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Dangerous encounters

Oct 11, 2006

The casualties section of the next issue of Professional Mariner (the sister publication of Ocean Navigator) will include two stories about conflicts between commercial vessels and recreational boats.

By far the most serious of the two involved the collision on Sept. 20 between a 92-foot chartered sailing vessel, Essence, and a 600-foot bulk carrier Barkald. A woman aboard the sailboat was killed in the accident, which occurred at about 4 a.m. in Long Island Sound south of New Haven.

Fortunately no one was injured in the other accident, which occurred Sept. 9 not very far away (about 60 miles to the east on the Connecticut River), but it too could have been very serious, even fatal to the occupants of the recreational craft. The accident occurred at about 1:30 p.m. as the 1,950-hp tug Moran Transportation tug Turecamo Girls was about to pass under the Amtrak bridge over the river at Old Lyme while towing an empty 310-foot oil barge. The tugboat captain was forced to abruptly change course to avoid hitting a northbound sailboat under power that passed under the bridge as the tug and barge were approaching. The barge ended up hitting the bridge.

The two accidents are both under investigation by the Coast Guard and no conclusions have yet been reached. It will be up to the investigators to determine where the fault lies, but these two incidents are terrible reminders of just how disastrous encounters between commercial and recreational craft can be. And they suggest that the risk and frequency of such encounters are probably much greater than people generally realize.