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Yacht damaged in Canal collision

Jan 1, 2003
From Ocean Navigator #114
May/June 2001
At anchor awaiting transit of the Panama Canal in February, a voyaging couple had the disquieting experience of being nearly run down by a large freighter. Another yacht at anchor wasn't so lucky.

The yacht, Diana, above, was hit by a freiger in the Panama Canal.
   Image Credit: Susan Wagner

Susan Wagner, aboard her and her husband's yacht La Boatique, submitted the following account of her experience:

At about 1530 on Feb. 1 the freighter Sierra Leyre pulled away from the dock near the Flats anchorage in Colon, Panama. A tug pulled the bow of the freighter around to position the ship into the Canal. As the line from the tug came off, the 20-knot wind caught the empty freighter sideways and began pushing it toward the pleasure boat anchorage - called the Flats - and our boat. The bow of the freighter smashed into an anchored sailboat, wrenching apart some stanchions and scraping past its hull.

The freighter then began dragging the sailboat through the water. We jumped into our dinghy and rushed closer, hoping to be able to offer some assistance. No one was aboard the sailboat, a French sloop called Diana. The anchor chain of the sailboat was caught on the bulb of the bow of the freighter.

Another voyager who had also witnessed the collision managed to board the yacht, but the anchor chain quickly became tight, and the sailboat began to be dragged under the bow of the freighter. The fellow immediately released the anchor chain, and the chain rushed out so fast that it stripped away the teeth of the gypsy.

The nylon rode at the end of the chain stopped the chain, and after some quick fumbling inside the cabin he found a knife. He sliced the line at the end of the chain to free the sailboat.

The freighter continued through the Flats for the Canal. We then helped tow the sailboat to an anchorage zone buoy where we helped to tie it off. The owners arrived and re-anchored the boat. Despite significant damage, the Panama Canal Commission decided Diana would not be compensated because they claimed that Diana was anchored just outside of the designated anchorage. The Flats anchorage held nearly 40 closely anchored boats at the time. We heard later that Diana was indeed anchored within the Flats boundary.

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