The captain of the “Iyanough” that ran into a jetty in Hyannis mistook sailboat masts for guide buoys, according to a report from the company, the investigation was presented to the Steamship Authority meeting, though the Coast Guard was conducting an independent investigation of the incident.
According to the company, the rough seas and low visibility led to problems with locating direction buoys as the ferry began to navigate into Hyannis Harbor; the roughness of the seas and its obscurity was to blame for the accident.
The report says that at 9:35 in the evening of Friday, June 16th, the Iyanough had an allision with the Hyannis Harbor breakwater. The vessel was traveling from Nantucket to Hyannis on its last trip of the day. There were 48 passengers, 6 crew members, and 3 food service workers on board the vessel at the time of the incident. The Coast Guard hosted 5 injured passengers off of the ferry, as well as 10 other people who could not walk over the breakwater. The remaining passengers and crew were taken off the ferry to shore by boat.
Acting Fire Chief Dean Melanson has indicated that 15 people were brought to Cape Cod Hospital for various injuries, none of which were said to be life-threatening. All of the injured passengers and crew members were treated and released from the hospital. Despite the impact of the allision, the Iyanough’s fuel tanks remained intact and there was no environmental damage as a result of the incident.
The Coast Guard is conducting an investigation of the incident, which includes interviews with the crew to determine its exact cause. But the preliminary findings show that the Iyanough departed from Nantucket at 8:45 that evening bound for Hyannis, the winds were strong from the SSE at approximately 30-35 knots and visibility was diminished by intermittent rain and fog, the crossing itself was uneventful but as the vessel approached the “HH” navigation buoy which is located about 2,500 yards south of from the entrance to the main channel for Hyannis Harbor security calls were made and the buoy was logged. At that point, the next navigation buoy the vessel would pass by on its way into the channel would be Buoy No. 4, which is located a few hundred yards south of the channel entrance, and after passing by Buoy No. 4, the vessel would turn starboard to go between Buoys 5 and 6, which mark the 240-foot wide entrance into the channel, at its usual operating speed of more than 32 knots. After logging the HH buoy, the Captain asked the Pilot to use the vessel’s searchlight and light up Buoy No. 4 for him. The Captain then reached across the console and engaged the searchlight for the Pilot. When the Captain returned to the RADAR, he recognized the familiar pattern of Buoys 4, 5 and 6 and began adjusting the vessel’s course to accommodate its entrance into the main Hyannis channel. The Pilot was unable to locate any navigational aids with the searchlight. But what the Captain had interpreted on the RADAR as Buoy No. 4 was in fact the metal pole at the end of the breakwater, which is about 800 yards north of Buoy No. 4 and also north of the channel entrance. At that time, the breakwater itself was not visible on RADAR because the waves, which were estimated to be 8 feet high at the time, obscured the breakwater’s RADAR image, while the pole was visible because of its greater height above the waves. In addition, what the Captain had interpreted as Buoys 5 and 6 were actually sailboats located on the other side of the jetty. The distances and positions of the pole and the sailboats matched identically to the pattern normally associated with Buoys 4, 5 and 6. Therefore, the Captain did not detect anything unusual about the vessel’s approach into Hyannis channel until, after adjusting the vessel’s course to begin its entrance into the channel, he saw the breakwater in front of the vessel and administered the “panic stop” as trained. As far as we have been able to determine, all of the vessel’s navigation and mechanical systems were properly functioning that evening.
In addition, the Captain and the Pilot tested negative for alcohol and drugs