View Full Version : After 22-hour ordeal, boating-accident survivors say they're wiser for the wear

06-06-2011, 08:37 AM
I came across this story the other day and thought it raised a few good reminders (in bold print) - With the boating off-season approaching, now is a good time to start preparing for the next time the boat is is put to water.. Men of experience and knowledge and yet still they ended up in this distress situation.

The 28-foot boat that capsized Wednesday morning and left four Baldwin County men adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for 22 hours, was recovered Saturday, according to the wife of one of the men.

Gloria Bridges, whose husband, Bayne Bridges, 67, was released from South Baldwin Regional Medical Center Friday afternoon, said the boat's owner, Ron David, 75, went home Saturday.

Ralph Elders, 65, remained in the hospital but is expected to be released today, Gloria Bridges said.

The 34-year-old hired captain, Travis Wilkerson, continued to recover at home.

http://media.al.com/sports_impact/photo/9643281-large.jpgRon David, right, was released from the hospital Saturday. Bayne Bridges, center, went home Friday afternoon. Ralph Elders is expecting to go home today. They agreed that the valuable lessons learned as a result of their 22-hour ordeal adrift in the Gulf of Mexico could possibly help prevent others from being in the same situation. (Press-Register, Jeff Dute)

The men plan to inspect the boat today. While discussing the accident Friday afternoon, Bridges, Elders and David said they had no idea why the boat quickly took on water and sank about 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Wilkerson, who besides being a commercial fisherman is a boat-engine mechanic, said he had 22 hours to think about what could have occurred to allow water to fill the 28-foot, twin-engine Stratos hull.

There were no obvious cracks or holes he could see while straddling it for all those hours. Wilkerson said it's possible a bait-well hose fitting inside the hull came loose as a result of the pounding the boat took from rough seas that day. That would allow a steady stream of water to be pumped directly into the hull.

He also said the bilge pump likely quit working for one of two reasons -- either it was shorted out by the water in the hull, or it was working but the overboard hose also was dislodged and it was simply recirculating the water back into the hull.

Why the starboard engine quit amid a wail of warning whistles as Wilkerson tried to use it to get back on plane is anybody's guess. A rope got wrapped in the prop of the port engine, rendering it useless.

All of the men agreed on one thing: they would be better prepared for any emergency in the future.

David's boat was not outfitted with an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, better known as an EPIRB. None of the men had a personal locator beacon, although Bridges had one at home that had not been activated.

Both devices work in the same way. Upon activation, they transmit a position to a series of satellites. That position ultimately ends up in the hands of the Coast Guard in an average of 10 minutes.

According to Coast Guard reports, average response time by air and/or sea nationwide is 45 minutes to an hour once the boat's position is determined.

An EPIRB is usually automatically released upon contact with the water, although it can be manually released and activated. A PLB is a smaller, hand-held device and has to be manually activated.

All of the men said they would have one or the other of the devices available before hitting the water again.

Even though "it happened so fast we didn't have time to do anything," David said, the men took several life lessons away from their life-threatening experience:

- Even if you have all of the required safety gear, it does no good if it's stowed where it can't be reached in case of an emergency. They recommended installing one of the easily detachable, floating bags that are secured under a T-top.

The bag could contain extra lifejackets, flares or a flare gun, flashlight, satellite phone or other communication device, and additional emergency or safety gear.

Other types of floating dry bags are also available.
- Tell a family member, friend or other knowledgeable person where you're going to fish. If that plan changes, relay those changes to someone onshore.
- Attach reflective tape to all life jackets because it works day or night.
"You don't think about a lot of these things until you have to have it," Elders said.


06-06-2011, 01:14 PM
Interesting read thanks Peter.

06-06-2011, 03:57 PM
Surprised an EPIRB is not mandatory, Lucky they all survived. When things go pear shaped it can happen very quickly. Good reminder. Thanks

06-06-2011, 05:08 PM
It certainly is a good reminder about the dangers of boating and the safety equipment that is available for aid of recovery.
I am going to the boyne tannum hookup and as an extra device I am taking a radar deflector for added safety at night due to the big shipping movements off Gladstone. Also changing the cylinder on the inflatable PFD tomorrow as today I found my local boating store had none of mine for sale. I will be carrying 3 x pfd1's for the 2 of us and only 1 is inflatable.


06-06-2011, 06:59 PM
I like the reflective tape idea.

06-06-2011, 07:52 PM
The reflective tape is a good idea. I remember doing a rescue from Manly to the Brisbane River Main Channel using a spot light, looking for an old Bremer River timber clinker boat and crew one night.. Yes they were anchored in the the middle of the channel near the Coffee Pot.. first timers in the ocean.. and if it wasn't for the reflective tape showing up about a nautical mile away, we could be still looking for them after the cargo ship was due into port.

06-06-2011, 08:42 PM
I have been looking at investing in dedicated led SOLAS type strobes for the life jackets, especially now my boys like night fishing and sleeping in the boat. They wear good quality jackets with stitched in reflective tape but lights would mean that if they went into the drink I would be onto them quicker. Cheers