People without a scintilla of intelligence can apparently be found on the water these days and their actions should be of concern to all of us that use our waterways.
First, the Coast Guard recently found a critical aid to navigation sunk in the water with bullet holes near Block Island, R.I. The crew of Coast Guard cutter Ida Lewis, a 175-foot buoy tender home-ported in Newport, was conducting regular aids-to-navigation maintenance when they approached Clay Head buoy No. 7 and found it sunk. The crew raised the 12,000-pound buoy and found 20 bullet holes in it.
This particular aid to navigation marks a large rock three feet below the water's surface. Ferries transit this route frequently and provide critical supplies to Block Island. Buoy No. 7 is supposed to be a key navigational tool for recreational boaters, too, and this destruction turned it into a navigational hazard.
Making things worse, this was the second aid discovered with bulletholes within a week. Commenting on the latest discovery, senior chief petty officer Timothy Chase, officer in charge of aids-to-navigation in the vicinity of Block Island said: "Buoy No. 7 became a navigational hazard that could have easily been struck by a vessel and seriously injured or killed mariners."
Damaging or tampering with federal aids to navigation is a crime and the maximum penalties upon conviction are up to 20 years of imprisonment and as much as $2,500 fine per day for each violation. Let’s see — 20 bulletholes in buoy No. 7 should get the perpetrator 240 years.
Meanwhile, what’s become an all-too-common occurrence in aviation has apparently come to the waterways. On Chesapeake Bay, the Coast Guard is investigating multiple laser strikes during the last month aimed at commercial vessels transiting the area and is warning the public about this dangerous act.
Specifically, the Coast Guard reports four incidents occurred recently between midnight and 3 a.m. involving ships Salome, Bulk Spain, and AM Annaba. In addition, a pilot vessel was lased while returning to its base.
Three more laser incidents were reported by ships Hoegh Osaka, Maersk Kolkata and the cruise ship Carnival Pride with 2,100 passengers and 930 crewmembers aboard. During all these incidents, the laser light was described as steady, powerful and painful to the eyes. It’s believed the laser originated in the area between Drum Point and Cove Point, and each incident lasted for approximately 15 minutes.
Obviously, laser lights can pose a serious hazard to navigation. The most likely scenario is the laser blinds or distracts a pilot and that could prevent that pilot from seeing a smaller vessel, like a recreational boat, setting up a collision.
Right now, the Laser Safety Act makes it only a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully cause or attempt to cause bodily injury by shining, pointing or focusing the beam of a laser pointer on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft. It can draw up to 10 years in prison up to $2,500 in fine.
But if you’ll allow some editorial license here, I’ve got a better idea. Turn the perpetrators over to Neil “The Razor” Ruddock, the former soccer player who once broke both of an opposing players legs.
Wait: for full disclosure, in Ruddock’s defense, he later said he only intended to break one.
The last thing boating needs is a bunch of pistol-packing or laser-pointing idiots out on the waterways. Kudos to the Coast Guard for making pursuit of these threats a priority.