The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS
These causes were consolidated for trial, and have to do with the sinking of the laden coal barge Mack, on January 30, 1936, in Mill Basin about one-half mile easterly of the Adams coal dock in Brooklyn, at about 9:30 a.m.
The first cause is that of the owner of the Mack, and the second is that of the cargo owner.
The tugs Arthur Conners and Fidelity, claimed by Conners Marine Co., Inc., were libeled.
The sinking occurred as the result of the barge's striking ice so that a hole 8 inches by 24 inches was stove in her bow, just below the water-line, near the starboard corner. The planking was 4 inches by 10 inches, and a bow rake timber, 6 inches by 12 inches, was also broken.
No one denies that the damage was sustained while the Mack was in tow of the Diesel tug Arthur Conners, and the only question is whether it resulted from contact between the barge and heavy ice at the edge of a channel which had been opened for navigation, or from a floating cake in that channel.
It is found that the barge was being towed on two short hawsers, and that 18 to 20 feet separated the stern of the tug from the bow of the barge. Also that the said passageway through the ice was about 40 feet in width, at the place where the damage was done.
The barge is 105 feet long and has a beam of 30 feet. The bow is square. As laden, there was a 6-foot freeboard forward.
The tug is 87 feet long and 21 1/2 feet in beam.
The trip started at Stapleton, S.I., about 4:00 a.m. and no ice was encountered in the bay, where the barge was towed alongside. At Barren Island she was placed astern on hawsers as stated, and the tug Fidelity there joined the flotilla, and was towed aft of the barge on two lines, one from each stern cleat of the barge. Presumably this was to hold the barge straight behind the Conners; perhpas also to tow the barge astern if ice conditions so required, but there is no testimony on the subject.
Thereafter entrance was made into the channel through the ice. An outbound tow was met, emerging from Mill Basin into Island Channel, and then the Fidelity dropped the lines and went ahead, joining the tug of that tow in widening the channel so that the barges safely passed to starboard. From this it is inferred that the open water there was about 60 feet wide, so that additional space was required for the passing.
Then the Fidelity proceeded ahead into Mill Basin, and the Conners followed with the Mack astern, having rounded the Island Channel buoy. The course was about westerly and progress was slow. The tug captain says it was not better than one mile an hour, and that is accepted, because the channel was full of floating ice. He said he was moving under one bell, and there is no reason to doubt that testimony.
The channel was about 40 feet in width, which left a clearance of 5 feet on each side of the barge, if ...