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Old 05-01-2012, 12:55 AM   #1
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Default Sailboat apparently run over by freighter

All hands lost. Reported in Lectronic Latitude, online edition of Latitude38.

Because these links often disappear fairly quickly, below is the text from that link.

"Search for Missing Sailor Suspended

April 30, 2012 – San Diego

The Coast Guard suspended their search for Theo Mavromatis, 49, yesterday afternoon after a 600-square mile grid search by the Coast Guard, the Mexican Navy and civilian volunteers found nothing but debris from the Hunter 376 Aegean aboard which Mavromatis was skipper. Aegean was part of the 213-boat fleet in the Lexus Newport to Ensenada Race, a 125-mile overnight race put on by the Newport Ocean Sailing Assocation.

Aegean's tracker had stopped transmitting at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, but trackers frequently have glitches so little was made of it until Eric Lamb of Vessel Assist spotted a debris field. The bodies of Mavromatis' three crewmembers — William Reed Johnson Jr., 57, Joseph Lester Stewart, 64, and Kevin Rudolph, 53 — were located quickly yesterday, and all had reportedly suffered terrible injuries. Considering the fact that Aegean looked as if it had "gone through a blender," according to Lamb, and that other racers report seeing a freighter in the vicinity around the time the tracker stopped working, it's suspected that a freighter or other large ship ran over the little boat that night. "We haven't discounted that possibility," said Bill Fitzgerald, the Coast Guard's lead investigator for San Diego. "We're still tracking down any vessel that may have been in their area."

"UPDATE: Michael Lawler, a crewmember aboard the Newport Beach-based Choate 48 Amante, reports having a close encounter with a freighter in the same vicinity and time as Aegean's tracker stopped working. "We were farther offshore, about 10-12 miles west of the Coronados," says Lawler. "Around 1:30 a.m., I went on watch and saw a freighter bearing down on us at what was probably 20 knots. His range lights were lined up and I could see both red and green bow lights. I didn't have time to get on the radio, so I grabbed my two million-candlepower spotlight and aimed it at the ship. That caught his attention and he took a hard left turn to take our stern. He passed about 1/4 mile behind us." Lawler, who circumnavigated aboard his North Wind 47 Traveller, says the wind was light, the seas were a little lumpy, and visibility was good.
- latitude / ladonna"

How sad, and how scary.

I wonder whether the boats would have had such close encounters if there were AIS transceivers on their boats. I wonder if future ocean races will require them.
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Old 05-01-2012, 02:28 AM   #2
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Of course, what would you do if you had AIS and could see the freighter bearing down on you and they didn't respond to your radio call to them? If you start the motor you're disqualified. We've started our engine and gotten out of the path of big freighters here on the West Coast--but we're not in a sailboat race
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Old 05-01-2012, 03:55 AM   #3
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One of the advantages of AIS is that it gives you the name of the other vessel. Before I had AIS it was hopeless to hail another vessel on a collision course at channel 16. Now hailing them on 16 by name, they almost always respond. Cannot say the same if hailed via DSC.

Nevertheless, race or no race, transmitting AIS or not, it is best to assume that that the "big ship" does not see you and will collide. So change course in time before it is too late.
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Old 05-01-2012, 02:02 PM   #4
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Default "Dead right"

All the technology in the world will not save you at sea. It is YOUR responsibility to keep clear of ANY commercial vessel.
I have personally seen a ship enter Auckland harbor with the rig of a 40 odd foot boat hanging from the anchor. They had no idea that they had hit anything & did not know about the rig until the pilot told them.
As the new rules of the road are written there is no longer a vessel with the "right of way", be it under sail or not. There is the "burdened" vessel & the "stand on" vessel, period.
I have been on the bridge of a freighter, or operating a tug & tow, or schooners carrying passengers on day trips as captain & had to contend with idiots who thought they had the "right of way", for whatever reason.
In the old days we said they were "dead right".
Rules & technology are no substitute for common sense; STAY OUT OF THE WAY OF COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC, period.
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Old 05-01-2012, 04:38 PM   #5
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I've done that race a few times and I've been off the Coronados many many times. There is plenty of traffic, recreational, commercial and navy. I doubt the navy would make a mistake like that, but they could. I wouldn't really expect commercial traffic to make that kind of mistake in those waters. I would expect them to be triply on watch. I would assume all shipping knew of the race.

