May 3, 2012

A probable stranding

THE MYSTERY surrounding the sinking of the yacht Aegean during the Newport-Ensenada race appears to have been solved. A satellite tracking system carried by the yacht, which sent GPS position reports every 10 minutes, shows her course line ending abruptly on uninhabited North Coronado Island, Baja California, Mexico, about 15 miles south of San Diego, Calif.

The point of impact at 1.36 a.m. is shown to be where rugged cliffs fall into the Pacific Ocean among jagged rocks to the west of a small peninsula on the very northern tip of the island.  With a six-foot swell running, it is very likely that the 37-foot sailboat would have pounded herself to bits in short order. Pinned up against the precipitous cliffs, and without beach access, the four crew members would have had little chance of survival.

The U.S. Coast Guard still hasn't ruled out collision with a larger vessel as a cause of the accident, but the evidence presented by the SPOT satellite tracking system will be difficult to dispute.

North Coronado Island, well offshore from the Mexican mainland, is not lit and would be difficult to spot at night, even if visibility was good, as it was believed to be on the night of the accident. But we shall probably never know why the Aegean plowed a steady course right into the island, or why the crew on duty failed to react in time to avoid a stranding.     

Today's Thought
Nothing comes to us too soon but sorrow.
— P. J. Bailey, Testus: Home.

'Twas in the tropic latitudes
While we were talking platitudes,
As any sailor might,
We forgot to take our longitude,
Which was a grievous wrongitide,
So we did not reach Hong-Kongitude
'Til very late that night.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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