Small Stuff

Published: July 2013

Anchor symbol As we mentioned in the April issue, the article, "A Strange Case of Justice," was the most popular ever published in Seaworthy. A very brief synopsis follows:

Photo of 27-foot O’Day sailboat with crushed cabin

On the night of April 29, 2006, a 24-foot Baja Outlaw driven by Lake County Deputy Sherriff Russell Perdock slammed into a 27-foot O'Day sailboat with five people aboard on California's Clear Lake. Shortly before, the boat's owner (and BoatUS insured), Mark Weber, had handed the tiller to his friend, Bismark Dinius. The Baja was doing at least 35 mph and maybe as much as 60; it ramped over the sailboat, crushing the cabin top, shearing off the mast at the base, and injuring everyone on board. Lyn Thornton, Weber's fiancee, subsequently died of her injuries. Dozens of irregularities marred the investigation; these were the subject of the Seaworthy article in October 2008. Eventually, Dinius was charged with felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury or death; Perdock was not charged at all.

The sailing community, spearheaded by Latitude 38 and Sailing Anarchy, took a huge interest in the case. Paige Kaneb of the Northern California Innocence Project was part of Dinius' defense team in that trial. "The sailing community has been amazing," she said in an interview with Seaworthy in May. "The trial was being tweeted by someone for Sailing Anarchy, and at one point a witness said something about a light they had seen and whether it had been red or green. The Sailing Anarchy web feed just lit up with people saying, ‘That's wrong, that can't be.' None of the attorneys would have known that." The team got more than just technical assistance from the sailing community. "Victor [Haltom, Dinius' attorney], Bismark, and I went to the Sailing Anarchy website whenever we needed comedic relief or shared outrage."

In August of 2009, after seven hours of deliberation, a 12-member Lake County jury found Bismark Dinius not guilty. Seaworthy printed an interview with Dinius and his attorney, Victor Haltom, in the October 2009 issue, which we have reposted online. At that time, Dinius said he was not sure whether he would pursue a lawsuit against Perdock and the county. In fact, Dinius did file a Federal Civil Rights Action in San Francisco District Court in August 2009. Lake County and its officials, with the exception of Perdock, have settled with Dinius. The suit is proceeding against Perdock and Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's office (who was brought in as an independent investigator) for violations of Dinius' civil rights, including malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence, and improperly documenting witness statements.

In May of 2010, Perdock was fired from his job though the Sherriff's department refused to say why. In the fall 2010 elections, District Attorney Jon Hopkins, who prosecuted the case against Dinius, and Sherriff Rod Mitchell, who put that case together, were both voted out of office at least in part due to the publicity surrounding Dinius' trial. Kaneb continues to be part of Dinius' legal team, and she reports that after being heavily in debt, losing his job, and almost losing his house, Dinius is working again and doing better. We will let you know how this strange case of justice is eventually resolved.

Photo of two boats tied together causing damage to neighbors property

Anchor symbol After Sandy came calling on Long Island, Gary Maksym ended up with some unexpected visitors. "We did everything right, but our neighbor left his two boats tied side by side and we ended up with his mess. He stopped taking our calls. Anyone want a boat ... or rather, two? We are having a two-for-one sale! You have to take both." We've got Gary's phone number if you're interested.

Photo of cute kid in a life jacket

Anchor symbol Member and policyholder Jim States sails a Dana 24, and last summer he took it from Seattle to Alaska via the Inside Passage. He wrote in with an observation and some advice: "I saw many large trawler- and tug-type boats with the crew [probably spouse] on the outside deck trying to help dock or leave the dock. Most were from the Seattle area, so many were likely insured by BoatUS. The person on deck rarely wore a life jacket while they moved around pulling fenders and lines. Some struggled with these tasks as they leaned over the railing. In Anacortes in 2011, I had to rescue one person who was nearly crushed by her boat when she fell overboard while docking. As a sailor I want everyone on deck to wear a life jacket.

