The Bay City News recently reported One man was killed and
his two fellow passengers were injured in a boating accident
near Sausalito this afternoon...
The cause of this accident as it was reported by the Coast
Guard that the boat was traveling at an unknown high... when
it struck a submerged object of some kind' and one man was
Why did this accident and countless others occur In 2002,
the Coast Guard reports 124 collisions with submerged objects,
causing 27 injuries and four deaths and an estimated $954,582
in property damage.
Furthermore, the Coast Guard statistics show that 58% of those
collisions occurred in boats between 16 feet and 26 feet in
Sixty-one percent (61%) of all boats in these types of collisions
were deemed open boats . An open boat is defined as a
Craft of open construction specifically built for operating
with a motor, including boats canopied or fitted with temporary
To clarify, let us look at the other major participant in collisions
with submerged objects, garnering the dubious score of 23% of
all collisions. These boats are classified as cabin motorboats .
Cabin motorboats are Motorboats with a cabin which can be completely
closed by means of doors or hatches. Large motorboats with cabins,
even though referred to as yachts, are considered to be cabin
So, it is obvious that our Sausalito accident, while slightly
larger (in length) than the normal accident statistic, was definitely
an open boat . Unfortunately, our accident victim was not a
statistical anomaly! So again, why do these accidents occur?
Open water doesn't mean unobstructed water
There is a falsity in our collective understanding of what
open water is, and is not.
Open water or blue water, is not readily defined in the major
boating texts (Dutton, Chapman's). However, the collective broad
understanding of these terms mean that when one is in open or
blue water they are off-shore and in deep-water.
Coastal waters are near-shore and considered to have shallows
and as such are to be obstructed. In many coastal waters, draft
is a major concern, and thus boaters pay just little more consideration
to where they are operating, hopefully.
But are open waters really open? The answer is clear. NO! Blue
water is cluttered. It has a wide array of debris floating both
on the surface, as well as partially or fully submerged. Logs,
lumber, plastics, and containers (from 10 feet long to over
40 feet in length) are just some of the items floating about
on the great blue ocean. By the way logs, lumber, and plastics
also float about in coastal waters as well!
If this is the case, then it behooves all boaters to be extremely
wary of our waters. Traveling at high speed and connecting with
a submerged object is akin to riding your bicycle and hitting
a rock. The bicycle bounces, and more times than not, you end
up fall off. When your boat hits an object, depending on its
mass, your boat can react in one of several ways.
Newton ' First Law of Motion: An
object at rest will remain at rest and an object in motion will
remain in motion at a constant velocity unless acted upon by
First and foremost the boat will decelerate quickly. This will
cause all passengers and object that are not tied down to continue
in the direction they were traveling, at the same velocity.
These people and objects will then either make brute force contact
with parts of the boat, the other objects or sail right over
the boat, ending up in the water.
Secondly, the boat may itself become airborne. There is no
way to predict how your boat may react to being airborne, but
it's quite possible that it could invert; landing upside down
and automatically capsizes.
Thirdly, and needless to say, not the last possibility is that
the boat will just sink, quite possible as fast as the Titanic.
In our Sausalito accident, one of the passengers was ejected
from the boat. He unfortunately died. No cause of death was
listed in the article, but neither the deceased nor the two
other passengers were wearing PFD's (life jackets).
It is also worthy of note, that the two injured remaining members
of the boat used a cell phone to call for help. The Coast Guard
wishes again to inform the boating public that your safest and
best source for calling for help is your marine VHF radio. The
reasons are many, but high up on the list is the possibility
of other boaters hearing your distress call and responding and/or
assisting in getting help. No one, with the exception of the
party you called can hear your cell phone conversation!
For more information about safe boating, safe boating courses
or information about the United States Coast Guard or Coast
Guard Auxiliary, contact your local Coast Guard unit (found
in the yellow pages) or see us on the Internet. The Coast Guard
is located at www.uscg.mil
and the Coast Guard Auxiliary is at www.cgaux.org.