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VIDEO: Bridge bust

This guy has an expensive boat. Or at least he had an expensive boat. He may also have a boutique captain’s cap.

He should have entertained and impressed his friends in a fashion show in the desert. Instead it looks as if he’s trying to kill them. He appears to be racing to make it through a closing bridge. When the mast comes down, it falls off to the side. If it had come down on the boat it could have caused serious injury or death.

Click play to watch.

We probably don’t know the whole story from the video, but we can surmise a few things. First, the skipper, racing to get through the bridge, is traveling too fast for the area and is throwing a potentially damaging wake into the docked boats. Second, he should have seen the bridge coming down and aborted. Third, he may not be doing a great job of driving his boat, but he’s doing a great job of increasing insurance premiums for you and me.

When a bridge begins to close, it often cannot stop quickly — if at all. Some bridge tenders cannot see approaching boats when the spans are at certain levels because the span may be obstructing the view from the bridge house.

Any skipper who wishes to pass through an opening bridge is required to advise the bridge tender, usually by VHF on the designated bridge channel or by horn signal, of his intent. This is true even if other boats have passed through the bridge ahead of him.

The bridge tender is supposed to acknowledge, but some do not (and they should be appropriately disciplined). A skipper in a sailboat cannot easily judge whether the mast is too tall for many bridges because of the optical illusion created by the angle of his view and the height of the mast, which is in close proximity to him. The mast almost always looks too tall, so some skippers may disregard the fact that a collision might be imminent.

Of course, I’m drawing conclusions from a short video clip. The facts may be different, but I’m not impressed by what I see here. Are you?

Click here for more on boats and bridges from Tom Neale’s monthly “Sea Savvy” column.