"Big boats aren't safer if the skipper doesn't follow safety protocols. It is sad that some skippers are careless with their crew and allow them to move around deck, lean over the railing, ‘jump' to the dock (not recommended), all without a life jacket. When on the dock and helping a new boat come in, I often have to remind the crew not to jump and tell them to toss us their lines. It's not heroic to risk the lives of others. Caring about your crew means having them wear a life jacket on deck at least when docking."

Anchor symbol With parts of New Jersey and New York still digging out from under Sandy, it's hard to believe that we're into another hurricane season. Sandy's long reach is still being felt even beyond storm-damaged areas. In April, the National Hurricane Center announced a number of changes in the way it was going to report on tropical storms and hurricanes, and some of those are meant to address shortcomings in the reporting system uncovered by Sandy.

Here at BoatUS, many of us are hurricane geeks. We have alerts for watches and warnings sent directly to our smartphones and track every tropical storm even when it is not forecast to come anywhere near us. If you're like us, you'll want to read the full press release on the NOAA website: www.nhc.noaa.gov/news/20130405_pa_2013productChanges.pdf.

But if you just want to know how what you're going to hear on the radio or see on the Internet when a storm is coming your way will be different, here's the bottom line:

1. Post-tropical cyclone reporting. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) will now issue hurricane warnings and watches for storms that are no longer considered tropical. In the past, the NHC only issued advisories on tropical cyclones, so it did not issue any hurricane watches or warnings after Sandy moved north of North Carolina and became "post-tropical." The lack of warnings led to confusion in some areas and may have contributed to some people's decision to stay in their homes or in low-lying areas. CEO of AccuWeather.com, Barry Myers, tried to get the NHC to reverse their decision at the time: "To refuse to issue hurricane warnings clearly can cause confusion." Starting in 2013, you can expect to hear watches and warnings issued for any tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclone that could affect the U.S. coast.

2. Smaller tropical forecast cone. The cone represents the probable track of the center of a tropical cyclone, and is formed by enclosing the area swept out by a set of imaginary circles placed along the forecast track (at 12, 24, 36 hours, and so on). The size of each circle is set so that two-thirds of historical official forecast errors over the previous five years (2008-2012) fall within the circle. As forecasting continues to improve, the cone continues to get smaller.

3. Better storm surge forecasting. Much of the devastation from the worst storms in recent years, like Katrina and Sandy, has resulted from surge — not wind. Historically, the NHC has provided forecasts based on the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model, which provides a point prediction of surge at any given location. In some cases, those have conflicted with the forecasts put out by the National Weather Service based on models like the Probabilistic Hurricane Inundation Surge Height (PHISH) model. That inconsistency has led to confusion over the need to comply with evacuation orders. Going forward, only the probabilistic models will be used for surge forecasting.

Anchor symbol After reading about Murphy in Small Stuff in April, Bill O'Neil wrote to tell us about his namesake: "As a boater and a person of Irish heritage, it was refreshing to see you quote Murphy's Law. However, you may not have heard of O'Neil's Law. It states, quite simply, that Murphy was an optimist! Especially when it comes to boating." Remind us not to take an O'Neil out on the water.End of story marker



To comment on this article, please contact Seaworthy@BoatUS.com




Sandy Webinars Online

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the Seaworthy team and the BoatUS claims department debriefed the Catastrophe (CAT) Team to see what lessons we could learn. That information was shared with marinas around the country in a three-part webinar series in March: Sandy Overview, Securing Boats On Land, and Securing Boats In The Water. Those webinars are now available on the BoatUS website for members and policyholders. Though the material was specifically developed for marinas, it details how various ways of securing boats fared during Sandy’s high surge, and it provides useful information if you’re thinking about where to keep your boat and how to store it during this hurricane season. You can access the recordings at www.BoatUS.com/Seaworthy/webinar.