by John Darer CLU ChFC MSSC CeFT RSP CLTC
I just read of Tuesday's sailing tragedy that resulted in the drowning death of a 3 year old Brooklyn girl, Alexandra Vitale, when the Hobie Cat, a Hobie 16 (similar to the one in this picture), on which she was riding tipped over near Cockenoe Island in Long Island Sound.
Hobie makes catamarans ranging in size from 13 -18 feet. As one who has sailed them himself (from the facility and in the waters where the tragedy took place), I can attest that they are great fun to sail and very fast. Passengers sit on a trampoline that stretches between two pontoons. More often than not the faster boats are seen with the sailors hiking back off one of the pontoons suspended from what is known as a trapeze in an effort to balance "the forces of nature". Which brings me to my commentary.
According to press reports the only people on board were Alexandra, 3, her two cousins, aged Andrew and William Howell (ages 6 and 3) and an 18 year old instructor. What in the world were these tiny tots doing on a Hobie 16 and was it an age appropriate boat for a "safety lesson"? Add to the responsibility of managing 3 tots, the quick judgment needed on the water to manage a powerful catamaran when the wind gusts and it raises a serious question, in my opinion.
Apparently an official told the New York Post that Alexandra and her cousins were too young to be enrolled in a regular class at Longshore Sailing School, but their parents had worked out a "separate arrangement" with the school.
The Stamford Advocate, Connecticut Post and the New York Post conflict on the number of instructors aboard the ill fated Hobie Cat. The Advocate and Connecticut Post say one instructor while the Post says two.
My heart goes out to Dr. Michael Vitale, a prominent pediatrician at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and his family on the loss of his daughter.