Not Chesapeake Bay: San Antonio family's tragedy leads to Coast Guard warning about "bay boats"
They're called Texas flats boats or bay boats. They have a thinner hull for getting around in shallow water along the Texas gulf coast. That has made them a favorite of fishermen in the San Antonio area.There are two unembeddable videos at the link. One is just a news show, much the same as the text. The second shows the actual behavior of the boats under test, and they are, indeed, alarming.
But the coast guard says this style of boat can suddenly go out of control, injuring or killing passengers.
In July of 2012, 16-year-old Kali Gorzell was thrown off of a friends bay boat during a fishing trip in Port Aransas.
"They were having a really fantastic day. They were sharing photos with us," said Kali's father, James Gorzell.
While making a turn at a relatively slow speed, the boat spun around 180 degrees.
"Suddenly the boat completely swapped ends. Kali was not in the boat. They heard a big thump on the engine," James Gorzell said.
Kali had been struck in the head and neck by the boat's propeller.
With Jones's help the Gorzell's convinced the U. S. Coast Guard to take the boat that killed Kali, and another flats boat to a testing facility in Maryland. Video of the test was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. A private research team hired by the Coast Guard outfitted the two flats boats so they could be driven by remote control. Researchers attempted hard turns with the boats at 25 miles per hour, a routine maneuver for other boats.
Cody Jones went to Maryland and witnessed the tests.
"The vessel would uncontrollably do a 180 degree turn with the motor coming out of the water exposing the propeller," Jones said.
The study by the Coast Guard contractor, CED Technologies, concluded: "It would be difficult to envision how either of the two hull forms could be safely used for recreational boating. In its present form, the two hull forms tested by CED were unsafe."
However, when the News 4 Trouble Shooters contacted the Coast Guard's Chief of Boating Safety he told me: "That is the contractor's position it is not the coast guard's official position. The coast guard identifies unsafe conditions but we do not declare boats unsafe."