About an hour after hitting one or more of three rocks at 28 knots the master of the whale-watching passenger vessel Explorathor realised his vessel was sinking. Canada’s Transport Safety Board has issued a report with a number of lessons worth wider coverage.
Of note: “When navigating in close proximity to shore and/or navigation hazards, best practices dictate that bridge personnel, while taking into consideration the prevailing circumstances and conditions, should demonstrate increased vigilance and heightened awareness. This includes:
- making use of all navigational aids, such as radar or other electronic position-indicating equipment;
- taking into account the proximity of navigational hazards, which may make it necessary to carry out additional navigation duties;
- maintaining a safe speed;
- maintaining a proper lookout; and
- never leaving the wheelhouse or steering position unattended.
These practices are particularly important for vessels operating at high speeds because less time is available to assess and respond to developing situations.
In this occurrence, the master was familiar with the route and generally aware of the rocks off Croker Point. He did not reduce speed while transiting the area—as this added to the “experience” for passengers—nor did he make full use of the navigational equipment to supplement his habitual reliance on visual references. At the time of the occurrence, however, the tide obscured the drying rock, depriving him of one potential visual cue. Because he did not have any other sources of position information, he was thus unaware of the vessel’s exact position in relation to the rocks.