The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS
This cause involves a striking of the seagoing barge Bradley by a like vessel the Coaldale, on May 15, 1946 off New London, Conn., at about 5:30 A.M.E.D.T.
These barges laden with coal were in tow of the tug Boston, bound for Providence. In the vicinity of Bartlett's Reef gas buoy (near New London) a heavy fog set in and as a result, the tug initiated the handling of the barges which led to the collision. So much is undisputed. Indeed the controversy is more argumentative as to the causes, than factual as to the actual happening.
The Boston was towing the barges singled out, with about 200 fathoms of hawser out to the Bradley, and the Coaldale followed at the end of from 150 to 200 fathoms of hawser from the Bradley.
The witnesses for the libellant were James Kydd, the captain of the Coaldale, and his second cousin Cyrus Kydd, who was in the bow giving signals to the former who was at the wheel.
The claimant called only Earl Jensen, the captain of the tug Boston. The deck hand or hands of the latter did not testify but no comment as to that was offered by libellant.
Also it should be observed that no one was called by either side from the Bradley.
Perhaps the lapse of more than eight and one-half years between the filing of the libel (April 30, 1946) and the trial (December 15, 1954) may account for the paucity of testimony by observers; there may be of course other reasons.
It will suffice to say that the Bradley being at anchor, the Coaldale overtook her on her port side, and under the force of the tide and current which took effect on the port side of the Coaldale, she bore down upon and across the bow of the Bradley and struck the latter with sufficient force to cause the starboard side damage to the Coaldale alleged in the libel. James Kydd said there was also damage to the Bradley, but as to that there is no other testimony.
The tug agrees that the foregoing took place, and that the latter had a line on the port quarter bitt of the Coaldale, and was trying to prevent the collision by exerting power on that line. The libellant's case is that the resultant movement caused the Coaldale's bow to incline to starboard, in a kind of pivot action, since the force was being exerted somewhat laterally (to port) instead of astern as it should have been, and as probably would have been the case if the line from the tug had been placed on the stern bitt of the Coaldale, so that such force as was brought to bear would have tended to pull the barge straight astern and out of harm's way.
It is not without interest that the Answer pleaded that the collision took place before a line could be put out from the tug to the Coaldale, while the testimony of Jensen for the tug is that he did cause to be placed a line at the port quarter of the Coaldale, and that the line took a strain, i. e. 'I pulled back' but not so as to prevent the striking.
Since the versions at the trial are thus in substantial agreement, the issue narrows down to the handling of the Coaldale at the critical time, and whether the tug did all that could be expected of prudent navigation in the circumstances.
The barges were converted schooners of substantial dimensions: Bradley, 266 x 40 -- draft 20 feet; Coaldale, 200 x 35 -- draft not shown. Both were laden to capacity, namely about 1,000 tons of coal. The Boston is a diesel tug, and her power is not questioned; nor is the seaworthy condition of the barges, except that the Coaldale had a crew of two men instead of three as called for by her license.
There is another cognate question as to her steering equipment in that her helm movements were obsolete, i. e., 'right rudder' caused her to turn to port. As to this see 33 U.S.C.A. § 232, as added Aug. 21, 1935.
The bearing of the helm movement on the Coaldale's handling lies in the fact that under a 'right rudder' she moved to port, and thus overtook the Bradley then at anchor, somewhat abreast and to the port of the latter, and thus was impelled to swing across the bow of the latter by the force of the tide and current; while if her response to the 'right rudder' signal had been conventional, she would have arrived perhaps parallel to ...