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What Went Wrong - S/Y Essence
Janine
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 3:55 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 386


Dockwalk magazine's regular column, What Went Wrong by Kelly Sanford, highlights a different marine accident each month, focusing on the lessons learned. We've received feedback that some readers would like to comment on it. So we're republishing it in the forum so you can have your say.


This month is about the collision of S/Y Essence and the 623-foot coal carrier Barkald.



At approximately 4 a.m. on September 20, 2006, the 92-foot sailboat Essence and the 623-foot coal carrier Barkald were on nearly reciprocal courses in Long Island Sound when they collided. S/Y Essence sank, resulting in one crewmember’s death from drowning. In November 2007, the U.S. Coast Guard released its official findings on the collision.

 

Barkald was outbound and Essence was motor-sailing on an inbound course. At the time of the collision, Essence’s mate (who did not have a captain’s license) was at the helm. The captain was asleep in the salon and the chef (who was licensed) was asleep in the pilothouse. According to the USCG report, the mate had been sick the day before and was making his first passage through the Sound.

 

There were four licensed officers, including a pilot, on watch on the bridge aboard Barkald at the time of the accident. However, approximately one minute and 17 seconds before impact, it was the mate aboard Essence who initiated radio contact. According to a transcript of the exchange, the mate aboard Essence hailed Barkald on 16 by saying, “Motor vessel off my port, motor vessel off my port….” Upon raising Barkald on his second attempt at contact, he said, “I don’t know if you know this but, um, your – your port light is not working; only the starboard is shining, over.”

 

The pilot did not respond to the comment regarding the port light and no agreement was made on course alteration; instead, the pilot replied, “Okay, so are you going to stay clear of my vessel?”

 

The mate responded, “Ya, I’m staying clear of your vessel.” Moments later, having clearly misread Barkald’s lights – which were in fact all working at the time of the accident – the mate “effected a seventy to ninety degree turn to starboard, crossing the Barkald bow, resulting in the collision.”

 

The USCG report indicates that the primary cause of the accident was “the failure of the mate on the Essence to properly identify the aspect of the lights of the Barkald and his position in relation to the Barkald.” However, the report goes on to list the Inland Water Navigation Rules violated by both vessels, which included: failure to maintain a proper lookout, improper communications, failure to determine that a collision risk existed, failure to make visual and/or radar contact and several other obvious factors in the accident.

 

“In reviewing the USCG and other reports of the incident, it would be far too easy and obvious to state that if both bridge teams had properly followed the Inland Navigation Rules, which they were required to do in these waters, the incident could have been avoided,” says Capt. Stewart Fontaine, a 3,000-ton captain who’s been in the industry for more than 20 years. He’s had vast experience as a relief captain and draws his operational style from the procedures of many different yachts.

 

“Some might say that it was because the mate on Essence was not licensed and therefore did not have a good working knowledge of the Rules,” says Fontaine. “If this was indeed the case, then the blame lies squarely with the captain and owner for allowing an unqualified person to operate the vessel. Ignoring all the obvious evidence to the contrary for a moment, my guess is that the mate, having already spent two years on board Essence, was probably… experienced standing watch underway alone and apparently had the captain’s confidence. Besides, if all it took was a license to avoid this collision, Barkald should have been able to do so singlehandedly with the collection of licenses they had on their bridge that early morning.”

 

In considering the incident from Essence’s perspective, Fontaine says, “The overriding question on my mind is why was the mate the only one awake on the bridge when he had apparently judged that they were on a head-on collision course with another vessel?” Fontaine appreciates the fact that there were only three crewmembers on board and sometimes vessels have to make do with what they have versus what would be optimal. But, he says, “Regardless of the size of the vessel and crew, the captain must provide, at the very least, a clear concise, written list of scenarios and instructions…[for which] the watch-stander is required to immediately call the captain and make him aware of the situation.”

 

“It is the captain’s responsibility to ensure that all watch-standers understand the reason the scenarios are on the list, why it is important for them to recognize as early as possible that one of the scenarios is developing and to make sure they understand that the safe operation of the vessel remains the captain’s responsibility whether he is on the bridge or not,” Fontaine says. “Had the mate of Essence called the captain, there is a good chance that between the two of them working as a bridge team, they would have come to a better conclusion than the mate did on his own.”

