Skipper navigates 50ft boat with iPad: Crashes into ferry, sinks

By Kitty Knowles 28 February 2017
Peggotty following the collision. Pic:Gov.uk/RNLI Cleethorpes

The worst wifi fail ever?

The times not to place your faith in Apple?

How about when you’re at the helm of a 50ft long, World War Two-era boat, riding the high seas?

Sadly, this didn’t occur to David Carlin who, despite being an experienced skipper, had to be rescued from one of Britain’s busiest shipping lanes – along with an unfortunate guest.

A nautical no-no

Carlin has been sailing from Grimsby to Hull, showing off his vintage wooden Peggotty boat to a sales representative last May.

But the master mariner ran into difficulty when his wifi dropped out:

The fancy-pants iPad he’d been using to navigate became a useless metal block.

The boat’s radar was broken, the GPS wasn’t functioning, and Carlin lacked even the basic tools to use physical mapping equipment.

As such, the pair found themselves lost in thick North Sea fog, and sailing across the Humber estuary into the UK’s most active shipping zone.

Dangerous waters

Lost at sea, Carlin’s vessel was struck by a 34,000-tonne cargo ferry, which failed to even notice the crash.

Lucky both passengers were rescued after scrambling onto a life raft, but not before watching their prospective deal sink below the waves (this took just 30 minutes).

“The buyer’s representative had an app on his iPad and the two men decided to use this as their primary means of navigation,” a report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch said.

“It gave both men false confidence in their ability to navigate safely in the dense fog. It is possible the skipper felt some pressure to complete the voyage or risk losing the sale.”

Don’t iPad and skipper?

Apple might own the phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ but, in hindsight, this probably shouldn’t be applied to nautical navigation.

Wifi can be a cruel mistress at the best of times, and you don’t want her to ditch you at sea.

Not only did Carlin risk his life, but he was fined £3,000 this month, and forced to pay an additional £6,568 in costs. (The cargo ferry skipper didn’t get off scot-free either, slapped with a matching £3,000 fine and £9,318 in costs).

Was relying on an iPad worth it?

We doubt it very much.