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Another one bites the pier


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Boat lands on south breakwater

Confusion over lights, speed, improper GPS waypoint cited

Brian Mulherin - Daily News Staff Writer

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It’s been just more than a year since the last boat parked on Ludington’s breakwaters.

That streak ended about 11 p.m. Wednesday as a 19-foot Sea Ray captained by a man from Ann Arbor collided with and became perched upon the south breakwater.

Majed Hussein El-Awar said after fishing Wednesday night he was “speeding” toward the harbor from the south, aimed between a green and a red light — unfortunately they were the green and red light marking the channel that leads from the outer harbor to Pere Marquette Lake.

He said he slowed to check his GPS moments before the accident, but his waypoint was set for the Loomis Street boat ramps.

“We were speeding full speed and then we got close and thank God we were slowing down,” El-Awar said.

El-Awar suffered a cut on his forehead that required stitches, while his passenger, Bou Fakreddine Imad Sami of Milford, suffered a bruised shoulder.

“We are very lucky,” El-Awar said. “We are very happy, to be honest with you, that nothing happened to us.”

El-Awar did not say how fast he was going at impact, but the boat sat up out of the water on the south breakwater, perched on a section of cement that angles up at 45 degrees.

Asked about setting a waypoint at the boat launch instead of a half-mile out from the pierheads as authorities recommend, El-Awar said he learned that lesson.

“We learned it the hard way,” El-Awar said.

Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Dustin Storm of U.S. Coast Guard Station Ludington said it was a clear, calm evening and no evidence of alcohol was found. Mason County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol, City of Ludington Police and Life EMS also responded to the accident.

The boat is the second to hit a breakwater on Lake Michigan in the last two weeks. A boat hit Manistee’s breakwater Aug. 8.

Retired Coast Guard Senior Chief Tom Rau, who writes the “Boat Smart” column for the Ludington Daily News, said he believes the boat is the 69th seawall collision between Chicago and Frankfort in the last 10 years.

“In every case, notwithstanding alcohol, it astounds me, it’s speed,” Rau said. “And you hear, just like that guy, the same thing ‘I was confused with the harbor lights.’ Well, that is more reason than ever to bring back the throttles. I liken it to entering a Kmart parking lot at 60 miles per hour.”

Ludington’s north breakwater light was changed from a white bulb to a green bulb in 2006 after a rash of collisions with the breakwaters. Wednesday’s crash was the third since the light changed, with the first occurring in August of 2006 and another following last August. Both of those boats hit the south breakwater.

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I was out last night when this happened. We went to look this morning after fishing and the boat was still there completely out of the water. This guy must have been hauling A$$ to get the boat all the way out of the water. So..............BE VERY CAREFUL AT NIGHT and set your waypoint outside the harbor. BTW fishing was ok but we worked for everything and lost a ton of fish going 7 for 22 on Tue, but that was the same for everybody else that we talked to up there.

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Sorry to say I am glad they hit the pier. Not to be rude, but I have been out many times after dark, and even taking it easy but not knowing the lay of the land that well makes me uneasy. Glad they hit the pier and not another boat. Ludville is one of my least favorite ports to come in at night. Bottom line is go slow! Especially at night, when not familiar with the area. Not worth it, being a bad a$$ and winding up on the pier. BE CAREFUL OUT THERE....

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