 

The tragedy reiterates the timeless truth that accidents at sea rarely are caused by a single mistake and provides some valuable lessons about complacency on any passage.

 

An item notably absent from the report is the element of fatigue. Though it does note that the mate had been ill the day before the incident, sources close to the crew allege that Essence recently had come out of the shipyard and was not budgeted to bring additional crew aboard prior to making the passage to Greenwich.

 

“When you consider that the collision occurred at 0400 and that Essence was sailing with a very short crew, the effects of fatigue must be taken into account,” Fontaine says. “With a crew of three and only one of them awake on the bridge in the run-up to the collision, it is difficult for me to fully accept that the mate was well rested and alert. Anyone who has worked the ‘graveyard watch’ will tell you that it can be very difficult to maintain the mental alertness necessary to make proper judgments, especially on the first night of a voyage, when your internal clock is trying to put you to sleep.”



Kelly
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 5:37 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 40


Those interested in reading a more comprehensive power-point presentation of the offical findings may do so by cutting and pasting the following link and scrolling down to the bottom for the power-point prompt. ------http://www.newsletterscience.com/marex/readmore.cgi?issue_id=274&article_id=2809&l=1&s=54125
junior
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:19 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


I remember reading of the accident in Professional Mariner..... Google it. Its interesting how jargon, licenses, fatigue and official talk, clouds the real issue. The issue every crew should understand. The captain of the sailing yacht was irresponsible. Asleep at night on a short coastal trip on Long Island Sound is a sure sign that this captain was not made up of the right stuff. This captain broke rule number one...self preservation...you cant collect your paycheck if your dead. Self Preservation means, YOU NEVER TRUST ANYONE when you are in close quarters... You NEVER operate in the shipping lanes at night, you pass inshore even if it adds 10 miles to your trip. You NEVER allow a crew to be within TWO MILES of commercial traffic without you, the captain, on deck and you certainly NEVER allow any crew, no matter what their title, to alter course in close quarters without you, the captain, being on deck. I don't care how many tickets the helmsman has, how much they feel insulted by my doubts.... they break my rules of Self Preservation and they are unemployed. It take seconds to awaken me and only a minute for me to approve your proposal. When you awaken a captain you are not spoiling his sleep, you are reassuring him that you are alert and know the rules. If I feel a crew is not alert, I can never go to sleep , get grumpy as hell, the offending crew will be frozen out and jettisoned at the first opportunity . Lets all hope that the captain of the yacht is now retired and safely ashore working as something harmless, like a crew agent.
Chief
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 8:44 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 341


"...only the starboard is shining, over.”

So, this brilliant Son of Magellan was planning a green to green passing and still expected to see a red light during the whole evolution?

Or was he hoping for a stem to stem meeting? Or was "planning" assuming too much?


JakeG
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 10:31 PM
Joined: 12/12/2008
Posts: 22


I'm still scratching my head about a radio call that begins "vessel off my port bow" and ends with a "so are you going to stay clear of my vessel?" You know you hear radio communiques like that and have to immediately assume that the person hailing needs some assistance in the clue department. This kid does not know how to use a radar or VHF properly and a PILOT defers to HIM to avoid collision??? I know it's Halloween, but this whole story is scary.
Anonymous
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:18 AM
Junior, you weren't there, so aren't qualified to comment. All your chest thumping is a joke. When I when I when I..... big brown bear. You don't know the circumstances, so hush. You hope the captain is no longer in the industry? Did you even ask your [This comment was removed by the moderators because it breaks our forum guidelines] self if he had a family to support or how many other people are impacted if he is no longer "in the industry"? The mate lost his fiance, how about that for punishment. Now take away their livelyhoods? [ This comment was removed by the moderators because it breaks our forum guidelines.]
Anonymous
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:59 AM
I'm even more sad that it happened on my birthday. I think the cpt and owner should be at fault based on what I've read, and it's such a shame that a life had to be lost over ignorance and ignoring rules. Very tragic.  I kind of had the displeasure of meeting a stew who was friends with her, but I'm sure she and others do miss this woman a lot. I believe in the next life after this one, and for what it's worth on this thread, no matter how you die or how young/old, you may end up in a better or worse situation. So the point is, if you want to be treated better in the next life (if you believe in that idea), try to be a better person to OTHERS who work with you as well all others around you through your life.  You never know where you're going to end up next.   
Anonymous
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2009 11:50 PM
I am galley crew on a big boat and do not do watches, but I do have my private pilot license and I read this story and have a question. In boating, is there a rule that the less maneuverable vessel has to give way? If so which boat is less maneuverable a big tub or a sailboat? And if there is a harbor-pilot on a boat, does he have any authority to direct surrounding traffic (like a unicom situation)? Just wondering how that all was supposed to work - what should have happened?
Henning
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2009 12:31 AM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1049


