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Experienced small-boat captain killed at Jupiter Inlet
Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 6:43 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392

The following email on the recent death of a charter captain is being circulated through the yachting industry. Photographer Stuart Browning captured the entire incident on film. We send our most sincere condolences to the family.


"An experienced charter boat captain was killed at Jupiter Inlet this past weekend when he was running his boat back through the inlet and overtook a breaking wave.

These were shot by photographer Stuart Browning as the boat was coming into Jupiter Inlet last Friday afternoon (September 3rd). The boat is the Waterdog, a 51' Garlington used for charter and run by a charter captain, Tom Henry. The swells were caused by the offshore hurricanes and this inlet can be very difficult in most any situation. Unfortunately, Tom was thrown from the bridge of the boat , broke two vertebrae in his neck and was taken off life support yesterday. This was a seasoned captain who bought this boat down in Venezuela 10 years ago. He had run charters out of this inlet for more than 10 years. The mate regained control of the boat and returned to the dock with the 5 people from the charter unharmed.

This series of photos shows what happened.  In the first photo you see the boat over-taking the breaking swell in the inlet, but he's taking the wave at a slight angle.


The 2nd photo shows the bow of the boat digging into the trough of the wave and the bow lurching to the right as the boat rolls to the left.  In subsequent photos you see the boat "snap-rolling" back to an upright position, and that is the movement that throws the captain off the bridge.  A snap-roll is that sharp (extremely fast) righting motion of a boat that has been layed over on it's side, either by wave action or wind action.  He struck his face on the gunwhale as he was pitched overboard and broke two neck vertabrae.  A very tragic loss of a popular captain on the Jupiter waterfront."

Posted: Saturday, September 18, 2010 8:31 AM
Joined: 07/06/2010
Posts: 8

I am very sorry for this Captain.
The pitch poling (or simply the fact that when we have the waves on our stern we have a great chance to be capsize, especially for smaller boats) is a very common cause of capsizing. Any basic Ship handling book underline the importance of this problem and of course the beam on weaves.
The problem is that sometimes we think that what we study for our oral exams is just the not!.
The second point is the fact that experienced Captains underestimates the sea dangers in their own area, we become overconfident. We should do it our Passage Plan every time we are going out at sea. At sea every day is a different day. Conditions changes continuously. The passage plan is not only Course and ETA but is a full Appraisal of the situation ...even a breaking waves expected in a certain place!!. Few years ago I was the Manager in a really tidal Marina with an underwater sand bar at the entrance. Every week we had someone aground at "The Bar"...and that someone was the most of the time a local seaman, overconfident! pretending to enter the harbour without any pilotage plan (parto of a passage plan) or even a tide calculation!
Third and last point is about the guests. The most of the time they do not really care about the navigation safety and bureaucracy (passage plan) and they just want to return at the berth, they booked a restaurant and they do not want to be late !! A timid Captain without complains head to shore without the proper safety...the most of the time is lucky but sometimes is not.

Have a nice day

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010 11:33 AM
This accident is an absolute tragedy, but can easily be avoided. let it be a lesson to young (even experienced) crew in the industry.. DO NOT overtake a wave (let alone a breaking wave) on a bar... it is written in every text book that I have read... my thoughts go out to the families involved in this incident... PASSAGE PLAN... do it, and stick to a plan, and don't be pushed into something you don't think is safe safe sailing T.
Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010 12:01 PM
Let this be a lesson to rookie tender drivers trying to do a beach landing with the boss as well. You can't see what is happening from the Anchorage. Get the tender in the water and do a re-con first. Go check out the beach. You can't see what's happening on the other side of a wave until it is just about to late. If this wave can do this to a 57 footer, imagine what it can do to a small rib. I have seen waves pick up a rib and deposit it on my owners leg..bad day for him. Don't be afraid to tell him it is not safe, risk your job if you have to but be forceful if it is not a safe spot. Don't be afraid to take a moment longer, drop the anchor and go in stern first if you have to. And also don't let people get out until the tender is secure on the beach. Waves easily turn tenders sideways very quickly and mow down little children who jumped out to early because you didn't tell them to wait.
Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010 9:13 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1061

One small factor seems to be over looked in this discussion.... The injury and death could have been avoided if he was strapped in. A seat belt would have prevented it.

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010 9:14 PM
Very true Henning, never would have thought of that.
Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010 9:16 PM here is the whole 42 photo sequence. Scary.
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