Boat’s wake causes damage to Ships to Shore vessels

The Hawaiian Chieftain sails into Steveston. - Bhreandáin Clugston photo
The Hawaiian Chieftain sails into Steveston.
— image credit: Bhreandáin Clugston photo

For Angela Burnett, Sunday’s Canada Day celebration was marred by the conduct of a Pacific Pilotage Authority vessel, whose actions on Sunday led to damage while the Hawaiian Chieftain was towing the schooner Mallory Todd.

Burnett was aboard the Mallory Todd, which was having difficulty making its way up the Fraser River due to the strong currents.

The captain of the Hawaiian Chieftain, in town for the City of Richmond’s Ships to Shore festival and the accompanying Steveston Salmon Festival celebrations, agreed to tow the Mallory Todd side-by-side, and alerted the Coast Guard it was doing so.

“A few minutes after passing the S6 buoy in the Fraser River channel, a pilot boat approached from starboard, travelling at about 10-12 knots,” Burnett wrote in an e-mail to The Richmond Review. “It could not have avoided seeing the two boats lashed together. Nevertheless, it cut sharply across their bows. The wake forced a huge influx of water into the very narrow space between the boats. The buoys were flung upwards so that the Chieftain unavoidably hit the deck railings and side of the smaller Mallory Todd.  It tore off part of the railing and wooden edges of the Mallory Todd’s portside deck and damaged the wire railing as well."

Rory MacLysaght, who is one of the captains of the Mallory Todd, but wasn’t piloting the vessel at the time of the incident, said there was no actual collision between the vessels. “At one point a Pilot vessel...overtook us very close at high speed, then cut closely in front of us, causing a very large wake. Visibility was clear and it would have been apparent to any professional mariner what the situation was. A prudent captain would have realized that such a wake would cause us problems, and would have slowed down and given us plenty of space when passing. This is both a professional courtesy, as well as a legal requirement to be responsible for your own wake and its effect on other vessels.  Several passengers witnessed the maneuver and confirmed that the pilot vessel was too close and operating too fast," MacLysaght wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

“What happened was that the extremely large wake caused the two vessels to move rapidly up and down independently. Since they were tied securely together, this caused a large fender to ride right up onto the aft wooden rail of Mallory Todd, cracking it in a number of places.  It also ripped out and bent some of our steel stanchions, and cracked a 15 foot section of our teak toerails, as well as damaging the attachment points in our deck.”

Brian Young, director of Marine Operations for the Pacific Pilotage Authority, said Tuesday afternoon that no official report about the incident had yet been made to the authority or the Transportation Safety Board, though the incident was brought to the attention of the traffic centre in Victoria, which has oversees the waters off Steveston.

Young did speak to the captain of the boat involved in the incident, who said he slowed down, went outside the channel lane, passed them and then went on to his destination.

Young said an investigation will be conducted once an official complaint has been made.

He said that if vessels require slow traffic around them, they contact the marine traffic centre, which then broadcasts the request, and lets other vessels know their position.

Burnett felt the incident could have been avoided.

“Personally, I’m embarrassed that Canadians on an official vessel would demonstrate such poor seamanship and would harm a boat that came here to help us celebrate Canada Day.”

The captain of the Hawaiian Chieftain could not be reached by press time Tuesday afternoon.

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