Cynthia Woods, Galveston Ship Channel, January 2007. Photo by Andy Hall.
On Friday a Coast Guard inquiry formally announced an investigative finding that a shoddy repair job on the TAMUG boat Cynthia Woods caused the boat’s keel to break off in rough seas last June, killing Safety Officer Roger Stone. This finding has been widely anticipated, as reports of previous groundings (including one “hard” grounding) and patchy repairs began circulating within days of the sinking.
Cynthia Woods, with a six-man crew, was taking part in the Regata de Amigos, an offshore race between Galveston and Vera Cruz, Mexico. The boat was pounding southward in heavy seas when, a little before midnight on June 6, the keel snapped off and the boat rolled over. Stone, who was off watch below deck with two student crew members, managed to get the students out through the cabin hatch. The boat’s skipper, Steve Conway, and the four students drifted in the water for 26 hours before being sighted by a Coast Guard helicopter.
The Coast Guard report is not without its critics, though; Roger Stone’s widow, Linda, argues that the report was rushed and incomplete. She claims to have invoices for work done to repair the boat’s keel in other yards, work that is not cited or discussed in the Coast Guard reports. Linda Stone has several lawsuits pending in the case.
Not long ago Houston Chronicle reporters Claudia Feldman and Mike Tolson presented a multipart story, “Lost at Sea.” It’s an excellent series, and represents solid reporting that shows the depth and complexity of a single, small tragedy.
The Tragedy of the Cynthia Woods
A&M Crew Looks Out for Planes and Sharks
A Flashlight Brings Rescue
What Happened to the Cynthia Woods?
One Family’s Fears Come True
On a personal note, I didn’t know Roger Stone, but the name seemed familiar to me when it was first reported. When photos of him were published, I recognized him immediately as someone I knew from work. It was one of those situations where, working for a very large organization, there are lots of people you encounter day-to-day, walking on campus, or in an elevator, that you don’t really know, but you recognize and say “hello.” By all accounts, Stone was a passionate sailor, a fine husband and father, and a thoroughly decent man. His passing was a shock at UTMB, where his job brought him into contact with people across the campus.
Update: Coast Guard report here (611K PDF)
Update 2: High-res photos of the start of the race on June 6 here.