I had a wild Saturday night last week aboard FlyWright. It was Day 4 of what turned out to be a 6-day fishing/cruising trip around my local waters in ideal weather conditions. Mid-70's temps and light to no winds. I had texted my friends Doug and his neighbor Joe who live on the Napa River to invite them to fish but they were busy with other commitments.
I was anchored near light 9 on the Napa River waiting for the next hungry sturgeon to come along. This was the night we'd change our clocks to Daylight Saving Time. Around 7PM, I decided to just move my clock ahead the hour since I was planning to go to bed early that night anyway. Might as well get it out of the way now while I'm thinking of it, I reasoned. It would later contribute to some clock confusion, so I'll never do that again!!
At 8:50, I watched a boat cruise by me in the darkness going about 25-30 kts. He displayed normal running lights. The sky was clear and the moon was bright. As he got about 1/4 mile past me, I heard a loud BANG and the engine stopped its high revs. I then watched as this boat backtrack a short distance on the river where it approached another boat that had no lights visible to me. I shined my spotlight in the area but could not see much detail in the binoculars.
A few minutes later, a USCG call came across Ch 16 stating that there was a report of a collision on the Napa River and any boats in the area, please render assistance if able. I immediately replied that I had heard the collision and stated my position and the position of the apparent collision, light 11. I then hauled anchor and proceeded to the accident site.
When I arrived, my spotlight illuminated an anchored boat that had impact damage. As I approached, a police chopper arrived and illuminated the area with his spotlight. The noise was deafening. I was sounding my horn as I approached to signal any victims that I was in the area. As I slowed at the vessel, the helo departed allowing me to hear if there were any calls for help. I saw no persons on the boat or in the water as I circled the boat several times.
I reported back to the USCG what I had found and they asked if it was illuminated, sinking or a hazard to navigation. No lights, does not appear to be sinking and no apparent damage near the waterline and it's a hazard sitting about 100 ft into the narrow channel near light 11. I added that it appeared that whoever was aboard was transported elsewhere by the moving vessel. They asked if I could remain on site until they arrived to tow the vessel, so I set anchor up current (down river) from the vessel and set the rode length to about 50 ft off its bow. My LED fishing spreader lights illuminated the vessel as I waited for the LEOs to arrive.
As I waited, another vessel approached the vessel slowly. I asked if this was his boat and I got the reply, "Al? Is that you?" I replied, "Joe, is that you?" It was and he told me that the driver of the other boat in the collision was my buddy (and his neighbor) Doug! Talk about a small world!!
Doug was OK, there were a man and woman on the anchored boat that Doug picked up from their boat (no one in the water) to take to his house to meet the ambulance. Apparently the woman had a broken wrist or arm and a head laceration. The two men were not injured.
They were met at Doug's house by an ambulance and several cop cars. Medical aid was rendered and statements were taken. Blood alcohol tests were administered...all negative.
Two hrs later, I'm still hanging on the hook watching over the wreckage. Of course, resetting my clock only added confusion in my mind to what time it really was and how long I'd really been there. The USCG told me that Cal Fire was sending a boat since their CG assets were tied up. Cal Fire called me to say that they would be there in another hour, so I told them I'd re-anchor in the area but in a safer spot to spend the night.
I set the hook at the edge of the channel, a safe distance from light 11 and set about getting ready for bed. Naturally, I got distracted by something on the internet as I reviewed my email one last time and before you know it, it's 12 midnight. I look up and here's a boat approaching my port side with blue flashing lights! Wellll...Hellllo there!!
It's the USCG here to tow the boat back to Vallejo Marina, home to USCG Station Vallejo and yours truly. I showed them the vessel's location with my super-duper, high power flashlight and they went to work assessing the situation and making plans to move the vessel.
Just then, the Cal Fire boat arrives on scene and it sounded a bit like the Abbot and Costello skit, Who's on First
. Thank God the USCG was there to handle it with professionalism and care. They boarded the vessel and determined that it would be better to operate the vessel under its own power in trail of the USCG boat while one Coastie kept a light trained on the bow to confirm it was not taking on water in any damaged areas. By 1AM, they were on their way out of the area slowly. So much for going to bed early!!
The next day, I visited Doug at his house, tying up at his neighbor's dock, and saw the damage done to his 24 ft Cuddy Cabin boat (similar to a Maxim like this...)
He told me he started taking on water immediately after the collision as he heard the bilge pump running right away, but he didn't know the source. As we walked around his boat on a hydro-hoist lift at his home dock, I found an area where the hull had separated from the cap and the stbd-side port light glass was missing. (I immediately found it inside the cuddy.) We also launched my dink to aid in removing the wad of fishing line around his prop and assess the rest of the hull. A few scrapes and gouges, but no apparent breaches of the hull. By all reports, Doug's boat went right over the top of the anchored vessel, becoming airborne before coming to a stop.
Monday I returned to my marina to pump out and put FW to bed. As I approached the fuel dock, there sat the other vessel, so I tied up to its dock and got some pics.
It's amazing that no one was more seriously hurt or killed. When Doug told the other boater that he didn't see him until he was right upon him and asked if he had his anchor light on, the guy replied, "I have my cellphone." Apparently he thinks that's sufficient to alert other boaters to his position anchored in the channel