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The Story Behind This Month’s Caption Contest(!)

This month in Caption Contest(!) we shared a photo that was taken on the Chesapeake, near Annapolis, Maryland, in August 2018. You may recall having seen it before, as back then it was “doing the rounds” of news and social media sites. While the photo looks disastrous, the reports were that no one was hurt. Once that fact was established, the speculations on how the accident happened were rife.

Caption Contest July 2023
The photo under discussion.
© 2023 Maryland Natural Resources Police

The photo was taken by a firefighter aboard the Ann Arundel County fireboat — the 34-ft deadrise boat, Hunter, teetering on top of Levitation, a 35-ft J/105 sailboat, “as if placed there by a giant toddler,” the Bay Bulletin reported in a Chesapeake Bay Magazine (CBM) story published in 2020. CBM reported that John Martino, founder of the Annapolis School of Seamanship, was teaching a course on the Rules of the Road when the accident happened, and that before the class was over he’d received several texts with the image.

“When I first saw that picture, my first thought [was] that neither captain saw the other boat,” Martino is reported as saying. The following discussions left everyone none the wiser. Hunter was on a charter with seven people aboard; it was the “brand-new” boat’s first day out. How did no one see the 35-ft Levitation? And did Levitation not see the powerboat? If it had, why did it not take evasive action?

In an attempt to solve the puzzle, Martino set about recreating the moments before the collision, using the sightlines from both boats. According to CBM, he was able to obtain the Coast Guard’s accident report, “which included the GPS tracks from both vessels.” Then, with a “dream team of experienced captains,” he reenacted the moments prior to the collision with a similar powerboat and an identical J/105 sailboat.

While moving through the reenactment, it became apparent to Martino and his team that neither boat’s vision would have been restricted. “Stefancik could easily see around the J/105’s sails, and Benhoff’s view of the sailboat was unnervingly clear.” According to the report, both captains tested clear of drugs and alcohol. Scrolling quickly to the bottom of the page: the team came up with a simple conclusion. “The charter captain simply didn’t notice the sailboat in front of him. ‘It just screams Rule Five, which is lookout,’ Martino says.”

It seems we always come back to one of the most critical, yet most basic, rules of the road — be aware and keep a good lookout.

If you haven’t yet added your comment to this month’s Caption Contest(!), we’ll give you one more day. Maybe …

2 Comments

  1. PJ 9 months ago

    I told you not to compete for the parking.

  2. Harvey Hoefer 9 months ago

    While recreating a previous accident to prove the wrongdoing of the sailboat crew, the skipper of the fishing vessel got into a heated debate with his lawyer. Unfortunately, he was not able to stop the boat in time which led to a perfect recreation of what had happened before.

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Open Space on the Bay Area Waterfront
The new India Basin Waterfront Park will be up to 22 acres and include a new boathouse, a recreational dock for fishing and kayaking, a bikeway and two public piers — amenities that will open next year, according to the 'The Standard;' the rest of the park will be finished in 2026.