It took more than a year after an 85-foot Northern Marine yacht capsized upon launch, generating a video that went viral and prompting the company to close up shop, for an investigation to reveal why the boat tipped. Now authorities have ruled that the yacht likely sank because of its low margin of stability.
In May 2014 Baadensank upon launch in Anacortes, Wash., exacerbating a spate of bad luck for CEO and general manager Andy McDonald, who had just returned to work after an extended illness.
A report the National Transportation Safety Board released about three weeks ago says the probable cause of the accident was the combined effects of a recording error during the final vessel weigh, which resulted in an incorrect assessment of the yacht’s center of gravity, and an overestimation of the weight of installed ballast.
That partly confirmed what an independent architect found after the boat was subjected to a stability review — that the boat was not properly ballasted, McDonald told Trade Only at the time. “It was a launching accident,” he said. “The accident occurred while the boat was still mostly out of the water, so it had no flotation when it started to tip over.”
McDonald, owner and general manager of New World Yacht Builders, was building boats under the name Northern Marine. He suddenly became ill in January of 2014, causing discontinuity during construction of the yacht, the report said.
McDonald referenced his unexpected medical malady and subsequent three-month recovery in an interview with Trade Only Today after the boat accident, saying it had happened shortly after he was finally able to return to work.
“One thing I feel pretty strongly about is the term capsize,” McDonald told Trade Only Today following the accident. “The boat did not capsize. It was not floating. It tipped over. It was involved in an accident.”
The NSTB report referred to the accident as a capsize.
The yacht was salvaged but was declared a total constructive loss, estimated at $10 million. McDonald told Trade Only in 2014 that Northern Marine’s insurance company was on the hook for the price.
At the time of the accident New World employed 52 people, primarily at its Anacortes yard. The builder entered receivership and ceased operations in August 2014, according to the report.
McDonald had worked under the tutelage of company founder Richard “Bud” LeMieux until LeMieux was forced out of the company after selling a controlling interest to an investor group. The company went bankrupt in 2010. LeMieux and McDonald together bought the company out of bankruptcy.
At the 2011 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, McDonald told Trade Only that he was excited about new build projects — among them an 85-foot, expedition-style tri-deck cruiser. In 2012 McDonald bought the company, although LeMieux stayed on for a period of time as a consultant.
After the sinking, LeMieux sent a letter to media outlets in an effort to distance himself from McDonald and the company.
McDonald could not be reached via email or phone for this story.