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Things That Go Bump in the Night
|Author||Topic: Things That Go Bump in the Night|
posted 08-02-2015 08:25 AM ET (US)
Things That Go Bump in the Night
In the late evening of July 3, 2015 on the three-day holiday weekend, a 39-year-old boater was operating a 29-foot cabin-cruiser-type boat with 12 people aboard in the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, near Traverse City, Michigan. The local time was about 11:30 p.m. The sun had set at 9:32 p.m. Nautical twilight had ended at at 10:57 p.m, and astronomical twilight would end at midnight. In simple terms, it was close to being as dark as possible that night.
The boat was apparently underway at some significant speed when it struck the aid to navigation known as "West Arm Lighted Buoy 8", which was presumed to be in its charted position east of a 7-foot shoal in the bay. The impact with the buoy caused considerable damage to the hull near the water line, opening up a large section of the hull, and allowing water to enter.
The operator of the boat continued underway for about 0.6-miles, arriving at the Elmwood Township Marina, where he passed through the breakwall entrance and quickly moored his boat to the T-dock at the end of the marina's A-dock. All 12 people were able to leave the boat, which then sank at the dock. Some time later, perhaps the next day, a crane was able to lift the boat out of the water and onto its trailer. The Leelanau County Sheriff said an investigation would be made and indicated the boater may be charged with reckless operation of a water craft.
Photographs of the boat appeared on the website of local broadcast TV station WWTV at
An image of the boat on its trailer showed the hull damage to be just above the water line on the starboard side of the forward quarter of the hull. Images of the boat at the dock show the boat flooded down so the stern cockpit gunwales are underwater, but the bow of the boat is still afloat. The boat was listing to starboard. The images also show that the boat has a RADAR antenna mounted on its RADAR arch. There also appears to be a GNSS antenna or receiver on the arch. From those images it seems reasonable to infer the boat had RADAR and a GPS receiver, and likely an electronic chart plotter.
The Sheriff was mentioned in the newspaper accounts saying that the West Arm Lighed Buoy 8 was also damaged by the impact, but no details were given.
It would appear that the operator of the boat had several means by which he could know the position of the West Arm Lighted Buoy 8 relative to his vessel. Since the buoy was a lighted aid to navigation and there is no basis to believe the light was extinguished, it should have been clearly visible by eye to a lookout on the boat. Since the boat had RADAR, there should have been a strong RADAR return from the very large steel buoy's RADAR reflector visible on the RADAR plan position indicator. With the buoy in its charted position, and the boat having a GNSS receiver, it should have been apparent where the boat was in relation to the buoy. Despite the buoy being visible by eye, by RADAR, and by a plot of the boat position on a chart, the operator apparently did not see it, and he piloted the 29-foot boat into the buoy.
This incident is a good reminder of the dangers of operating a boat at high speeds at night. Having a large number of people aboard can be a distraction to the helmsman. The boat operator was fortunate that he was only 0.6-miles from the marina when he struck the aid to navigation. The boat was able to make it to the dock and discharge all 12 people before if down flooded and sank. The fuel system appparently remained intact and there was no oil or gasoline spilled into the water.
posted 08-02-2015 10:07 AM ET (US)
It appears that the operator of the vessel involved in the allision with the West Arm Lighted Buoy 8 described above violated several rules of the NAVIGATION RULES. It may be instructive to review these.
RULE 5 -- LOOKOUT
(a) By all vessels:
(i) The state of visibility;
(b) Additionally, by vessels with operational radar:
(i) The characteristics, efficiency and limitations of the radar equipment;
Note that a vessel with an operational RADAR has added factors which must be taken into account.
RULE 7 -- RISK OF COLLISION
(b) Proper use shall be made of radar equipment if fitted and operational, including long-range scanning to obtain early warning of risk of collision and radar plotting or equivalent systematic observation of detected objects.
(c) Assumptions shall not be made on the basis of scanty information, especially scanty radar information.
(d) In determining if risk of collision exists the following considerations shall be among those taken into account:
(i) Such risk shall be deemed to exist if the compass bearing of an approaching vessel does not appreciably change.
