, Newburyport, MA


January 31, 2008

'Unstable' boat likely capsized; Coast Guard issues final report on Lady Luck sinking


Coast Guard officials questioned boats in the area at the time and found the closest one was 12 nautical miles from the Lady Luck at the time it sank. Flooding is dismissed, the report says, because the boat would have capsized much more slowly and given time for crewmen to access lifesaving equipment and send out a call for help.

Cone and Miller were on the way back from Portland to the North Shore when the boat went missing. An emergency beacon that detached from the boat was picked up by the Coast Guard at 2:15 a.m. on Feb. 1.

After a 40-hour search that covered 8,140 square miles, all rescuers found was debris, an oil slick and the beacon. The two men aboard were never recovered.

Unstable boat

Despite his age, Cone was an experienced fisherman, owning two fishing vessels and working as a crewman for years on several ships. According to the Coast Guard report, Cone had spent three years on the Lady Luck, and Miller had 18 months experience on the vessel.

To better understand the craft's stability, the Coast Guard utilized a computer-aided model. The model showed that even a limited amount of water - an inch - on the Lady Luck's deck caused a model to tilt 5 degrees. With 3.5 inches of water on the deck, the model showed the bulwarks submerging, which at an angle of 25 degrees would have capsized the boat.

"We view the sinking as a very rapid event," Rendon said. "Most likely the cause was capsizing from rapid loss of stability."

The former owner of the Lady Luck, whose name was blacked out in the report, told officials that the boat "was not 'snappy' as far as righting moment, meaning that the vessel righted itself slower than other vessels that he was familiar with," the report stated.

Earlier news reports identified the former owner as Leonard Young, a Rockport resident and native of Mount Desert Island in Maine who sold the Lady Luck to Cone in March 2004.

Rendon said the Lady Luck also had very low freeboard compared to similar vessels, which means waves would have an easier time getting onto the deck. He said there is also the possibility that the freeing ports, which allow water to drain from the deck, may have been closed.

Another possible reason the boat was rendered unstable, both the report and officials said, was the position of the reels - used to haul fishing nets - on the ship.

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