USCG Investigating Collision Off Red Hook Between Capitol Venture and New Horizon

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Varlack Venture’s Capitol Venture, above at the Cruz Bay dock, was back in service after the mid-week collision with a charter sailboat on a sunset cruise on Wednesday, October 23 off Red Hook, St. Thomas.

RED HOOK – U.S. Coast Guard marine investigators from Marine Safety Detachment St. Thomas are investigating the cause of a Wednesday, October 23, evening collision between the passenger ferry Capitol Venture and the commercial daysail vessel New Horizon, which occurred approximately a half nautical mile east of the Red Hook, St. Thomas, Channel entrance.

The incident was reported to the Coast Guard by the crew of each vessel at approximately 6 p.m. on Wednesday, according to a USCG press release issued on Thursday morning, October 24.

“Following the collision, the Capitol Venture, carrying 176 passengers and five crew, continued to make its way to the Red Hook ferry terminal, while the New Horizon, with 24 persons and four crewmembers onboard, proceeded to Sapphire Marina, where they were met by Coast Guard marine investigators,” according to the USCG statement.   

Delrise Varlack of Varlack Ventures had no comment on the incident, citing the active U.S. Coast Guard investigation.

Sailboat Owner Has Conflicting Reports
The owner of the 65-foot New Horizons, which has conducted day sails and sunset cruises from St. Thomas for most of the past two decades, told the Virgin Islands Daily News he received reports from the passengers and crew aboard his vessel which conflicted with the USCG report.

Tim Krygsveld, who was off-island at the time of the incident, did not return a telephone call for comment from St. John Tradewinds on Friday, October 25.

No major injuries were reported to the Coast Guard from the 176 passengers and five crew members on board the ferry, while a minor toe injury was reported from one of the 24 passengers and four crew members aboard the sailing vessel who was treated by Emergency Medical Service personnel in St. Thomas, according to the USCG press release.

The owner of New Horizon said two of the guests on his boat were taken by ambulance to the hospital, according to the V.I. Daily News report.

Coast Guard marine investigators are in the process of conducting damage assessments of each vessel, according to the USCG statement. No signs of pollution were detected from either vessel following the collision, the USCG reported.

$60,000 to $100,000 in Damage to Sailboat
The collision caused damage to his boat which will cost $60,000 to $100,000 to repair, New Horizon owner Krygsveld told the Daily News.

“At the last second, the crew goosed the throttle, and they hit us near the stern,” Krygsveld was quoted by the St. Thomas newspaper, although it was not clear which boat crew accelerated to avoid a worse collision.

“It completely severed the rigging that holds the mast up. In the few minutes after (the) rigging was severed, we were able to stabilize the mast with ropes,” Krygsveld said.

All the lifelines and rails were torn off the side of New Horizon that was hit by the ferry, according to Krygsveld.

It was not clear if the New Horizon was under sail or under engine power or both at the time of the collision.

A sailing vessel operating under sail has the right of way in marine regulations, different rules apply if both vessels are operating under power, according to one experienced St. John charter captain. 

“If a sailboat is propelled by power as well (as sail) then it is power-driven and power boat rules apply,” the charter boat captain said. “Which is any vessel to starboard from the bow to 22.5 degrees abaft of the beam has the right of way.”

The crew of a Coast Guard Boat Forces 29-foot Response Boat Small II also responded to the incident and supported the investigation efforts upon confirming that all passengers and crew were accounted for.