Note again the vessel that is fitted with RADAR and the RADAR set is operational has additional responsibilities: "Proper use shall be made of radar equipment if fitted and operational..."
If a vessel is fitted with RADAR and the RADAR is operational, there appears to be a requirement that proper use of RADAR must be employed. A vessel fitted with an operational RADAR that is involved in a collision and was not using the RADAR to assist in avoiding collision may be deemed to have failed to comply with RULE 7.
posted 08-02-2015 01:36 PM ET (US)
does not look like there will be to much damage to the bouy, those things are pretty solid.
posted 08-02-2015 01:41 PM ET (US)
Was it mentioned how many people the boat was rated for? Twelve seems a lot but it was a 29' boat. A 13 foot Whaler is rated for six. The sheriffs dept. helped unload the passengers, but never checked if the driver was intoxicated? At least he had the presence of mind to keep the boat on plane and get it back to the dock.
His radar should have helped him locate the buoy, its hard to say how fast he was going, but is failure to use common sense punishable by law? I don't condone his actions, but the only damage was to his property. I don't think he can be charged unless his boat was overloaded.
posted 08-02-2015 03:09 PM ET (US)
good points bink, was anyone hurt? also the Capt. got everyone back to the dock....
posted 08-02-2015 03:25 PM ET (US)
I think hitting an aid to navigation might be considered reckless operation--or should I say wreck-less.
posted 08-02-2015 05:16 PM ET (US)
Wrong Jim, that boat underwater looks wrecked to me.
posted 08-02-2015 11:04 PM ET (US)
DON--I agree. If that hull damage is repaired, I would not want to be the next owner of that boat.
posted 08-03-2015 11:42 AM ET (US)
I guess being stupid is now a crime? If he damaged the buoy, he should pay to repair the damage and that should be the end of it. If I'm driving my car, hit a road sign, drive my car to a body shop, get my car fixed at my expense and pay for the damage to the sign, what "crime" have I committed?
posted 08-03-2015 01:15 PM ET (US)
posted 08-03-2015 01:20 PM ET (US)
what if he skidded on black ice, or avoided a deer, child that ran in the street...
posted 08-03-2015 01:50 PM ET (US)
Jim said it RECKLESS DRIVING
contender; If you skidded because of black ice you were going to fast(reckless), same with trying to avoid and animal or person.
Believe me that "reckless driving" can be used for a lot on a road or water(way). Don't ask me how I know.
He might had the autopilot on and it is the fault of the government as their GPS satellites weren't putting out the right info for the course he picked.
posted 08-03-2015 03:01 PM ET (US)
Reckless operation, Michigan Compiled Laws 324.80147 - 90 day misdemeanor.
Crippling injury or death, MCL 324.80172 - Circuit Court 2 year misdemeanor.
Felonious Operation of Vessel, MCL 324.80173 - 2 year felony.
posted 08-03-2015 03:19 PM ET (US)
Don't know if I feel this way because it is coming from a "newb" (about 5 years) boater with a small boat but I am scared to look away for more than 15/20 seconds at daytime on a clear day (while in the middle of an open ocean channel 20 miles wide)....
When it is dark, I'd slow to a crawl if I had to look away for any reason.
Maybe it is the small boat that makes me "paranoid", I guess I can see putting my one bedroom boat on autopilot while I enjoy a cocktail with the lady on the couch....
posted 08-03-2015 08:25 PM ET (US)
The navigation rules--see above--are rather clear. You must maintain a lookout. You have to avoid collisions. You have to operate at a safe speed.
If you hit a lighted buoy at night, you obviously were not maintaining a proper lookout, failed to avoid a collision, and must not have been operating at a safe speed. If you didn't have your RADAR in operation you were not making proper use of it. If you have RADAR on your boat, you are obligated to make proper use of it to avoid collisions. See RULE 7(b).
posted 08-04-2015 04:20 AM ET (US)
Re West Arm Lighted Buoy 8: my inference is that is a type 6X20LR buoy, based on some drawings at
A Type 6X20LR buoy weighs 6,500-lbs.
