From the Boathouse: What happened to the Aegean?


I want to welcome you to the first official weekend of summer, and the weather will be perfect for outdoor activities and, of course, boating.

The sea conditions will be a small mixed set with 2-foot swells from the west and south, and a nice breeze under 15 knots for rag-boaters. So, get out on the water whether you will be cruising inside a harbor, on a lake, or venturing out on the high seas.

However, I want you to be careful as you regain your sea legs for this season, and keep in mind that operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and the operator being under the influence rank as the top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents.

Yet, the unexpected can happen, and did happen to the Hunter 376 sailing vessel Aegean during the recent Newport to Ensenada Race. I am still wondering what happened to the ill-fated voyage where all four crew members died from blunt force trauma. I still have unanswered questions.

Unofficial reports and an investigation panel from the U.S. Sailing are claiming that the Aegean hit North Coronado Island, which is in Mexican waters just below the U.S. border. However, this remains a mystery to me as to why, because how does a seasoned and experienced crew have an allision with a known and charted rocky island?

I have skippered numerous yachts and mega yachts by these islands on hundreds of voyages, and I have always known where my vessel was located in relationship to mainland, islands, and other vessels.

Other sailors have said that the Aegean's crew did not party hard at BCYC's annual party on the night before the race, which leads me to believe that they were serious about the race. Therefore, the crew on watch would be alert, and he should have been aware that the boat was heading directly into the islands.

Additionally, why would the watch crew set the autopilot's waypoint to have an allision with the islands, especially taking into account any affects from set and drift, and watching for cross tracking errors?

For the armchair skipper and landlubber reporters, an "allision" is a vessel hitting a stationary fixed object like an island, pier, or a bridge, where as a "collision" is two or more objects in motion colliding.

My first question to any investigator is where are the boat's keel and engine located on the sea floor? There are reports of possibly finding debris near the island, which leads to my second question.

If the sailboat did hit the island, what happened to the crew on watch to make such a tragic error as they were approaching the island? Lastly, hitting the island at slightly over 5 knots would not kill everyone instantly, so there should have been safety gear deployed or emergency signals broadcasted.

I do not believe any inquiry is accurate until the boat is found, and a Hunter has a durable hull that would not shatter like glass. Furthermore, anyone who is basing the findings primarily on the personal locater beacon's signal is missing the boat. I may be wrong, but there appears to be more to this accident than we currently know.


Tip of the week is that you have probably noticed many familiar yachts returning to Southern California from their southern wintertime ports like Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. It is hurricane season that began June 1, and this is the time of year when the boats are moved out hurricane areas. However, not just as a smart safety precaution, but because the boat owner's insurance rates will sky rocket in coverage costs.

Looking at the hurricanes in the past couple of years, experts are predicting an average season for this year. These tropical cyclones are low-pressure systems that develop in the tropics, and the systems spin counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.

Luckily, we are protected from hurricanes coming north up our coast, because our water temperature is too cool for the storms that need water temperatures greater than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

I will keep you informed of any systems brewing in the Gulf of Mexico or in the Pacific, where we might feel the side effects with clouds, muggy humidity, rain and chance of thunderstorms.

Lastly, I will be racing C-Scows a mile high in the San Bernardino Mountains at the Lake Arrowhead Yacht Club this weekend with skipper Kurt Zimmerman and Annie Keller. See you a mile high or at sea level.

And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 a.m. Pacific.

You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iPod Touch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at

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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