Category: When things go wrong...

Lessons learned by causing a false AIS MOB alert

Aug 8, 2017


The grins tell the story: Mission accomplished! Due to an obscure but noteworthy electrical glitch, plus oodles of embarrassingly distracted seamanship on my part, a sizable U.S. Coast Guard team spent part of a beautiful Saturday looking for an AIS man overboard alert that seemed to be associated with my boat Gizmo. Fireman Joey Jansen-Hedrick and Petty Officer 1st Class T.J. Iaci (above) were the boarding party that had to deal with an owner/operator (me) who was pretty sure they didn't know what they were talking about. But they were politely persistent, and they were right...

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McMurdo SmartFind G8 AIS EPIRB, first of many, PLBs too?

Dec 9, 2016

McMurdo_SmartFind_E8_G8_and_G8_AIS_EPIRBs_aPanbo.jpgLet's first note that McMurdo's trailblazing SmartFind G8 AIS EPIRB still awaits FCC approval and probably won't be for sale in the U.S. until spring (along with its more conventional E8 and G8 siblings). But McMurdo has definitely developed this useful combination of local and global rescue beacon, other manufacturers may have AIS EPIRBs in the works, and I've got some details about how they'll work. I also have some safety tips from an acquaintance who just dramatically experienced the effectiveness of a current ACR EPIRB...

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The Jose Fernandez boating tragedy, some safety thoughts

Sep 28, 2016

Jose_Fernandez_crashed_boat_courtesy_Patrick_Farrell_Miami_Herald.jpgYou probably already know at least the rudiments of the story. At about 3 am on Sunday, three young men died when their 32-foot center console fishing boat engaged at high speed with the long north jetty that guards the Port of Miami's Government Cut channel. Just the violence of the crash -- it was heard by a policeman on shore nearly a half mile away -- was noteworthy, but the owner and probable driver was the beloved budding baseball star Jose Fernandez. It's a deeply tragic story as is, but is there anything in it to learn about boating safety?

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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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