Human Error Causes Most Boat Accidents

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (03/29/97)
By Ray Pendleton

The recent destruction of the 44-foot yawl Kula Manu on the reef off Waikiki Beach in last Sunday's storm drew instant sympathy for her owner, Tony Covella, as well it should. His dream of sailing the world died with his boat.

The loss of a boat is always a time for sorrow, but eventually the hard questions of how and why it happened must be asked if we are to learn from the tragedy of others.

According to Coast Guard statistics, some 80 percent of all boating accidents occur due to human error. Could it be that this incident falls into that category?

Going by the media reports alone, it appears that Covella anchored off Waikiki Beach, even after having been warned of the approaching storm. That could be human error number one - anchoring off a lee shore to ride out a storm is just not good seamanship or planning. He would have been better off sailing around Kaneohe Bay for the day.

Human error number two seems to be Covella's leaving his boat with no one aboard once she was anchored. If, as it happened, her ground tackle let loose, there was nothing or no one to keep her from going aground - and again, it shows an example of bad seamanship and planning.

To discover why the Kula Manu had been anchored off Waikiki instead of being safely moored in a protected bay or marina, I called Bob Rushforth, the Ala Wai Harbor Master. He told me that Covella had burned his bridges around here.

"He owed us $2,500 in mooring fees," Rushforth said, "and owed money to, or had worn out his welcome with, the yacht clubs and other places with private dock space."

Other contacts at Ala Wai Marine and various yacht clubs echoed Rushforth's assessment, so it would appear that Covella's third error was to alienate himself from those who could provide him with a safe mooring. This, of course, still would not have precluded him from seeking emergency shelter on the day of the storm. Even the threat of confiscation would have been less severe than the total loss of his boat.

So, although our hearts indeed go out to any mariner who loses his vessel and his dream, we must also recognize that our boats, and perhaps our dreams, survive through constant attention to good planning and execution.

Pearl Harbor Regatta:
For an example of good planning, on April 5 and 6, the Pearl Harbor Yacht Club is planning its 35th Annual Easter Invitational Sailing Regatta and promises this will be the "Positively the Last Time Around Ford Island Race."

As many sailors will remember, because of the construction of the Ford Island Causeway, last year's Pearl Harbor race was billed as the "last chance to sail around the island." Now, due to the fact the bridge still hasn't been completed, this will be the "positively, last ever" opportunity to make the circumnavigation.

"This race is PHYC's premier event of the year," Commodore Patsy Campbell said, "and it is expected to draw over 50 boats and 200 hundred sailors. Our members, comprised mostly of active duty and retired military personnel, work very hard to put on this regatta."

The commodore also mentioned the aspect of Pearl Harbor sailors having the chance to compete against their civilian counterparts, but judging by talk among the civilian sailors, it's more the other way around. They are excited about sailing in Pearl Harbor again.

For information on the race or the special awards banquet at the Bowfin Submarine Museum, call 423-2579.

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