VIDEO: Fears raised before $10 million yacht capsized

Posted on Written by Richard Armstrong


Video has emerged of Sunday’s capsize upon launch of a $10 million expedition yacht in Anacortes, Wash., and it seems to reveal that the launch was troubled before the hull ever touched the water.

The video comes courtesy of

The former project manager of the expedition yacht, who was fired in December, has stepped forward to say he raised concerns last summer about the stability of the 85-foot, high-profile yacht and the method the builders intended to use to launch it.

“… [O]n September 16, 2013, I informed the shipyard manager that I had some grave concerns about the dolly system used to move the ship. I conveyed that I firmly believed another system or method of transport would be needed to safely launch (Blood Baron) Baden,” Aaron Pufal, the former manager, wrote in a May 19 blog post.

Six people escaped serious injury when the yacht, built by Northern Marine Industries, rolled and capsized immediately after it was launched. Most of the workers on board were easily rescued, but one man was trapped inside and had to be cut out through the hull. The Coast Guard is investigating the accident.

The yacht was righted that evening as shown in this time-lapse video.

Pufal, who said he was to serve as captain of the vessel for a planned circumnavigation by the owner, said he noticed potential balance issues when the boat was moved during construction. He commissioned an engineering firm to perform a stability study.

“My reasoning, which I believe to be sound, was to engineer this boat past any possible failures and ensure the complete comfort and safety of both passengers and crew alike,” Pufal wrote in his blog, The Yacht Captain’s Blog. “I needed to make absolutely certain that this vessel had no Achilles’ heel or any weak points whatsoever.”

Last July, after the stability analysis by British Columbia-based Roddan Engineering, Pufal said the firm’s report indicated that additional ballast was recommended to improve stability.

“The results indicate that the vessel is lighter than other Northern Marine builds of similar length (based on the results of the weighing), thus requiring more ballast to sit on a desired waterline. It is recommended that partial ballasting be done currently, with final ballasting for trim and desired waterline to be performed at launch,” reads the Roddan report Pufal posted on his blog.

Pufal said he was asked by the owner to step aside on Dec. 15 and allow others to finish the nearly completed project.

“Were my recommendations noted or considered before launch? Why did this happen? Why didn’t the new project management team heed my warning or the stability study and my concerns? What could have been done to prevent this terrible mess?” Pufal wrote in his blog. “I can say without ego or hubris that I feel if I had been still involved with this project in a leadership capacity, this launch accident would never have happened.”

The Coast Guard is investigating the accident.

On Tuesday, the management of New World Boat Builders, which builds Northern Marine yachts, sent home its staff of about 50, according to a report by The fate of the staff employment – as well as the company’s future – remains uncertain, according to the publication.


6 comments on “VIDEO: Fears raised before $10 million yacht capsized

  1. Mike Turner

    Who designed this vessel? Why wasn’t the stability at launch ballast a top discussion issue with shipyard management, the launch team and the naval architect present for the launch?
    How could so many people be asleep at the switch??
    I work with much smaller boats and don’t side launch them but… it so apparent the side launch of an under-ballasted vessel will require positive lateral stability. What a waste.


    I have seen many launches and this boat did not behave at any time on that video as any other boat I have seen. The decline on the ramp does not seem greater than what would be expected of a boat designed to go to sea. I do not see any sign of bouancy of the aft port quarter where you would expect to. Looking forward to the results of the investigation.

  3. Phil Friedman

    All the talk about the discussion, or lack thereof, concerning stability at launch is a red herring. When a vessel is designed, her projected VCG is established, and her intended loaded waterline. And an intact stability study is performed. During a build all changes to structural weight and location(s) of major weights are tracked (or should be, as we all know), and any migration of projected VCG with resultant effect on stability noted. Thus, at launch, there should be no doubt as to magnitude of hydrostatic stability and, moreover, range of stability. Obviously, this is the ideal situation, and one to which everyone I know, from NA to shipyard operator, endorses. However, in my experience, real-time weight tracking and watch over potentially migrating VCG occur actually occur in yacht yards far fewer times than not. I recently published “Why Executive Management Doesn’t Get Bad News Until It Is Too Late…”, which may apply very well apply in this case, watching the videos of the launch.

  4. gregg amaral

    in the video of the launching there is a stern view although brief you can see the engine room door open on transom, that would certainly allow water in before the stern would float and flood stern,

  5. mickm

    Although this happened in one of my favorite towns, this reflects the stupidity of silly rich people who know nothing about boats. Quite simply the VCG exceeded the meticentric height (KM). The launching system was sufficient to deliver the boat to the water. The design was flawed. They were lucky they did not stock the bars, place the deck furniture or station the big breasted deck hands or she may have rolled all the way over. Next time maybe find someone educated and experience in building toys that float.

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