What never should happen, happened

Published on August 16th, 2020

Jane Tracy, the aunt of Sandra Tartaglino who died in a 2019 boating accident, reflects on the incident which occurred during the New England 100 Regatta on Narragansett Bay:


A year later it is still hard to understand how it could have happened. It was a clear day and the winds were light. Sandra’s racing catamaran was sailing slowly on both pontoons because there was not enough wind to lift a pontoon and provide the exhilarating speed these racers enjoy. Yet the large white mainsail on a 30-foot mast helped catch what wind there was and Sandra, a consummate racer, and her crew, kept the boat moving toward the finish line.

Suddenly, with no time to react, a powerboat crashed into Sandra’s boat and knocked her into the water. In a matter of seconds she was run over and killed. It is a horrific reminder of how dangerous a motorized vessel can be, even when operated at a modest speed.

Narragansett Bay is a busy place in the summer. People of all ages, including families and children, are blessed to have this beautiful body of water available for recreation. Yet everyone using it — from those on kayaks to large motor yachts — must be vigilant at ALL times. Losing awareness of your surroundings for any amount of time, even five seconds, is unacceptable and will cause more tragedies.

In fact, when our sons and their wives were here to attend Sandra’s celebration of life last September, they had a frightening experience while sailing on the Bay. A powerboat coming straight at them did not stop until the operator finally heard them yelling and he veered away to avoid hitting them.

They said his head was down, perhaps looking at a cellphone. He apologized profusely but his dangerous behavior could have been lethal that day, and tragically ironic.

Going forward Sandra’s family is honoring her by pursuing ways to promote boating safety on Narragansett Bay. You will be hearing more about a new non-profit established since the accident that took her life, the Better Bay Alliance (Betterbayalliance.org). Included in its mission is raising on-the-water safety awareness by providing navigation and safety instruction to boating groups state wide and free of charge.

Anyone who steps into a motorized vessel of any size as an operator needs to visualize a worst case scenario where an innocent life is snuffed out because of your carelessness. You are in charge of a powerful piece of machinery that can kill. Take navigation and safety courses, develop your skills, and never forget the immense scope of your responsibility.

Please be careful out there on the water. What happened to Sandra should never have happened. But it did.

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