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From the Boathouse: What happened to the Aegean?

June 21, 2012|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy!

I want to welcome you to the first official weekend of summer, and the weather will be perfect for outdoor activities and, of course, boating.

The sea conditions will be a small mixed set with 2-foot swells from the west and south, and a nice breeze under 15 knots for rag-boaters. So, get out on the water whether you will be cruising inside a harbor, on a lake, or venturing out on the high seas.

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However, I want you to be careful as you regain your sea legs for this season, and keep in mind that operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and the operator being under the influence rank as the top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents.

Yet, the unexpected can happen, and did happen to the Hunter 376 sailing vessel Aegean during the recent Newport to Ensenada Race. I am still wondering what happened to the ill-fated voyage where all four crew members died from blunt force trauma. I still have unanswered questions.

Unofficial reports and an investigation panel from the U.S. Sailing are claiming that the Aegean hit North Coronado Island, which is in Mexican waters just below the U.S. border. However, this remains a mystery to me as to why, because how does a seasoned and experienced crew have an allision with a known and charted rocky island?

I have skippered numerous yachts and mega yachts by these islands on hundreds of voyages, and I have always known where my vessel was located in relationship to mainland, islands, and other vessels.

Other sailors have said that the Aegean's crew did not party hard at BCYC's annual party on the night before the race, which leads me to believe that they were serious about the race. Therefore, the crew on watch would be alert, and he should have been aware that the boat was heading directly into the islands.

Additionally, why would the watch crew set the autopilot's waypoint to have an allision with the islands, especially taking into account any affects from set and drift, and watching for cross tracking errors?

For the armchair skipper and landlubber reporters, an "allision" is a vessel hitting a stationary fixed object like an island, pier, or a bridge, where as a "collision" is two or more objects in motion colliding.

My first question to any investigator is where are the boat's keel and engine located on the sea floor? There are reports of possibly finding debris near the island, which leads to my second question.

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