The United States Navy has had some difficult times this year in the Pacific, with three collisions and a grounding. They just released an astonishingly candid account of the incidents that is worth reading.

Both fatal collisions were due to issues directly related to recreational boating.

The USS John McCain ran into a freighter because (among other things) there was a confused hand-off between different control stations. Several years ago, a boat screamed into the anchorage at Sucia island at high speed, then ran over and got stuck on an anchored set of mooring lines.

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The new captain had driven his new boat from Bellingham using the flybridge controls, then came below to attempt to moor. He was unable to switch control authority in time to avoid driving right over two very large, very tight ropes that ended up between his props and his rudders.

I was about to use a hacksaw to cut the lines and free him when the park service finally showed up.

In the USS Fitzgerald collision, the watchstanders failed to correctly identify and avoid other vessels in a complex environment. Our sort-of-modern commercial radar and AIS system does that all automatically for us, but the Navy bridge upgrades have been spotty and non-organized due to funding and other issues. A mess.


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