2007-06-21 / News

Tanker shuts down bay for Tuesday night yacht races

By Sam Bari

The Jamestown Yacht Club Tuesday night yacht races, a summertime tradition, were shut down because of the required security zone surrounding a propane tanker as it passed through Narragansett Bay.

"I called in the location and start of the races to Castle Hill Coast Guard station at 6 p.m. like I always do to let them know where we're racing," Dick Allphin, the race committee boat captain said. He said that the Coast Guard called back a couple of minutes later to warn him that a tanker would be coming through in an hour or so. Allphin said he thought they could finish before the tanker showed up, but the security boats were clearing the area a few minutes after 7 p.m. and "we were forced to abort the races."

"The security zone is two miles ahead of the tanker, one mile behind, and 1000-yards on either side," Allphin said. "With an area that large surrounding the tanker, there's no room in the bay for anyone else. Plus, they have to close down the Newport Bridge. It seems to me that they could schedule the tankers to come through the bay when it doesn't inconvenience so many people," he added.

Harbor Management Commission Chairman Michael de Angeli was sailing "Ghost," his Express 27 sailboat when the race was aborted. "I've been warning people for two years that this was going to happen, and if an LNG terminal is built at Fall River, the smaller tankers will be coming through the bay every day, not just once in awhile" de Angeli said.

He said the entire bay would become a commercial waterway that would infringe on the rights of the recreational boaters. "Sailing on the bay and enjoying the water is the reason most of us live here," de Angeli said. "If an LNG port is at the top of the bay, the East Passage will be a parade of tankers." He continued to say that the constant interruption of traffic because of tankers would seriously effect the economy, because charter boats and cruise ships that also have schedules to meet will look elsewhere to dock and do business.

Harbormaster Sam Paterson said, "If everybody works together, the inconvenience will be minimized. I don't see why the yacht clubs can't call in advance to see if any boats are coming through the bay. Then they can adjust their schedule and their races won't be interrupted." He also said that when a ship stays in port, it costs the owners thousands of dollars, and we'll end up paying for it, he said.

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