Rec Boat vs. Commercial Vessel

This weekend’s collision between a ferry and a 22-ft powerboat in Raccoon Strait is a grim reminder for all mariners to keep a sharp lookout for commercial traffic. The accident occurred around 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon when a 21-ft powerboat, traveling at high speed and carrying four people, ran into the ferry San Francisco near Tiburon.

Two of the powerboat passengers were evacuated by helicopter to Marin General Hospital, where one — 68-year-old Harry Holzhauer from Tigard, Oregon — was pronounced dead a short time later. The other unidentified victim is still hospitalized with serious injuries. None of the 500 ferry passengers were injured, although the crew is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the Coast Guard investigation.

Don’t think that unusual collisions are the sole domain of powerboaters. Just three weeks ago a sailboat apparently sailed between a tug and its tow just outside the Golden Gate Bridge, sinking the boat. Miraculously, her two crewmembers were unharmed in the incident.

Photographer Frank Gundry witnessed that collision on January 26. Gundry had driven up to the Marin Headlands that gorgeous Saturday afternoon — the same day as the Three Bridge Fiasco, though the sailboat in question was not part of the race — and was trying to find a place to park when the accident happened. He says he spent a few minutes finding a spot to pull off the road, then snapped these photos, which clearly show what appears to be a Ranger 26 being dragged by the bow of the barge. “The boat was sailing south, parallel to the Bridge, when it looked like it stalled and just drifted into the barge,” he recalls. “The barge just ate it up.”

It is, unfortunately, all too common for boaters not to notice the sunken tow cable between a tug and a barge. Once they see the tug has passed safely, they continue on their merry way, not realizing they’re sailing directly into the path of what is essentially a runaway train. Even if the tug sees what’s happening, there is no way for her operators to stop the barge in time to prevent a collision.

We’d like to encourage our readers — stinkpotters and ragbaggers alike — to always be vigilant on the water. Keep a sharp lookout for other vessels and the odd piece of flotsam, never operate a boat when you’ve been drinking, and always, always, always check behind a tug to be sure it’s not actively towing a runaway train.

Courtesy of

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