But I wouldn't have expected that freighter to land on the beach in Ensenada a few years ago either. Or a cruise ship to land in the med.

Really sad for the guys' families. It could happen to anyone. That won't stop me from going out though.
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Old 05-01-2012, 04:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capta View Post
STAY OUT OF THE WAY OF COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC, period.
Of course you're right, and we can never repeat often enough that one must always be on alert and take whatever evasion measures necessary without standing on who has "right of way" or is the "stand on" vessel.

It is for that reason, though, that I think that AIS might be a life-saving bit of gear for the lonely little sailboat. I assume (perhaps a mistake) that ships must pay attention to the vessels that AIS indicates are in their path, and it seems that AIS makes visible that which can often not be visible for many reasons.
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Old 05-01-2012, 04:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
It is for that reason, though, that I think that AIS might be a life-saving bit of gear for the lonely little sailboat.
I'm not a believer, generally, in electronics for small boats. I find them unreliable and a crutch. The only piece of electronic gear to never have failed me is my hand held GPS and I keep that in a sealed bag with extra batteries all the time. That said, I think AIS is a clear win.

AIS is reasonably low power consumption, somewhat reliable, will maybe give an alarm when you need it to, will maybe alert another vessel to your presence.

At worst, they give you one more chance of seeing and being seen. They increase your odds by some amount. The cost (in batteries, charging systems, and cash outlay) is within reasonable limits. I believe, without solid evidence, that they are a better bet than most radar reflectors, though I want one of those, too.
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Old 05-01-2012, 07:50 PM   #8
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A sad and terrible loss.

Whilst nothing can replace a good lookout on passage, AIS certainly prevented Mico becoming a bow decoration when we approached a narrow passage in the Louisiades used by commercial vessels out of the US and OZ going north to Japan. On our approach we were hit by a whiteout and we couldn't even see our own bow let alone another. At that point our AIS (integrated with our radar and VHF) started pinging loudly and we indentified a massive container ship on a collision course with us. We did not even wait to do a verbal call with the handset, simply hit the 'direct call' button which rang on their bridge. The captain picked up and was extremely grateful for alerting him as to our existence out in the mist and said that we were not on his radar at all - even with all our reflectors. (something else to think about in another forum) As we had his speed, heading and all his other details on our AIS we simply informed him of our intention to drop speed and turn away until he passed. A few minutes later a massive black shadow appeared out of the gloom - but thankfully not directly above us, which would have been the case had we no AIS.

We're not naive enough to believe that chance doesn't play a role in offshore passage making but as everyone seems to be pointing out, increasing your odds for survival by as many means as possible is simply good practice.

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Old 05-01-2012, 08:55 PM   #9
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Thank you Mico for first-hand experience with AIS!

The year we sailed from Darwin through Indonesia to Singapore (pre-AIS) was the year that Indonesian farmers were burning Borneo and the smoke from all the wildfires was dreadful. Schools were closed in Brunei because of the terrible air quality, and we worried constantly about the poor visibility. With no radar, some of our navigating into an anchorage was praying the charts were reasonably accurate so we could tiptoe into an anchorage on GPS and depth soundings.

We crossed Singapore Strait in company with a boat with radar (all those years of cruising, we never had radar and only this smokey season did we miss it) and worried the entire crossing about being hit by one of the myriad of freighters traveling to and from Singapore. When we arrived in Singapore, one of the scariest things we saw was a huge freighter that had been hit midships by another huge freighter. It was a mess! There was no doubt that if we had been the vessel run over, there would have been nothing left of us.

We did have a radar detector, the C.A.R.D. system, which worked pretty well, so long as the other vessel had his radar on - the trawlers in the Pacific didn't run their radar very often once they were away from land, though. But AIS offers a whole lot more information and options, doesn't it?
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Old 05-01-2012, 08:56 PM   #10
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Mico--yes, that "direct call" feature is the very best aspect of having AIS integrated with radio on the boat. Immediately you can be on the radio with the captain of the other vessel w/o a second's worry.
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Old 05-03-2012, 01:05 PM   #11
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Default Update on possible cause of the wreck

'Lectronic Latitude has posted an update on this tragedy, and Aegean's SPOT GPS reported positions that indicate that the boat sailed straight into an island. See the article HERE

"Aegean's SPOT Messenger GPS track shows the boat on a constant course and speed for more than three hours leading them directly onto the rocky shore of North Coronado Island. This almost certainly eliminates the possibility that Aegean was hit by a ship, which had been the most prevalent initial speculation."