There were multiple failures here including on the part of the coal carrier. Both vessels are dutied with collision avoidance, that's why they did away with the terms Privileged and Burdened in ith 72 IMO convention that set the Colregs. Neither vessels used proper light signals to communicate passing arrangements nor did they make any such arrangements over the radio. The master of the ship was still the master of the ship, (the pilot is only an advisor) and should have set a dedicated lookout as per company orders regardless if the pilot had requested one or not. The LIS has a lot of traffic and some areas of confinement due to shoals. The master of the sailing vessel bears the greater share of the burden. He left an unqualified deckhand (Mate is a licensed, tested and qualified position, you don't step up beyond Bosun without testing for it) on watch alone at night. They should have made the transit during daylight hours, and if that was not possible, the master should have slept during the daylight hours and taken the night watch. When I hand someone the night watch, especially the 12-4, they know I really trust them, because that's the toughest watch. There was no mention of standing night orders, mine always read "The moment you have a doubt or concern is the time to come get me. I will never ding a crew member for waking me early even for something I will immediately dismiss. If you wait and wake me into a bind, we'll have words." There is a wildcard question in this one though. Apparently the Chef/girlfriend had a license and was asleep in the wheelhouse. Was she in command of the watch?
Anonymous
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2009 1:52 AM
Henning, I read one account that said the chef/stew was the ONLY person on board with a Captain's license. If you recall, "back in the day" this was not an uncommon tactic for American owners with US flagged vessels to use if they preferred to hire a captain from another country. Personally in such close quarters I'm shocked that the Captain would sleep at all. This was not an open ocean crossing! The one with the "paper ticket" paid with her life. I spent a LOT of time transiting the LIS and it horrifies me that this guy was left on watch alone, at night under any circumstances let along after long hard hours of work in the shipyard. It defies all common sense. I lay full blame on the "captain" for putting them in this position and secondary blame on the Barkald; you'd think with all those qualifications on the bridge they would have identified Essence and made some contact with them.
junior
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2009 9:13 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


When you shift the discussion to licenses you deprive the reader of Safe seamanship advise. A license had nothing to do with the accident. . The big yacht could very well have been a little 24 footer that dad and the kids were bringing home after a regatta. Besides, the ship had a wheel house full of licenses and mistakes were made. Its much better to understand WHAT WENT WRONG. As Henning stated nightime passages demand special preparation so the yacht captain was foolish and irresponsible to sleep on the job and allow crew to operate unsupervised. . In addition, Small craft don't navigate in the shipping lanes. If you cant decide if you are a small craft, then you are a small craft. I consider all yachts small craft. As a small craft operator you should be aware of the complexities faced by commercial traffic. . A ship transiting a busy area like Long Island sound in summer may have dozens of targets on radar, all with dangerous closest point of approach vectors and if they are yachts or inshore fishing craft they most likely don't monitor the VHF . It is basic good seamanship to understand what the operator of the ship faces and avoid shipping lanes at all cost. A very common mistake, or bad habit, that I see with my crew is course layout. When you use GPS and waypoints to steer a course from sea buoy A to sea buoy B you are most likely using the very same waypoints as every commercial ship transiting that route. If you depart Civitavecchia for Olbia on this GPS route you will be navigating on the same thin pencil line as every ferry and cargo ship and will be constantly in stressful, hour long crossing overtaking situations. You are in the sea lane. Better offset your course, stay ten miles north and avoid the stress of bridge to bridge talk and stay free of danger. When you layout a course that crosses an underwater sea mount or parallels a Continental shelf you are going to be constantly engaged with angry longliners behaving erratically, flashing spotlights in your eyes, charging you at speed all night long as you stare into the radar screen trying to decide if those echos are radar reflecting fish buoys or another vessel. . Avoid 12hrs of stress and fatigue. Avoid shipping lanes and congestion zones. This is basic seamanship and the lesson to be learned by this accident.
Kelly
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2009 12:28 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 40


