Did Aegean Run Aground?

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The website Sailing Anarchy has posted a tracking map of the ill-fated Aegean’s course that suggests the boat ran aground on North Coronado Island rather than colliding with a freighter as previously believed.

“A nasty bit of rock, and with the decent sized swell running during the race, it is not hard to imagine the sort of carnage rendered,” the website commented.

See it here.

Newport Indy Senior Sailing Editor John Drayton comments:

If this track is in fact Aegean’s (nothing to suggest it’s anything else, but I don’t yet have 100% confirmation beyond what’s published on Sailing Anarchy), then the steady speed and course suggest that Aegean was likely on autopilot and under power.  The winds were very light that night, and the Cruising Class B that Aegean was entered in did allow for a limited use of power at night.

The Coronado Islands are on most charts, but most navigators relay mostly on GPS Chartplotters these days.  Depending on how Aegean’s navigator had their GPS configured, the islands may or may not have been actively displayed.  For example, if their GPS was set to showtheir ultimate destination of Ensenada (which for them would still be another 50 miles from the Coronado Islands), then Aegean’s GPS may have been zoomed out too far to display these relatively small islands.

According to NOAA charts (http://www.nauticalchartsonline.com/n.c/Charts/chartViewer.html?viewChart=18740 ), there are actually 3-4 distinct small islands among the “Coronados,” and only the South Island is shown as having any navigational lights on it.  North Coronado Island is about a mile NE of the other islands and does not appear to have any nautical aides (lights or buoys) to help identify its position.  Also if you zoom in on the North Coronado Island on Google Maps (see below), you can see how ugly that island could be in a big swell.

Finally, the extensive damage reported to Aegean is more consistent with a boat being smashed on rocks by wave than with a single collision with even a very big fast moving ship.  While just as deadly, a collision with a ship would have left more pieces of the boat intact.

This all sounds a bit clinical, and I remain mindful that four people lost their lives here…

The northern point of North Coronado Island, from Google Maps.



Earlier coverage:

Three people are dead and one missing amid the wreckage of the 37-foot Aegean off the Coronado Islands. The boat had been participating in the Newport-to-Ensenada Yacht Race.

“An investigation was continuing, but it appeared the damage was not inflicted by an explosion but by a collision with a ship much larger than the 37-foot vessel,”  Newport Ocean Sailing Association spokesman Rich Roberts said in a statement.

More details are in the NOSA release here, via Sailing World, and the Associated Press here.

Update: Dead identified, search for still-missing skipper called off, debris described, US Sailing Association launches investigation, via the Associated Press, here.


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