Is common sense becoming uncommon?

Published on August 20th, 2019

Scott Ferguson

Following the collision between a sailboat and powerboat which took the life of Sandra G. Tartaglino, there are concerns that a trend of unsafe boating is afoot. Naval architect Scott Ferguson, a two-time America’s Cup winner and Design Coordinator for Oracle Team USA in the 2017 America’s Cup, doesn’t like what he is seeing:

I live in Jamestown (RI) and have grown up on this stretch of water starting in Blue Jays at age 12 around 1973. Frankly, it’s sad to the see these pristine sailing waters turning into a highway (hopefully without autopilots) for deliveries from the upper bay area to Newport or the Ocean.

I have sailed and raced all kinds of sailboats right out front here and the traffic has never been worse, especially on weekends. I now sail a Moth but also have a high speed powerboat about the same size as the one involved in this incident so I fully understand the perspective from both sides.

I actively ride a road bike which has a similar problem. This is about a vehicle (and weapon) with more control, power, and protection sharing a space with a more fragile vehicle that is extremely vulnerable. Whether on the water or on the road, I am simply amazed at how close some people choose to go (or perhaps they are not paying attention).

I am not innocent, I am a risk taker, I only wear a lifejacket when I sail dinghies, I swim alone sometimes, I’m not always clipped in sailing offshore, I often go fast on my powerboat, and I generally exceed the speed limit driving my car, but at the same time I have my buffers and safety zones.

We all make mistakes in judgement or don’t see everything when operating our crafts, but there is a certain buffer and attention level that absolutely needs to be respected.

If you are behind the wheel or holding the tiller, the awareness level needs to be extremely high. If you are driving a power boat it needs to be even higher because you have the ability to easily control speed and direction.

I don’t have any kind of boating license, and I’m certainly not one for more laws, but instead of being pulled over for going a bit fast close to the mooring field, I’d like to have the authorities give loss of boating rights for power boaters not maintaining reasonable distances on intersecting courses or not maintaining a proper watch; perhaps that will get their attention.

A simple 2 degree course or small speed change 1 to 2 minutes out can create a comfortable buffer and no drama for either boat. All too often the same situation ends with an abrupt course change, a full stoppage, or in this case the tragedy of losing the life of Sandra. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for a 25 foot powerboat to hit a sailboat or any other boat ….. NONE!

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