Category: When things go wrong...

Lessons of Vestas Volvo wreck, but what about the C-Map Grounding Alarm & similar?

Dec 10, 2014


The fixed camera on the stern of Vestas Wind captured the worst possible unintended jibe. That's when you're blasting along at 19 knots through a tropical offshore night, but then your Volvo Ocean 65 suddenly smashes its way up onto a reef shearing off the rudders and spinning 180° as waves and wind take total control. That is a frightened and nearly naked man beyond the limp mainsheet and when watching the video you, too, may utter involuntary curses. No one was hurt, though, and the crew has been frank about the mistakes made. This has led to some useful conversations about the dangers of electronic charting, but it also reminded me of an uncommon electronic charting feature that might have prevented this shipwreck...

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MFD and AIS anomalies, be careful out there

Oct 5, 2014


Consider this is a portrait of a deeply experienced boat guy who still remains skeptical about the wonders of modern marine electronics. Lord knows I tried, but gremlins sabotaged my efforts from the moment when my old friend Joe McCarty arrived in Rockland, Maine, for the trip to Baltimore. I was using the Garmin Helm app on my iPad mini to watch the tank gauge as I squatted on the deck pumping diesel fuel and Joe just had time enough to say, "Well, that is cool!" when the digitized tank reading plunged from 85% to 20% and stayed stuck there even as we topped off using the old-fashioned method of listening to the changing vent gurgles...

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USS Guardian aground, DNC chart error?

Jan 21, 2013

I've heard of hitting "the bricks" as in going hard aground -- as well as "bricking" a computer (or other gadget), as in breaking it so badly that it's only good for a door stop -- but gCaptain surprised me with "USS Guardian is Fully Bricked Up and Getting Battered on Philippine Reef." The situation is even worse since the minesweeper swung 90 degrees and is getting so hammered that it's hard to imagine how it can be removed from the tiny Tubbahata Reefs National Park. Thankfully no one was hurt (to my knowledge) but I'm probably thinking about terminology because it's horrible to contemplate what those pictures imply about the damage to ship, reputations, and -- most important -- precious wildlife. How could this happen?

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Bruce Ray, a true cruiser down

Dec 27, 2012

I never would have guessed that I would last see Bruce Ray on the September day that began with this misty dawn photo of his beloved sloop Zingara in Chesapeake City, Maryland. For a guy pushing 70 and burdened with damaged lungs, Bruce seemed phenomenally hearty. In fact, he'd just run solo for two long days and a night to get here from western Long Island, which meant he'd driven right through Cape May Harbor instead of resting there like Leonard and I had. But Bruce knew how to stop and smell the coffee too. Later that morning, the three of us old coots enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Bohemian Cafe and then walked around the harbor and admired the old-time engineering on display at the nifty C&D Canal Museum...

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DHS's Small Vessel Cooperative Tracking, what's your guess?

Mar 23, 2012

It's amazing how the whole boating community can apparently miss information of great interest even though it's in plain sight. Remember how we argued about possible Department of Homeland Security AIS mandates last March? Well, had anyone poked around the DHS's interesting Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, we would have known that the government had already expressed a desire to get the small vessel tracking job done in a much more passive manner, even with benefits to us boaters!...

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GOST, the serious boat security guys

Feb 13, 2012

It doesn't matter that the Paradox Marine I've enjoyed visiting at past shows has changed its name to GOST (for Global Ocean Security Technology); I bet they'll still be showing off some interesting new tech in Miami this week. And probably more important is how knowledgeable and sophisticated GOST has become about the nuances of marine security over the years. Experience is a great teacher, and GOST's has been accelerated because its home turf of South Florida has endured a plague of boat bandits who are pretty knowledgeable themselves. Can you spot the telltale professionalism being exhibited on the Contender above as it blasts toward Cuba, probably for a load of drugs, or with a load of cash, or both?...

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Costa Concordia: "Vada a bordo, cazzo!"

Jan 18, 2012

The wrecking of the Costa Concordia is of course a dreadful and criminally unnecessary disaster. It's hard to find anything positive about what happened, unless perhaps you're another captain whose life became defined by a single major screw up, like, say, Joe Hazelwood. The Monitor did a good job delineating Capt. Francesco Schettino's Top 4 'deceptions' today and that was before Schettino made the claim that he abandoned ship because he tripped and fell into a lifeboat! I suspect that it will be a long time before anyone beats Schettino in the disgraced ship captain department...

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Racing capsizes, did satellite beacons help?

Aug 18, 2011

Man, can you imagine how many scary moments preceded this photo? The remarkable thing is that all 21 crew members of Rambler 100 survived her capsize in rough and foggy conditions just after rounding Fastnet Rock on Monday evening. The yacht -- which I gawked at as Speedboat in Newport last fall -- purportedly turned turtle just 30 seconds after her keel snapped off, leaving several crew caught inside and upside down. EPIRBs and PLBs had something to do with the 100% successful rescue, though it's hard tell which and how...

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Wreck of the Lady Mary, so many lessons

Dec 21, 2010

When I came across the New Jersey Star Ledger's finely reported series on the sinking of the scallop dragger Lady Mary, I didn't stop until I'd finished all five chapters, watched the video, and done some further research.  It may not sound like a story in the holiday spirit, but aren't we about to gather during the darkest days of the year to celebrate light and love?  You're not apt to forget the loving extended family at the center of this dark tragedy.  And you'll certainly be reminded about how so many SAR gadgets and systems might and might not work...

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Oblivious anchor dragging, & Camden chart update

Aug 20, 2010

I'm generally quite reluctant to fault fellow boaters when things go wrong, because I've made about every mistake possible myself at some point, and probably will again.  But what I hear about this scene, captured in part on YouTube, is a bit disturbing.  That big beautiful trawler didn't actually drag onto the rocks around Northeast Point, but that's probably only because crews from from Wayfarer Marine, Yachting Solutions, and the Harbor Master's office worked hard to hold her off, in pouring rain and lots of wind.  A local hero even managed to squeeze his way through a pilothouse window, figure out the complex starting procedure, hoist the anchor, and put the boat safely on a dock.  But the owner, who showed up after the storm had passed, was apparently somewhat casual about what happened, though most boaters would know that a salvage claim was a possible road not taken by the rescuers, and...

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