Sunday, April 8, 2007

Tragedies and Changes

A story in this month's Soundings (April 2007, page 17) updates the court battles surrounding the tragic sinking of the tour boat Ethan Allen, which capsized on a New York state lake in 2005. The company that owned the Ethan Allen, and the captain who was on board that day, have both pleaded guilty and will be paying a fine of $250 each.

(Although I can't link this most recent article, click here for an archive of past Sounding coverage of this story.)

The story goes into some detail about current attitudes towards what does seem to be a small fine against the backdrop of 20 drownings. But what I want to point out here is not measured in dollar amounts, but how quickly calls for law makers to get involved and make corrections, both to the supposed criminal misconduct, and to the regulations that govern boat inspection.

By all accounts, it seems that what contributed to the capsizing was some wake from a passing boat. Why is no one shouting for more enforcement of wake damage laws? Everything in this controversy seems to focus on the charter company and the captain who was driving. Had there been no wake for him to avoid (actually, he turned to take it on the bow), there would be no story at all; no capsize, no drownings, no fines, no guilty party.

Many of you have heard me say that I fear our industry is just one tragedy shy of having huge changes imposed, perhaps mandated by Congress rather than regulatory agencies like the USCG.

Follow the story of the Ethan Allen closely for a good example of what I'm talking about.