Although that is a horrifying possibility, from some of our own experiences I just might be able to believe it.

Making navigation errors, even in this age of chartplotters, isn't that difficult.

One of my irritations was that Peter would set as a waypoint a hard bit - rock, island, you get it. My argument was that if one of us wasn't paying attention, riding right up onto that hard bit was just too easy.

In less than perfect weather, a 1 minute error could mean the difference between safety and "ouch".

Sleeping crew - sometimes my insomnia was a good thing. We only took on crew twice in all our years cruising, and one was exceptionally good, the other was a nice guy, but of no help whatsoever. But that we didn't discover until we made our first night crossing. I was off watch, but decided to go on deck because I couldn't sleep. As I stepped out into the cockpit, I saw a tug-and-tow missing us by meters! Our "crew" was sleeping in the cockpit!

Never underestimate luck, but please don't count on it. If that means assuming that everybody on board will make mistakes or is marginally incompetent, do it.
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Old 05-03-2012, 01:46 PM   #12
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Jeanne is absolutely right that setting waypoints on rocks and small islands is asking for trouble. And yes insomnia can be an asset.

Our modern tendency to rely heavily on electronics (chart plotters, GPS, AIS, and autopilots) can lead to problems. But they do help if used carefully. Cruising today is not only easier but safer then 20 years ago.

Nevertheless I know directly of two boats that collided because everyone on board fell asleep. One of them collided with an anchored ship and the other, a very good friend of mine, with the tip of an island. In both cases there was substantial damage but no loss of life.

Aegean's fate was a terrible tragedy. We should all be careful but it is counterproductive to be sanctimonious. It could happen to any one of us. May Poseidon protect us.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:42 PM   #13
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This is really tragic, yes. And--JeanneP, I'm with you about not using hard points as waypoints. People often share their waypoints but I'm distrustful of doing so for exactly this reason--you don't know if the person chose an appropriately safe distance from a aid to navigation, rock, or other known landmark. The owner of San Diego's Sea Breeze Books (a nautical books and charts store) used to work for Sea Tow or Vessel Assist (don't recall which one) and she recounts a story of a boat driving itself right up onto Point Loma (a huge cliff with a landmark lighthouse atop it) as they'd chosen the Point Loma light as their waypoint. She was part of the rescue effort through the heavy surf. Luckily, no lives were lost.

And that brings me to the Aegean story--I can see from the track that it looks like the boat drove herself right onto the island. I don't understand this on several levels--people choose to go either inside or outside the islands and that boat looked to be aimed to go through the middle? When you choose "outside" I suppose you can find yourself very close, but you'd think that someone who is manually pushing the "send" button on their Find-me-spot device would also be tracking their own progress and see that they're getting close to the island. I didn't know the Spot could automatically send position data. Also--it is fairly benign seas around the Coronados compared to many places one could drive into shore. People often anchor in 40-50 ft deep water between the islands. It is amazing to think that a boat would be ground up into little bits so quickly by the usual wave action on the islands there. Finally, it's not a long arduous race they were in--its quick and fun. How the crew could fall asleep so that the boat sail unattended? I don't understand that one either.

I worry about all the fishing and commercial traffic near those islands so even though everything points towards a mistake and the boat grounding on an island, I will look forward to the investigation's findings. I hope we all learn something from this tragedy that can help keep us safe in our travels.

Fair winds,
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Old 05-03-2012, 09:47 PM   #14
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I've seen a boat smash up on the Mission Bay Jetty, pounded by waves for hours. Two things struck me:

1) All aboard got safely ashore without serious injury.

2) Most of the boat was still on the rocks being smashed the next day. From 100 feet it still looked more or less viable.

So what bothers me about this hypothesis is that the report was that the men found were badly beaten up and that the boat itself was smashed to small bits. The description said "it looked like it had been through a blender."

Unless the hunters shatter differently from a catalina, this sounds inconsistent with a boat hitting rocks and then being smashed by hours of waves.

If this is true, I need to re-evaluate my perception of what happens to a plastic boat when it hits rock.

OTOH, I didn't personally see the wreckage, so I can't assume it is truly as described.
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