Sailboat mishap along Aerial Lift Bridge reminds Northlanders of sailboat safety

By KBJR News 1

August 2, 2014 Updated Aug 2, 2014 at 8:19 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - This sail boat found itself in a sticky situation a few weeks ago when it got stuck under the bridge span of the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth.

The Coast Guard says the skipper was waiting a little too close to the bridge for the next opportunity to pass through.

"You want to stay away from the bridge and give it plenty of room to be able to lift and lower down," says BM3 Justin Abbott with the U.S. Coast Guard, "with the current coming in and out of there, you can't always gauge how fast your vessel is going to go towards it."

The incident helped drive home the fact that sail boats handle much differently than power boats. They're at the whim of the wind.

The Coast Guard wants sail boaters and power boaters to remember their differences and the rules of the watery road.

"The sailing vessels have the right of way over power driven vessels due to the fact they can't maneuver as well as a power driven vessel," says Abbott.

There are exceptions to that rule; especially in the confines of the Duluth – Superior Harbor.

"You don't want to cut off a big laker coming in, let's say through the channel," reminds Abbott, "they can't stop on a dime and can't turn as sharp as any other vessel can."

Several Northland groups, like Duluth–Superior Sailing Association, offer classes that teach the art and nuance of sailing. Others, like the Duluth Power and Sail Squadron will teach the rules of safety and what's needed to keep a boat ship shape.

"Out on the lake they have signal flares and life jackets for every person," says Dave Carlson, of the Duluth Power Squadron. "Plus, a throwable device also, they have to be readily available in the boats."

And, it's always safest to have the jacket already on in the first place.
That tip, plus a little training, can help a sailor avoid unnecessary entanglements.

To find out more about what the Duluth – Superior Sailing Association offers, take a trip down Park Point.

Their headquarters is by the public boat landing and barring foul weather, someone is usually around every day.

Dave Anderson