Junior has nicely maneuvered this conversation back on its intended course. I just wanted to quickly clarify that in researching this installment of What Went Wrong, I was able to interview the USCG officer who wrote the official report. Regarding the post which says " I read one account that said the chef/stew was the ONLY person on board with a Captain's license," there is no such information contained in any official finding and though this practice may have occured in days gone by, it was not determined to be a contributing factor in this incident.
Anonymous
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2009 11:55 PM
I came into this forum looking to read an account of this incident, which I had been told of anecdotally. I got that, and then scrolled down further and got a gut full of self-congratulations on good practice and exemplary service, and needlessly sarcastic and flippant remarks regarding the skills and character of the men and women involved in this unfortunate event. I believe that these incidents should be studied by all of us who stand a watch, but there is a certain level of respect that should be maintained in this case, need I point out a terrible price has already been paid as regards recrimination. I believe at least one of these crew members is still working on boats and may indeed come across this forum, and am ashamed that this is how some members of our industry see fit to weigh in, casually, from the comfort of their bridges and couches, as you would comment on a youtube video. I probably shouldn't read these forums, my girlfriend has advised me not to and I suspect she's right.
Henning
Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009 4:23 AM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1049


junior wrote:
When you shift the discussion to licenses you deprive the reader of Safe seamanship advise. A license had nothing to do with the accident.
 
Well, in a way it does, because it establishes responsibility and qualification here as it would in front of any court. The unqualified watchstander bears no responsibility even though he was on the helm at the time of the accident because he is not qualified to be on the helm unsupervised. While his error was the immediate causal one of this accident, it was not the primary error in this accident chain.  When you want to find out what went wrong, you first have to find out who bore what responsibility. Obviously here, the two masters hold the responsibility. One failed to assure that a proper watch was assigned, and by doing so directly violated company as well as IMO/COLREGS proceedures. Considering he was on the bridge and in command of the vessel, this is a very gross dereliction. That was what went wrong on that side of the accident, and I hold him to a high standard due to his high certification and qualification, same as a governmental body or court will. I'm not sure aout the maritime courts, but there is plenty of precedent in aviation. The FAA holds an ATP (airline transport pilot) to higher standards than a CP (commercial pilot).
 
The master of the yacht made a few errors as well including a long term error of inadequate training of watchstanding crew and inadequate BRM education & enforcement in that the watchstander didn't think to wake the captain or even the other license holder. There was a secondary failure on the part of the other license holder to not remain awake on the watch with the unqualified watchstander, that was a failure in self preservation, and for that failure she paid the ultimate price. The immediate error the master made I stated earlier, he left unprepared, rest wise, for the voyage in question. I know someone will reply that schedules need to be met...yadad yada yada...yeah, I've been there too. Sometimes we are told "You have to be in____by____" and it creates an unrealistic schedule which sets hazards in the path. It's the masters job to say "No, we are not going to do that, we have been working hard and late and we need proper rest before we leave." In the oilfield I've done that more than once. The operations manager may bluster and bellow, but part of my job is to stand up to pressure that puts my vessel (and myself) in harms way. If there was a hard deadline that he had to make, he could have gone to sleep earlier and had the mate finalize the preparations, or he could have called in a freelance professional to run along with to stand watch with whomever. A few hundred dollars could have prevented this accident. Before I got called for this job, that was one of the things I would get calls for since most 70-145' yachts run under crewed and when repositioning between charters bringing in some freelance crew allows the permanent crew to catch up on a bit of rest and also adds a few hands to get things done during the transit.
 
