The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has released a report concluding that a deadly boating accident that took the lives of two NFL players and another friend was caused by improper anchoring and also cited carelessness and operator inexperience. The combination of errors occurred as a storm front was moving in, making the seas very rough.
In an in-depth interview with Nick Schuyler, the sole survivor, he stated that early in the morning of February 28, 2009 the four men departed from Clearwater Pass near Tampa, Florida to go offshore fishing for amberjack. They went more than 50 miles offshore in NFL player Marquis Cooper’s 21 foot boat. About 5:30 p.m. they tried to pull up the anchor but it was stuck. One of the men suggested that they tie the anchor to the transom at the stern of the boat and surge forward to try to loosen it. When they tried to surge forward the vessel became submerged and capsized, throwing the men overboard. The four men tried to upright the boat but were unsuccessful. Schuyler was rescued two days later clinging to the motor of the capsized boat but the other three men have not been found. The three missing men were wearing lifejackets but became separated from the boat.
The Coast Guard searched extensively with vessels and planes but called off the search after three days because the water temperature was cold enough that anyone in the water would have succumbed to hypothermia.
This tragedy illustrates several safety considerations. First, particularly when you are far out in the Gulf keep a very close watch on the weather and sea conditions as they can change very quickly. Second, have a radio to monitor the weather channels. Third, never try to break an anchor line loose in bad weather by securing it to the stern because surging forward will cause the stern to go down as it apparently did in this case. Finally, if you can’t get the anchor up and the weather and seas are getting bad, cut the anchor line. Boat anchors are not that expensive, certainly not at the risk of losing your boat or your life.