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Vessel ends up on the rocks

August 30, 2005|By: Lauren Vane

A 57-foot powerboat ran aground on the rocks at Crystal Cove State

Park early Monday after the owner fell asleep while the craft was on

autopilot, officials said.

By 4 p.m. Monday, a salvage company had removed the boat from the

rocks and towed it into Newport Harbor, said Sgt. David Ginther of

the Orange County Sheriff's Harbor Patrol.

The owner, Mark Anton of Laguna Beach, and a woman were aboard the

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boat, which left Catalina Island around midnight, bound for Newport

Beach, Ginther said. The two fell asleep during the crossing and

awoke to noises of the vessel crashing into rocks at 1:30 a.m.

"By then it was too late -- the vessel was already aground,"

Ginther said. No one was injured.

Anton did not notify anyone about the crash until 5 a.m. when he

called Vessel Assist, a San Diego-based salvage company, Ginther

said.

The salvage company notified the U.S. Coast Guard, which in turn

contacted local authorities. The Harbor Patrol and State Parks

Lifeguards then responded to the crash, Ginther said.

Removing the boat from the rocks was a delicate task that took

most of the day Monday.

"It's stressful work; there's a lot of boat there," said Robert

Butler, president of Vessel Assist.

The salvage crew waited until high tide to pull the boat off the

rocks and into the water. Due to heavy damage to the boat's hull, the

crew took precautions to prevent the boat from taking on water on the

way into the harbor, Butler said. The vessel was outfitted with

pumps, and Butler said that divers would travel with the boat,

plugging holes during the journey.

"Rocks and fiberglass -- just a bad combination," Butler said.

Butler estimated the salvage efforts would cost the owner "tens of

thousands" of dollars.

Harbor Patrol sheriff's deputies took an accident report, and it

is possible a citation could be issued, Ginther said.

Boating accidents resulting from the unsupervised use of autopilot

have occurred before in the area. Autopilot is a helpful tool, but

someone on the boat has to be watching where the vessel is headed,

Ginther said.

"It [autopilot] doesn't know there's an object in the way," he

said.

* LAUREN VANE covers public safety and courts. She may be reached

at (714) 966-4618 or by e-mail at o7lauren.vanef7o7@latimes.

comf7.

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