In the end of it, 2 professionals let their guard down, and that is not tolerated by the sea.

junior
Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009 8:49 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


"or he could have called in a freelance professional to run along with to stand watch with whomever. " Bringing in " Licensed " temp crew for a short trip is always impractical and can be dangerous. When you choose permanent crew you carefully weed out druggies, alcoholics, and bad attitude crew. Some of the most frightening close calls Ive had in the past thirty years were initiated by " Licensed" temp delivery crew. These crew bring a false sense of security , you let your guard down, they make a bad call. When my trusted unlicensed stewardess is holding the wheel, I know she has her harness on, I know she will shout out when challenged, I know she will treat the yacht gently becasue she has to clean up the mess. When I fly a crew into Istanbul for a short couple day trip the hassle is great. They are most likely doing a trip they have never done before, they have no idea how the yacht works and their simple presence on the yacht fouls my schedule. I now have to work to their schedule, their return air ticket. When the weather turns foul I have one more complication. I cant just arrive two days late, blow their transport schedule and dump them on the dock in a foriegn country. . To many times I'm getting my ass whipped out there because I must meet temp crew airplane schedules. It just does not work. For me, a temp crew always means ONE MONTH on board. . This can never be practical when the yacht is on the boil in season. Its always best Seamanship to work with the crew you have and employ time tested strategies to stay clear of danger. Realistic ETA's are a very good start. How many miles per day does your yacht make...less than you think.
Anonymous
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 9:02 AM
One small point to note, many of the responses are adamant that yachts should never be in shipping lanes and that there is an overriding failure to follow the Col Regs. It is in fact a requirement for all vessels over 24m (as Essence was) under power to stay within a TSS and not to use inshore traffic zones. I don't know whether this terrible accident occurred within a TSS or not?
junior
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 11:44 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Personally I avoid TSS at all cost. You may think I break the rules and charge about like a Bull in a china shop but I have always interpreted this rule as the most practical for yachts to stay clear of danger. . ......... "Notwithstanding subparagraph (d)(i), a vessel may use an inshore traffic zone when en route to or from a port, offshore installation or structure, pilot station or any other place situated within the inshore traffic zone, or to avoid immediate danger. " ........... Many times you have no choice but to get on the TSS highway and man the VHF, just as many times in a place like the English Channel, North Sea or Elba approaches , its best to stay inshore. .
Chief
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 12:01 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 341


"In the end of it, 2 professionals let their guard down ..." You must mean the master and the pilot on the bulker. If Pro Mariner is correct, the skipper of the sailboat was just an amateur sailboat operator. He did not hold a license, never submitted his skills to vetting by any maritime authority, and by his actions proved he was an amateur in the management of his crew and vessel.
Anonymous
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 1:53 PM
This was certainly a tragic accident that could have easily been avoided, by proper watchkeeping.  There were no reported mechanical failures on the part of either vessel, nor was weather a mitigating factor.  Just plain human error on everyones part.  Assessing whom holds the most blame is a complicated question for anyone not there, and fairly irrelevant considering the outcome.  We all know how one small error on board a yacht can compound if not corrected immediately.  It is often the first few minutes of action that will determine the outcome, and inexperience is usually the cause of this "snow ball effect" that can lead to catastrophe.
Anonymous
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 3:08 PM
I knew crew on Essence. The captain had asked to hire delivery crew for the trip. They had just finished a brutal yard period and the owner would not let them hire additional (rested) crew for the delivery even though the mate was still sick when they had the discussion. I CANNOT BELIEVE that owners can pinch their crew to make trips without proper rest or reinforcements and then take NO RESPONSIBILITY for the consequences. The captain may have the qualifications, but we all know that what the owner says, goes. How is it that the owner is not at least partially responsible? I mean, don't owners need to be educated about these things too? Shouldn't owners walk away from this forum thinking maybe they need to listen to their crew and come to an agreement about balancing the safety of the crew not just the checkbook?
Chief
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 4:46 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 341


"... don't owners need to be educated about these things too?"

