From the Boathouse: Italian saga a cautionary tale


Finally, the largest salvage job in maritime history has been completed, and the tab, which is still open, is expected to top $2 billion. I mentioned in my column two weeks ago ("An exciting Flight by any name," From the Boathouse, July 19) about the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia that has been resting partially submerged just outside Giglio Harbour on the Italian island of Giglio.

The ship was refloated and recently moved in four days by a dozen tugboats and support boats to the port of Genoa Voltri, Italy — thus completing another chapter in this saga where the fate of the 114,147-gross-ton ship lies in the hands of the salvage and demolition crews, and the captain's fate lies in the hands of the courts, where he awaits charges on abandoning ship and manslaughter and for the ship's accumulative damages.

This is a disaster that should have never happened, especially under a professional, licensed captain.

Recreational boaters can learn from this disaster not to become complacent and to continue to improve their boating skills and knowledge.

During the summer, many recreational boaters are trying to make safe passage through the harbors while skippers are piloting sailboats of all sizes in summer classes and races. I have noticed that the sailing classes and races have set their marks to leave sea room for safe passage. However, the harbors' narrow channels do not always allow for complete separation when passing by the classes. As a reminder, the harbor is open to everyone, and no one can block any portion of navigable waters unless a vessel is, for example, disabled or in distress, or if an event has been granted a special event permit.

Boaters cruising through the harbor should try to avoid the sailors by planning a course outside of the markers, but watch out for the beginner sailor who may lose control and drift in front of your vessel. Additionally, it can be a challenge to avoid the evening races, such as the Beer Can Races. But everyone needs to be courteous and abide by the inland right-of-way rules, not the racing rules.

We need to instill seamanship and good sportsmanship in boaters, and we need to set the example for youngsters who learn from our examples.

Tip of the week is to know the weather before you go. Do not untie your dock lines if you have not checked the weather and sea conditions.

Our weekend weather will be excellent, with mostly sunny afternoons along our coast. The daytime air temperatures will remain comfortable in the high 70s, with the nighttime temperatures dipping into the mid-60s. I am expecting patchy morning fog that will build in the evening hours until it burns off in the morning hours.

Pacific Ocean swells will be only 2 feet from the northwest or west-northwest, and a 1-foot southerly swell that should be negligible. We will have smooth seas if the wind does not build over 10 knots, which has a slight probability on my Whitehead wind scale.

The afternoon winds will clock from the south to a westerly direction, and the gusts should reach only 10 knots with 1-, maybe 2-foot wind waves. The morning winds will be light and variable for the early boaters.

If you are planning to round Point Conception, then you will find that the weather window has closed for small craft. The weekend will be following a small craft advisory that potentially can be reinstated again.

The winds are predicted to gust up to 20 knots, but those who are experienced with the Point know that this can just be the starting point. Wind waves with range from 3 to 4 feet and the swells will develop steep faces for boats to fall off and into the trough.

Seas will be mixed with 6 to 7 feet from the northwest and a 2-foot southwest pushing up the coast. I recommend postponing anyone from heading uphill (northbound) this weekend, even in the early morning hours, as winds will be around 15 knots. My recommendation for heading downhill is if you do not need to go, then wait. My caveat, as I always say, is that you will have to determine if the conditions are safe for you, your crew and your boat.

As always, just keep an eye to the weather for any changes. Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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