Update: Newport-to-Ensenada Racing Tragedy – Did the Aegean Hit the Rocks?

Initial speculation included an explosion and then a collision with a larger vessel.  Now an online GPS tracking system, SPOT, shows the yacht running onto the rocks on a far end of North Coronado Island at 1:36 a.m. Saturday.  The Coronado Islands are about 15 miles south of San Diego Bay.  The Coast Guard could not confirm the GPS results and says that the investigation is still ongoing.

Yacht deaths: Boat may have hit rocks, not large ship

This entry was posted in Current, Lore of the Sea and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Update: Newport-to-Ensenada Racing Tragedy – Did the Aegean Hit the Rocks?

  1. sean says:

    Looks like they were under power at 2145 and simply headed straight for the Ensenada waypoint under auto pilot. Tragic

  2. Steve says:

    This seems to be the most plausible explanation. We started the race at the same time as Aegean in a similar class. Our course took us 8 miles West of the Cornados which were visible to the eye at that distance and visible on radar. We were approaching our point outside of the islands by 0130 or 0200 but still a bit north. Visibility was good and we saw two cruise ships well to the West and numerous other race boats in all directions. We did not see a tanker or cargo vessel pass between us and the Coronados and unfortunately heard no radio traffic suggesting the accident had happened until after sunrise. My condolences go out to all of the families of the crew of Aegean. We have raced this race in similar classes to Aegean in prior years.

  3. Dave says:

    What the plot shows is that the SPOT device traveled generally SE for a day and ended up on the island. If you assume it was on the boat the whole time, then the boat was there, too. On the other hand, it is a portable device and a look at weather history from a nearby shore station (I’d like to hear more about wind & current from a sailor who was out there) shows the wind generally westerly. Combined with a south-setting current, could this device have floated there on its own? I’d be interested in hearing more facts. Certainly a tragedy, but until we learn the facts, we won’t learn how to avoid a similar occurrence.

  4. Rick Spilman says:

    We are definitely short on facts. There are still many more questions than answers as to what happened that night.

  5. Steve says:

    Myself and another of our crew were on watch from 2200-0200 as we approached the Coronados (the gps device on Aegean stopped tramsitting at 0136). There was very little wind at that time and the current was running at maybe one knot, at least according to a comparison of my boat speed and SOG. If the plot is accurate, the device could not have continued to float on a constant course and speed over any distance, especially not the six or so knots of speed estimated by the plots. I hope they find the keel and engine, and most certainly the remaining member of the crew, as I do this race often and I certainly want to know what happened.

  6. John N says:

    The latitude and longitude coordinates indicated on the photo of the Agean’s supposed plot in the article is, lat: 32.44532 lon 117.29999. Moving my cursor over GoogleEarth puts that location a great deal north of the speculated impact. Did any others check that lat/lon? I may have been in error but I checked it twice and it doesn’t seem anywhere near the north island. I’ll try to find another map source to check again.

  7. Rick Spilman says:

    When I plugged the coordinates directly into Google Earth I get the same location on the island as shown in the article.

  8. john g says:

    Those co-ordinates punched into my mapping gps are 21 miles nnw of the northern most coronado island. What’s with that?

  9. Rick Spilman says:

    Wow. Interesting. Disturbing.

  10. NIKO says:

    I was following the tracker in another sight and the last tracking number was #38. No I see the number shown is #30 an earlier reading which explaines the coordinates lat 32.44532 and long 117.29999 are really forther north.
    Please SPOT correct your number. Nobody is perfect

  11. NIKO says:

    Sorry the number is 50 no 30 in this chart but the coordinates
    lat 32.44532 and long 117.29999
    indicated as final point is almost 15 miles NW the N. Coronado island
    Jhon N I agree with you 100% this what I get from Google Earth.
    Is any one has a paper chart.

  12. NIKO says:

    The Coordinates posted for the final point are WRONG and they do not belong on the N.Coronado Island. Some body is Goofing’ They belong way out beyond 10 miles NW the island.

  13. NIKO says:

    I turn on the Google Earth go near the Coronado Islands and try to find a spot with the given final coordinates I always end NW of the Islands over 10 miles. Did Google changed the the coordinates lately?
    My Google download was end of december 2011. I will try a new download see if I get different resukts.

  14. NIKO says:

    I just loaded the latest version of Google Earth I get the same results.
    The coordinates given by the Spot trucker 32.44532N and117.29999W are way out NW from the island and the coordinates on the island are
    32.264503N and 117.175914W Help can any body say something?

  15. Rick Spilman says:

    This is weird. When I input 32.44532 N 117.299999 W, the latitude and longitude shown on the graphic into Google Earth, I got the location shown on the island.

    I think I may know what is happening. 32.44532 N is the decimal equivalent of 32 deg 26′ 43.15″ N and 117.299999 W is equivalent to 117 deg 17′ 59.9″ W.

    The Spot results show the fractional part of the degrees in decimal form rather than in minutes and seconds of arc. To confuse things Google Earth shows the results in both decimal and arc-second form.