This goes back to the concept of professionalism. A professional captain would not have left the dock undermanned with dangerously fatigued and unqualified crew for a night passage through a high traffice area. A professional would have had the integrity to refuse to put his crew and vessel in an unsafe situation. He either lacked integrity or the competence to recognize a dangerous situation. I sincerely hope this individual is no longer in a position to risk another persons life.

There is no way to avoid the conclusion that the vessel was unseaworthy due to lack of competent crew. The captain obviously knew nothing about human factors in the context of fatigue and crew performance and knew even less about the competence of the individual he assigned to conn the vessel at night in the vicinity of other vessels including large ships.

Along with the Lady Candida, this incident stands as a memorial to the lack of training, competence, and oversight that permeates our industry.


junior
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 5:44 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


You got it...don't involve owners in the discussion. My owner knows nothing of the day to day operational hassles on board.. He pays me to take care of them and I never burden him with my problems. All yachts will operate to crazy seasonal schedules and all yachts will be undermaned under MLC . As captain you should know what your capabilities are. To depart at night on some silly coastal 12hr trip is asking for trouble.
Anonymous
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 5:13 PM
I think there are owners and charter guests who regularly coax or force crew to make passages under questionable conditions all the time. More often than not it just sucks for the crew and no one gets hurt, but trips like the one the Essence made happen all the time. To hear experienced crew say that the owner should have no obligation to understand what safe manning really means is surprizing to me. I think owners who just don't get it and who won't take no for an answer put the lives of their crew (and those at sea with them) at risk regularly in yachting against the advice of their captains. Of course there are owners who need to be better educated and could stand to benefit from reading these forums. Not all of them, but definitely some of them.
junior
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 5:46 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


When you are a student captain in school one of the first things they teach you is that no outside force dictates your schedule..You as captain call the shots of when to put to sea and how to behave out at sea. Your job as captain is self preservation...I don't let the owner interfere with my well being. Obviously in order to do a good job and take care of my responsibility as an employee I push things all the time. If I cant make schedule I pick up the sat com and call. I have never in my whole career been challenged by an owner when I call to break the bad news that we are battling headwinds, slowed to 2 knts to keep the boat from coming apart, crew from launching head first thru TV sets and will be delayed. . Its unfortunate that the charter world is such a pit of incompetence , absentee owners and ignorant charter brokers. If You run one of these yachts it is your duty to understand, then devise strategies to avoid accidents.
Anonymous
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 6:08 PM
Yes, but the crew of Essence had just come out of yard period which - surprize, surprize- went longer than expected and over the bid price. So they were crunched to get the boat out of the yard, the mate got the flu, they had a stew scheuled to fly in and meet them after they did the trip. They had been running on fumes before they ever threw lines and when the captain asked the owner to hire on delivery crew the owner refused to delay the trip or pay to bring-in additional crew. When the owner says, get your ass to point B today or pack your shit and go home, there are a lot of crew who would just say to themselves, "This trip is going to suck, my boss is an SOB" and they would go. I hear what you are saying, and agree that sometimes the captain just needs to grow a pair and put his foot down, but how do you suggest a captain defuse that bomb? It's one thing to say do it, it's quite another to say how (without it costing you your job).
junior
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 6:17 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Its much to complex to speak about a specific case. Its sounds like the captain had bad relations with the owner. I have no idea . This cant explain or excuse bad seamanship. Newport to Conn is a short day trip...he was asleep at the wheel within hours of departure...For an outsoider the captain was incompetenet
Chief
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 8:56 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 341


"... how do you suggest a captain defuse that bomb? It's one thing to say do it, it's quite another to say how (without it costing you your job)."

