anchor-out" community have seen the "missing" flyers. "There's a lot of partying out here and a lot of fun," observed resident Jim McCarty.

"Bad idea, though. Cold water, rough water, alcohol, probably not a good idea."

On the chance Wells came ashore, and headed someplace else, police are reviewing camera footage downtown, but found nothing yet.

At least one bay dweller believes she heard Wells screaming in distress.

"Just help, help, those were the only words," shared Laurie Lynn Shubert.

Shubert lives on a tugboat on the bay, and says she heard the calls at about 3:30 in the morning. The Coast Guard searched for a while, she says, but found nothing.

"That's why it's really hard for me to talk about," said Shubert, in tears, " because it's one thing if it has a happy ending."

Wells' friends, though, aren't giving up, and are grateful for community support. "Because there hasn't been anything concrete found, we're just remaining as hopeful as we can," said Abdel.

"Anything anyone can do, everyone seems to be doing, which is just amazing," added Williamson.

Ashley Wells' phone, and all her belongings were found on the boat where she stayed.

Even though drowning seems a likely explanation, police are publicizing her case, on the chance there's another explanation.