The lantern on the West Arm Lighted Buoy 8 looks similar to a Carmanah model M860:
posted 08-04-2015 06:48 AM ET (US)
I hope everyone here who thinks this man should be charged with some sort of crime holds themselves to the same standard, perfection, that they seem to hold this man to. I would like to think any authorities would look at the totality of the circumstances before they decided to press any charges. Accidents are going to happen, humans aren't perfect. If the boat owner was intoxicated or operating his vessel at high speed in a crowded area or otherwise engaging in dangerous behavior, then, yes, he should be charged with those things.
To say he "failed to maintain proper lookout" is a broad enough indictment as to be applicable to any and every accident on the water. Hit a floating log at night, failed to maintain proper lookout, forgot to put plug in boat, failed to maintain proper lookout, ran aground, failed to maintain proper lookout, there is no accident or incident that cannot be blamed on failure to maintain proper lookout.
I think a better attitude in this case would be "there, but for the grace of God, go I". This man hurt no one, damaged his own boat pretty badly and, by all reports, did a good job of getting the boat and it's passengers safely to shore. I can't imagine the damage to the buoy can be much more than cosmetic. Have the man pay for the damage to the buoy and forget about it.
posted 08-04-2015 08:38 AM ET (US)
Reckless Boating is why I stopped boating on lakes in Indiana. Too many boats and not enough room. I'll take Lake Superior and Lake Huron where the nearest boat is usually a mile away.
posted 08-04-2015 09:28 AM ET (US)
You make a very unreasonable and poor analogy. A floating log would not be lighted with a lamp visible for several miles. It would not be visible on RADAR. It would not be in a charted position.
posted 08-04-2015 09:36 AM ET (US)
reckless adjective: marked by lack of proper caution
Also, I don't believe that it is entirely due to the grace of God that most of us have not already had a collision with a 6,500-lbs lighted aid-to-navigation while underway on-plane with our boats. I think the reason most of us have not collided with a 6,500-lbs lighted aid-to-navigation is that we have been exercising proper caution in the operation of our boats. Proper caution in operation of a boat is what keeps boats from routinely striking other objects, more so than the grace of God.
[I have deleted a few comments in this thread that were not on topic. Please feel free to comment on the incident on the collision with an aid to navigation, but please do not change the topic to talk about completely tangental and extremely marginally related incidents that are not about boats and not about accidental collisions. For example, one author decided to change the topic to suicides on highways. I don't find that topic to be related to this dicsussion and have deleted it.--jimh]
posted 08-05-2015 07:18 PM ET (US)
When a misadventure or accident occurs which does no harm and the cause of the accident is not egregiously bad behavior such as Boating Under the Influence I think the punishment, if any, should match the behavior exhibited. Often the lesson we learn from such behavior is sufficient to prevent it's recurrence. Is that not the primary goal of punishment, to provide a lesson?
posted 08-06-2015 07:19 AM ET (US)
As far as I know, the operator of the boat has not been charged with any criminal violation by any law enforcement agency.
From what I have read in this thread, I have not seen anyone who is urging that the operator of the boat be charged with a criminal violation. We do seem to have a lot of people insisting he should not be charged with having done anything wrong.
I am afraid I can't join the chorus that urges the fellow did not do anything wrong. It seems obvious to me he did something wrong--he hit a rather large, lighted, well-known aid-to-navigation. That is not proper boating. That is improper boating. I can't make a case that he ought to be exonerated.
It seems rather odd to me that a boat operator whose boat is boarded by some law enforcement agency for a safety inspection and has a few flares on board that are a month or two past their expiration date might be given a citation for violation of boating regulations regarding proper safety gear required to be on board, but you can put the lives of 12-people at risk by hitting a 6,500-lbs buoy and everyone thinks you ought to get a pass.
posted 08-06-2015 10:12 AM ET (US)
It also seems odd or even inappropriate for a person to be given a citation for a few out of date flares. I don't like boarding of private vessels to conduct safety inspections without permission or invitation.