And that my friend is the difference between amateurs and professionals. The pro says "no go" and that is the decision he or she was hired to make. If making that decision costs the job, then that job wasn't worth having to begin with. In the case of the Essence, the "captain" consciously made a decision to leave port with the conditions so many readers are now using as an excuse for the death of a crewmember - a licensed crewmember who also should have known better than to depart in those circumstances. Had she said "no" and walked off the boat she would be alive today. If the captain had the integrity to say "no" she would be alive today. Through his incompetence and his willingness to bet his own life and the lives of his crew against his continued employment he must be held responsible for the death of one crewmember - and he lost his lousy job anyway. 


junior
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 9:47 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Many times, as captain, if you get yourself into the position of saying "NO" then you have bad communication skills with the owner. Stuff like shipyard work..I don't call the owner with all kinds of day to day troubles, I simply inform him at critical " gate " times. The owner then knows that normal maintenance items are on schedule or that something has spun into complications. Very many times its simply a one way conversation...me with short emails to the boss. If I get myself into a.. NO GO !!! stand off situation, Ive made mistakes. I'm always amazed that captains use critical, very expensive , maintenance periods for crew and personal holidays.
Anonymous
Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 12:00 AM
Junior and Chief, you two clearly have nothing better to do than sit on your couch and throw random negative comments out when clearly you do not know the full story. All I hear is how perfect you think you are and how you assume to know how to react in any situation. You weren't there so I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself. I would think before putting something in writing if I were you, because you guys are embarrassingly pathetic.
Chief
Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 1:00 AM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 341


"... clearly you do not know the full story." I don't usually respond to anonymous attacks by those who don't offer any information in way of rebuttal but this time I will make an exception. You are very welcome to fill in the blanks so to speak. If you have knowledge that invalidates our very well considered appraisal of the lack of seamanship that led to the death of a crewman please post it. I believe that if you have special knowledge concerning this incident that shows what Junior and I have posted is wrong then you owe it to the crew of Essence to show where we are wrong. If you don't, well then I guess your anonymity is well chosen. Back to you my learned friend.
Anonymous
Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 2:23 AM
I am reminded of an incident a number of years ago that ocurred at the entrance to Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. It was a stormy night in December and a 70ish sailboat with a pro captain on board and the owner and his family were about to finish a long passage. Not having entered this busy channel before, and in consideration of the foul weather and time of day the captain insisted on standing off till daylight. This did not sit well for the owner who insisted that the yacht should be brought in. The captain refused. He was fired and his name removed as master on the ships log. Yacht promptly went up on a coral reef. Rescuing the passengers was not an easy task, big waves, darkness, and several of the passengers were children but thankfully no one was killed. Sadly they yacht was a total loss, in more ways than one. Having surrendered his position as master the decision to proceed became the responsibility of the owner. A decision, according to the insurance company, that he was not qualified to make, and the basis for their denial of his claim. With Essence, if the captain did not have the balls to stand up to his owner and refuse to leave on this ill found voyage he should have at least done double watches. What the hell. Yes it's easy to second guess, isn't that the purpose of examining these mishaps, to discuss what went wrong? When something like this happens it is very rare that it is just "one thing" that caused the accident. It is most often a conflagration of circumstances and reactions that all come together to create a disaster. If the vessel's license holder had refused, if the "captain" had joined the deckhand during his watch, if they hadn't been so tired, if the owner had okayed some delivery crew, if the bridgewatch on Barkald had been more on the ball, it's a lot of ifs, but here they all came together in a perfect storm sort of way. Maybe, just maybe, a captain out there who is reading this will stand up for what is right, that sometimes you have to say no. The life you save may be your own. Maybe also an owner or two, reading this, maybe a charter broker too, maybe they will also think twice before demanding that your crew get the boat from A to B, damn the torpedoes. Maybes and ifs.
junior
Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 7:44 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


The other lesson is maturity. If you do this yacht stuff long enough you will realize that you don't work on yachts, you work for people. Seek out the good people, owners. To often I see captains mesmerized by an opportunity to run the new big awlgrip covered toy wagon even though it is known to have a difficult hard ass owner. Ive done it myself. If you have the misfortune to be employed by one of these hard to communicate with, intrusive owners or an incompetent management company, find a new program fast An do remember that not all captains and crew are wise. Yesterday afternoon there was a going away dock party. BBQ, beer, wine and women. Dock party broke up about 17.00, the departing crew went back to the yacht, cast off and got underway to many yacht horn blasts just as the sun was setting. First night at sea with a bunch of crew who just expended precious energy at the going away party. Sound familiar ?
TiffanyS
Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 2:19 PM
Joined: 21/08/2008
Posts: 30


