The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS
These causes, which apparently have enjoyed undisturbed repose in the files of this court since the filing of the libels in March of 1942, came to trial some seven years and eight months later, at a time when the memories of the three witnesses who testified in person may be scarcely deemed to have been whetted by the lapse of time.
Decision is required concerning the striking of the Latvian Steamship Everalda which she lay at anchor in the anchorage at Stapleton, Staten Island, off Pier 15, on March 12, 1942, at 4:08 A.M., E.S.T., by the Tanker American Trader, as the latter was bound to sea; she had left her own anchorage off Pier 6, Tompkinsville, at 3:55 and traversed about 4200 feet on a S.S.E. course before the striking, as she made her way through a group of perhaps 20 ships, all riding at anchor in these waters.
Both vessels sustained damage, and the respective libels are appropriately cast to allege mutual charges of fault.
As the result of concessions made at the trial, and of the absence of conflict in much of the testimony, the real issue comes down to the question of whether the Everalda was showing anchor lights at the time the American Trader picked her up, and until the collision. As to that, Findings will be made to facilitate review, but in the main a recital will suffice to depict the situation.
The respective vessels were Steamships of these characteristics:
American Trader (built 1923): Single screw tanker, 498.2 feet water-line length, by 66 feet in beam, 36.8 feet moulded depth, 8,862 gross, 5,535 net, tonnage.
Everalda (built 1912): Well deck cargo ship, 350 feet (between perpendiculars) by 50 feet in beam, 27.9 feet moulded depth, 3,950 gross, 2,452 net, tonnage.
On this occasion the former was light, while the latter was loaded to about one-third capacity.
The striking occurred while it was yet dark; the night was clear, and visibility good, i.e., a lighted vessel could be seen for not less than a mile. The tide was flood, which means that the Everalda tailed to the north as she swung to her bow anchor which was paid out to 45 fathoms.
The wind was out of the west at not to exceed an hourly force of 11 miles i.e., it was about abeam of both ships, and is not argued to have been of effect.
The Trader hove up her anchor and got under way when her engines were put in slow ahead. She was navigated by Sandy Hook Pilot Madigan, a full branch pilot of 20 years standing in 1942. He was on the bridge with the ship's Master, Hess, with a quartermaster at the wheel, the second officer, and a Coast Guard seaman.
On the forecastle head were the Chief Officer (not called as a witness), Budris (O.S.), and another sailor, an A.B., not otherwise identified. Budris acted as lookout, and as his ship approached a dark object in the water that proved to be the Everalda, he reported her to the bridge as either a ship or an object dead ahead, and was answered by an acknowledging call from the bridge. This established the fact and functioning of the lookout.
The Pilot says he at once looked ahead and could see nothing, but ordered the engines to stop, then full astern. In this, the engine-room bell book bears him out, for it shows: Slow, Stop, Full astern, and a jingle, all within the minute 4:08. As to these orders from the bridge and their execution, the deposition of Bigelow, the second officer on the bridge, taken within three months of the collision, is in accord with the Pilot's testimony at the trial.
When the ships were separated by from 200 to 300 feet, the loom of the stern of the Everalda was made out on the bridge of the Trader, as were her masts. The Master, Hess (deposition taken May 13, 1942) estimated that about one-half minute elapsed between the report of the lookout, and the order putting the engines full-speed astern. That is a convincing statement, since both the Pilot and the Master were on the alert. The Trader struck the Everalda a glancing blow, i.e., the 'third plate on the starboard bow (Trader's) right above the hawse pipe' struck the port quarter of the other ship.
The blow caused a 21-inch crack in the Trader's plate having a 5-inch opening at its widest part, so that the impact was more than casual. Then the Trader sheered off, and proceeded alongside to port of the Everalda, under a left rudder, and continued on her way, after unsuccessfully hailing the other ship to learn her name.
It is agreed that the Trader was proceeding at a speed of between 3 and 4 knots just prior to putting the engines full astern.
As stated, the critical issue is whether the Everalda was showing anchor lights. The testimony for all Trader witnesses is that she was not. That is consistent with her Master's statement that he 'contacted' the Harbor Patrol 'right below the Narrows to investigate', i.e., 'We told them we had a collision with ...