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post #11 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

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Another good reason to sail alone when one can. You never can know what demons others might carry on board once out at sea. This story reminded me of another fellow jumping into the sea but, from cockpit much higher off the water:
I will do passages with the smallest crew I can.. Single handing can be exhausting... 2 is a lot better... 3 works fine. More than that it's getting crowded in a small boat... all boats are small in the big ocean.
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post #12 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

Pretty sure itís a violation of HIPPA to require disclosure of a crew memberís medical history, as counter intuitive as that may seem for an offshore risk. One might even have legal liability, simply for asking, whether you hire them or not.

Donít take this as advice, but one way around it may be requiring a physicians letter stating the crew is fit for a passage. That said, I doubt a physician would exclude that affirmation over controlled depression. Itís also not terribly practical to put all applicants through that and I bet youíd have to make a standard, non-discriminatory practice to get away with it.


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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

This is a really sad story. Thinking about it not just to Monday morning (literally) quarterback, but to try to prepare myself if I every find myself in an analogous situation. I can see three takeaways:

Finding that a crew aboard my boat is not fit, either physically or mentally, I might try to get that crew member back to shore, or to contact medical assistance ASAP. Reading the early signs of incapacitation can allow me to take action earlier.

Giving a crew member a prescription drug which is not his/hers could open myself up to liability, both legally, financially and ethically. I know that this is a common ocurrance offshore, and may be the best practice. However, because it is prescription, I better be darn sure that it's a last resort kind of thing. Documenting this - the progressive decision process - would be in my best interest. A situation that took days to develop could allow me to contact shoreside medical assistance for advice.

Any Man Overboard situation calls for certain standard procedures. Staying in the area for some time for a search is reasonable. Certainly weather or boat conditions might not allow this, but still, the effort should always be made. Even if you saw a person go down, you would still search, in case he/she came back "up" outside of your sight. That's why we search. A through search, documented in the ship's log, would be prudent.


In my opinion, sailing is an inherently dangerous activity. So is life. In the situation described, there seems to be a lot going on. My sympathies are with all the people involved. It will take a careful examination of the facts to ultimately decide which steps were done correctly, which steps could or should have been done differently, and what steps could be considered unlawful or negligent. The Coast Guard has put out excellent Accident Reports in the past, and it will be interesting to see a comprehensive report for this situation.
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post #14 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

as far as i can see hipaaa can screw itself when needs outweigh secrecy. crew info is most important. safety first. not going to tell me your medical issues, you can find another boat. i have already been tortured by a schizophrenic with ideations and voices demanding he act those out.
not cool
can kill. the boat after mine he touched exploded and burned at sea, a mere 70 miles from the slip he left. so who is correct, the one being blown to kingdom come or the one demanding information you may not feel like allowing.
if you wish to waste your own money by refusal to state medical needs before heading out on a small place into the middle of an ocean, find someone else to torture with your psychoses. i will not pay, nor will i allow the issue on my boat. btdt and will not repeat.

unfortunately as skipper of my ketch, i am responsible for those in my care, aka crew. same on all boats. yes he is responsible for his crew inclusive of jumper. issues need to be known before departure as the skipper is responsible for health and care of each and all crew as well as boat. oops. ( tie em to mast and call em bob just doesnot work in real life)
the results of this hearing will give an important message to all who skipper their own boats using pick up crew.
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Last edited by zeehag; 12-10-2018 at 11:19 AM.
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post #15 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

If someone is going to be on my boat for a offshore passage and they refuse to provide their current medical status /history they are not going to be considered. HIPPA does not apply.. nor do any laws for related to the civil rights act.
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post #16 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

At the very least, A Prudent Captain 370 miles from shore, could have insisted that a seasick, wobbly person don a life jacket and a tether while on deck. I'm sure it will come up at a hearing.
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post #17 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

Itís terrible that Mr. Smith was put in that position on his boat, but it does sound like he didnít act properly.

As ĎWaska pointed out, ďYou canít just turn a boat like that around in the middle of the oceanĒ just sounds silly.

That facts that he didnít do any overboard procedure, and contacted his weather router before the Coast Guard, are troubling.

Would it have been appropriate for Smith to contact the Coast Guard before the incident? It seems like having someone sick and hallucinating on board a small boat is a threat to the vessel, and thatís something the USCG would like to know about.



The trazodone bit is interesting. Iíve taken it, itís no big thing. It works well as a sleep aid and has mild anti-depressive effects. If you have low-level depression and trouble sleeping itís a two-birds-with-one-stone sort of prescription.

However it is sometimes prescribed off-label to treat the symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal. I wonder if Mr. Pontious was a near-terminal alcoholic, and this was his very poorly conceived method to de-tox.

It would explain his general ill-health, near instant nausea and sea sickness, depression and paranoia, and hallucinations. All of these are symptoms of de-tox from extremely heavy alcohol use.

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post #18 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

Think of it from the Captain point of view for a second. He is being threatened by some big guy out of his mind. He was just attacked by the guy. What is the Captain state of mind at that instant? Even if he made a mistake, and Iím sure he did, is not the fact that he was just physically assualted a mitigating factor? Finally consider that the Captain is responsible for the entire crew, the jumper was ďmutinousĒ and was a clear risk to the everyone aboard. 300+ miles off shore whatís he gonna do? Call the CG and have them drop a swimmer? How would that even be possible if the guy was truly threatening?

So the guy jumps, that solves a whole lot of problems.

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post #19 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

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Think of it from the Captain point of view for a second...
I think you're spot on. The skipper made some judgement errors but given the context, understandably so. I've no idea to what extent this will serve as a defense, but I hope considerably so.

How many of us have really gone through the mental drill "what if one of my crew blows an O ring, assaults or threatens the crew, then attempts suicide..." Unless you've considered the question and decided upon some responses, one could spend a lot of time blundering through the problem (as it seems happened here) until it became fatal, and followed by bad, adrenaline fueled, ill informed decisions, that might have seemed ok in the moment.
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post #20 of 790 Old 12-10-2018
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

Yes I agree (given such limited info) that "morally" there are mitigating circumstances.

Maybe petty, but just a practical "what can we learn from this" minimum lesson is, at least go through the motions of "what a captain is supposed to do", even if in perfunctory fashion to CYA because you know the situation is hopeless in reality.

IOW even if you are a bit negligent, don't flaunt the fact that is your intention.
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