Wow. Yes, Junior. Testify, brother, and tell it like it is. I think a lot of captains have the good fortune of finding a good job long before they have the maturity, self-control and life-skills to handle it. A lot of young captains just don't get that running a boat requires more than an ability to drive it. Sounds like this is exactly what happened on Essence. The captain was probably very qualified to operate a boat under a controlled situation, but could have used a little more experience  in effective communication with both his owner and his crew (oh yeah, and the shipyard too). I suppose it is human nature for people to want learn life's lessons the hard way. Sometimes a captain has to have difficult conversations with the owners and make unpopular decisions for the crew, it is a responsibilty that comes with that 4th bar on your epaulettes. It was unfair of the anonymous poster to bash Junior, Chief and Henning for stating the obvious...I ,for one, appreciate their brutal honesty. In us they trust.-------One more thing. The anonymous poster who talked about the incident in Hawaii, you should have put your name behind your post. you made a very intelligent point.
Chief
Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 2:33 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 341


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."

Upton Sinclair


Henning
Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2009 8:03 AM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1049


Chief wrote:
"In the end of it, 2 professionals let their guard down ..." You must mean the master and the pilot on the bulker. If Pro Mariner is correct, the skipper of the sailboat was just an amateur sailboat operator. He did not hold a license, never submitted his skills to vetting by any maritime authority, and by his actions proved he was an amateur in the management of his crew and vessel.
 
If you are contracting services for pay, you are a professional regardless of licensing. The pilot holds no resposibility because he is merely an advisor. His job is to advise on the helm and bells to keep the vessel in navigable waters and handling around the dock. It was the Masters duty to set lookouts, and the Master always maintains command and liability of the vessel with the exception of the Panama Canal and coming into a graving dock.


Henning
Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2009 8:37 AM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1049


junior wrote:
The other lesson is maturity. If you do this yacht stuff long enough you will realize that you don't work on yachts, you work for people. Seek out the good people, owners.
 
Couldn't agree more... for several years my resume has started with, "I am looking for an owner moreso than a boat..."

junior
Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2009 10:01 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Well Tiffany one of the problems in the yachting industry is that demand grew so fast that young crew seldom have a chance to mature. Sometimes I feel sorry for these young guys running big yachts. They have to grow up to fast and are not able to act their age. Some of the most difficult, arrogant captains I meet are these young ones who have taken on responsibility to fast. Not much you can do to change this situation, harbors are now bulging with ever more, ever bigger , ever faster, faceless , charter yachts. . ., Perhaps a new ruling on day and night status signals would help minimize risk. Charter yachts, since they are almost always operated by these types, would at night run with rotating disco laser lights and during the day have 5 square metre code flag DELTA painted in awlgrip on their topsides. At present the only indication I have that I am operating around these yachts is thier Marshal Islands flag, which many times is obscured.. Oh and it might be wise on the Dockwalk side to avoid mentioning the names of yachts when discribing an accident. Ship and yacht would do...or mv BIG FOOT and the sy YIKES
Anonymous
Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2009 5:11 PM
I disagree, Junior. I SAY NAME THEM. NAME EVERYBODY WHO CAUSES A SIGNIFICANT ACCIDENT AND SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOF TOPS. That way we finally can do away with irresponsible captains who don't want to assume responsibility for their mistakes to "protect their livelihood." If there is an owner who still wants to hire them and crew who still want to work for them knowing the facts and having access to the truth, then so be it, but I am tired of remedial captains who do not have to own up to thier incompetence because they are "nice guys who deserve a break." Either you are a skillful, capable captain or you are not - Hang the secrecy! If you can put a DUI in a newspaper even if there was no accident, you should put anyone involved in a careless marine fatality or serious accident in Dockwalk.
 
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