I would argue that an anchor and appropriate rode is a far more important piece of safety equipment than a flare. I'm unaware of any requirement to have an anchor aboard.
posted 08-06-2015 01:47 PM ET (US)
Back to the main topic ["Things that go bump in the night"]:
Two Baltimore women were killed early Sunday [July 26, 2015] when a 37-foot boat struck a concrete abutment just south of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, emergency officials said. Six people were hospitalized in the crash, [according to a] Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police spokeswoman. The crash was first reported to authorities at 3:08 a.m. Authorities recovered one of the women's bodies at 8:20 a.m. and the second just before 1 p.m.
The above lifted in part from the local news paper. The incident early Sunday morning July 26. I happened to see the vessel being towed (with Police escort) to a boatyard located up Middle River near Baltimore.
If Rules 5, 6 and 7 had been heeded, this would not have happened. Oh, I forgot about the probable use of alcohol by the operator.
The Key Bridge spans the Patapsco River outside Baltimore, Maryland and is hard to miss. The "bumpers" or dolfins as they are sometimes called, apparently are not so hard to miss. Not the first time they have been struck by recreational boats at night.
posted 08-06-2015 03:05 PM ET (US)
From the NOAA chart and GOOGLE EARTH, there appears to be four rather large concrete islands or circular piers that are in-line with the main channel going under the bridge, and, as mentioned, likely intended to deflect any large ship that was off course and heading for a bridge pier. The NOAA chart shows they are lighted but the lights are privately maintained, that is, the lights are not official USCG Aids to Navigation.
Here is a link to a very large image of the bridge, in which the four concrete island-piers can be seen:
posted 08-06-2015 02:11 PM ET (US)
The Coast Guard of the United States of America is apparently involved in the investigation of the Key Bridge allision. See
posted 08-06-2015 03:00 PM ET (US)
How about this one from last September?
Seems like some one puts a boat on the break wall close by every year.
posted 08-06-2015 03:17 PM ET (US)
CON--The website article says there was "no RADAR" but you can clearly see a RADAR antenna on the boat as it sits on the break wall.
posted 08-06-2015 04:18 PM ET (US)
[The SEA RAY boat that struck the concrete protection island or protection pier of the Key Bridge] is laying against Fort Carroll which is located about a mile east of the Key bridge. I heard-- but do not know it to be fact--that the vessel, after striking the "bumper" continued on until it smashed into the fort.
Fort Carroll was designed by Robert E. Lee. He oversaw its construction and resided with his wife in Baltimore at that time. Constructed of granite blocks, it's somewhat unyeilding--to a SeaRay at least.
The approach to Baltimore Harbor is well marked. The professional captains traverse it day and night and in all weathers. Rarely a mishap occurs.
posted 08-07-2015 09:49 AM ET (US)
That SEA RAY boat looks like it has a RADAR and a GPS antenna on the arch.
posted 08-07-2015 01:27 PM ET (US)
Again it comes down to proper lookout, with or without radar and GPS. What I don't understand is the two lost lives in the Baltimore accident. The boat was floating, the bow was damaged pretty badly. How did the two women fall overboard in this express cruiser. Were they on the foredeck? That is a big no-no when going faster than No-Wake speed. People might be hurt in the cockpit falling against objects but this Sea Ray has pretty high cockpit deck to side and aft railings. Again, a tragic but preventable accident with proper lookout.
posted 08-07-2015 02:05 PM ET (US)
One possible explanation for two fatalities: the initial photo showed low starboard bow damage at waterline. At speed, this would have caused a sudden deceleration and severe roll and yaw of the stern to port, which could have launched people on the starboard side airborne and overboard.--JimL
posted 08-07-2015 02:24 PM ET (US)
The initial article and the images of that boat shown above are about a completely different incident than the SEA RAY hitting the bridge pier protection island. This thread is now discussing three incidents in which boats collided or allided with rather, large stationary or semi-stationary, illuminated, visible on RADAR, and well-charted objects.
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