  16. NIKO says:

    Thanks Rick. They must have set a waypoint further down south and started tracking that waypoint too early before going further west at start.
    They were not aware that theire path was going over the rocks.
    Nobody is Perfect. Let us learn a lesson and double check the path.
    I am sorry for the guys, familly and friends.

  17. Popeye says:

    Too much emphasis is being put on the GPS coordinates, path and plots. GPS is just a tool. It’s only a graphical representation of what should be out there. There is no substitute for standing up in the cockpit and looking out at the horizon, day and night. Those islands were visible from over 5 miles away that night. I know because I was in that race that night and saw those islands clearly. The real lesson is that the on watch crew must stay awake and attentive.

  18. Rick Spilman says:

    Agreed. A GPS is just another tool. The sailor on watch is the one ultimately responsible for keeping a sharp eye on both the horizon and the electronics, as appropriate. I know that that is often easier said than done. On a dark night with a big genny set, sometimes it is easier to pay more attention to boat speed than to keeping a good watch. I am speaking from my own experience and not saying that that is necessarily what happened in this case. So far we are all still speculating.

  19. James O. Muirhead says:

    It is possible that the Aegean crew may have made a common GPS mistake that I have observed (and made) in the past. I did not know the crew or their skill levels so this is pure conjecture. If the GPS is ever recovered it might shed some light.

    When going from Newport to Ensenada the navigator would setup a route with at least two way points in order to avoid the Coronado Islands… one an intermediate waypoint East or West of the islands and a second one just outside of Ensenada harbor. Then, when selecting GOTO, the GPS will ask where. If the Ensenada Waypoint is then mistakenly selected instead of the multi waypoint route, the GPS will ignore the intermediate waypoint and plot the course directly to Ensenada resulting in the course plot going through the North end of North Coronado Island. The Coronado Islands are very small and may not show up well on the GPS map display depending on the scale. However the vessel track as shown on SPOT.LLC seems to support this.

    I do not trust electronics and always used the radar with the intrusion detector and alarm set. In 2000, when entering Bahia Banderas using the GPS, I was headed for La Cruz. The radar showed the Marietas Islands in the northern mouth of the bay to be nearly a mile or so North of their GPS Chart position. Always trust the radar over the GPS.

  20. NIKO says:

    I agree with you guys 100% no excuse not keeping good eyes on a trafic with 200 sailboats, tanckers and cruisers in the night.

  21. Rick Spilman says:

    Just as an aside, I have heard Coast Guard officers refer to many GPS assisted collisions and groundings. Casualties using electronics are nothing new. When the passenger liners Andrea Doria and the Stockholm collided in fog off Nantucket in 1956, both ships had the latest radars and radio equipment. Mistakes in reading the radar on both ships, but particularly the Stockholm, lead to a radar assisted collision which sank the Andrea Doria and killed 52 people.

  22. Jigs says:

    I knew the skipper of the Aegean. Very competent, had done this same race several times. Very careful. Crew was experienced, too. Still at a loss as to what might have happened.

  23. geiger says:

    Any more updates? What’s taking the investigation so long and who is involved in trying to figure out exactly what happened. The tragedy seems to have dropped off the radar screen.

  24. Steve says:

    U.S. Sailing was asked by the USCG to investigate. It appointed a five person committee to issue findings and a report. Initial estimates expected the investigation to be complete this month. I am certain that U.S. Sailing and NOSA will both post the report when complete.

  25. km says:

    I would like to caution all that have input as to what may have happened, that ALL angles at this point are speculative. Before we blame the crew for “their mistake”, please know that there has been no report published, no evidence that incriminates the crew. It is easy to think they did something wrong, because we are “better” than that and that way it will not happen to us. I can tell you that you would have not found a better crew, more competend and skilled and more awake. I applaud the ones that took the time to thoroughly research instead of post their personal belief. I wish all sailors out there to be safe and enjoy their sport. I know the crew of the Aegean certainly did.

  26. Steve says:

    US Sailing has reported its findings that Aegean hit the rocks on North Coronado Island. It’s full report is to be released in July. As sad as it is to conclude, it seems most likely that the Aegean was motoring under autopilot when the crew on watch became either incapacitated or fell asleep. Based on conditions that night, the island would have been visible to the naked eye for well over an hour at 6.5 to 7.0 kts, longer to radar and GPS. I am not attempting to find fault with the crew or anybody else, but it is important to learn from this tragedy and understand how it must have happened. We are all human. The initial speculation that a large vessel ran down the Aegean in a busy traffic corridor with hundreds of boats transiting the general area before and after, with no radio calls, only to disappear into the night basically unseen was very disturbing.

  27. Rick Spilman says:

    Thanks for the update. We will be posting about the US Sailing findings tomorrow.

  28. Pingback: US Sailing – Yacht Aegean Sank After Hitting North Coronado Island in Newport to Ensenada Race | Old Salt Blog – a virtual port of call for all those who love the sea