'THE CITY OF BROCETON.
THE CITY OF. BROCKTON. 1 THE
CoRNELL STEAM-BoAT Co. 'IJ. THE CITY OF BROCKTON.
COLOloiY STEAM-BoAT CO. 'IJ. THE
(lJiBtrict Court, E. D. New YOllk. February 5,1889.)
COLLISON-BETWEEN STEAMERS-OVERTAKING VESSEL-PASSING SUCTION.
The steam-tug B. was out of the bay of New York towards the Scotland light-ship. Overtakmg her was the steam-boat B. As the B. came u:f with and began to draw ahead of the B., the latter gave a sudden sheer, an went into the side of the steamer. Both vessels were damaged. and cross-libels were filed. It appearing that the Bo's sheer was caused by the suction from the wheels of the B.. held, that the collision was caused by the failure of the B., as the overtaking vessel, to come up along-side of the H. at a sufficient distance to pass her ID safety.
In Admiralty. Cross-libels for damages by collision. R. D. Benedict, for the.J. C. Hartt. Shipman, Barlow, Larocque & Choate, for the City of Brockton. BENEDICT, J. These actions arose out of a collision which occurred between the steam-boat City of Brockton and the steam-tug J. C. Hartt, in broad daylight, in the open sea, just outside of Sandy Hook, on the 29th day of September, 1887. Each vessel charges the other with fault causing the collision; and in order to make the facts plain 59 witnesses were examined before the court. The testimony of these witnesses, written out by the stenographer, has been since examined with care. On some points it is a mass of contradictions, in others it is harmonious. A careful analysis of it has enabled me to see clearly the proper disposition to be made of the cases. Upon the evidence the following facts are beyond dispute: Both vessels were bound for a yacht-race, in which the yachts were to start from the Scotland light-ship. They were the leading vessels of a large fleet bound upon the same errand. When Sandy Hook was. passed, and the South Channel reached, the Hartt was ahead of the Brockton, both following the channel. The Brockton, being the faster vessel of the two, soon overtook the Hartt, and attempted to pass her on her starboard hand. While passing, and when the bow of the Brockton, then running at 14 or 15 miles an hour, had reached ahead of the bow of the Hartt 100 feet or more, the two vessels came in collision, the bow of the Hart striking first the port paddle-box of the Brockton, and then running under the Brockton's port-guard, where her nigger-head broke in the sponsons of the Brockton, and she was near being capsized, most of her passengers being thrown into the sea. Before the Brockton's
'Reported by Edward G. Benedict, Esq., of the New York bar.
speed could be slowed the Hartt received considerable injury, and some damage was done to the Brockton. The pleadings on each side charge that fault in the other caused the collision. The Brockton's pleadings aver that while the Brockton was passing the Hartt, at a distance of about 250 feet, on. a nearly parallel course, and after the pilot-house of the Brockton had· passed the' bo'" of the Hartt, the Hattt changed her course more to the south"..ard, to pass under the stern of a yacht that was standing across the bows of the Hartt, and then rapidly sheered towards the Brockton, and struck her guard about 46 feet abaft the shaft on her port side. The same pleadings assert that no collision would have occurred if thp. Hartt had straightened up on her course after passing the yacht. The pleadings of the Hartt aver that while the Hartt was proceeding down the south channel, heading south-south-east upon her proper course, the Brockton, uridertook to pass her an her starboard side, but did not come,up at a sufficient distance from the Hartt to pass in safety, and before she got by the Hartt starbbarded her wheel, and attempted to cross the bows Hartt, then still on her course of southsouth-east; that the wheel of the Hartt was then immediately starboarded, and her engine stopped and backed, notwithstanding which she was struck by the Brockton, and seriously injured. Inasmuch as it if'! conceded that the Brockton was the overtaking vessel, and consequently charged with the duty of passing the Hartt at a safe distance, it will be convenient to consider first the testimony auduced in behalf oithe Brockton, to prove the fault charged upon the Hartt in the Brockton's pleadings; for, if the collision be found to have occurred without any porting on the patt of the Hartt, the Brockton must be held responsible, whether the collision arose from the starboarding of the Brockton's wheel just before the collision, or from the fact that the course upon which the Brockton undertook to pass the Hartt was not sufficiently distant from the Hartt to enable the Brockton to pass in safety. And first· it should be observed that in the Brockton's pleadings the Hartt is charged with having changed her course twice, and it is averred that these changes were made while the Brockton was passing, and after the pilot-house of the Brockton had passed the bow of the Hartt. The first is alleged to _have been made in order to get under the stern of a yacht which crossed the Hartt's course ahead of her; the second to have been a rapid sheer, which carried the Hartt head ,ou, or nearly head on. into the Brockton. In regard to these movements' charged upon the Hartt,. the testimony leaves it heyond dispute that the first change on the part of the Hartt which the pleadings identifyRs made to get under the stern of a yacht was not made while the Brockton was passing the Hartt. The Hartt did sheer to the southward to pass under the stern of theya6ht, and, accord.. iug to the proof; straightened up again; but this was before the Brockton had come up to the Hartt. The movement was withouteflectto 'embarrass the Brockton in her endeavor to pass the Hartt, and had nothing to do with the collision which, occurred. while the Brockton was passing the Hartt. Several witnesses called by the Brockton prove this. Such is the testimony of Chase and of Battey, who were in the Brockton's
THE CITY OF BROCKTON.
pilot-house; and so say Ludlam, and Rotch, The testimony of Fletcher, who was on thePerseus,-a vessel astern of both the Brockton and the Hartt,-and who is called in behalf of the Brockton, is to the same effect. In regard to the second movement on the part of the Hartt charged in the Brockton's pleadings, testimony is given by many witnesses called in behalf of the Brockton. Among these, two of the most intelligent observers are Charles Francis Adams and Charles Choate; the latter the president of the Old Colony Steam-Boat Company, to which corporation the Brockton belongs. These two witnesses were standing together on the deck of the Brockton, on the port side, between the pilot-house and the paddle-box, in full view of the Hartt as the Brockton passed. These witnesses paid no attention to the Hartt, and know nothing of her movements prior to the time when the paddle-box of the Brockton was nearly abreast of the pilot-house of the Hartt; from that tinle, however, they' observed her with care. According to the testimony of these two witnesses, the Brockton was passing the Hartt 300 feet distant, as Mr. Adams says, 150 feet, as Mr. Choate says, fr0ll1. the Hartt. The latter is the more correct estimate. Several witnesses put the distanceat roo feet, some at 75 feet. As the two witnesses looked at the Hartt soe a·sudden lurch towards the Brockton, which shortened the distance between the two vessels about one-third. The Hartt then straightened up; Then she again lurched towards the Brockton, and instantly the collision occlirred. The Hartt was a tug 125 feet long. The Brockton's length was 283 feet. The characterof the mOVemel1ts of the Hurtt,as described by these two witnesses, considering the relative positions6fthe two vessels, has satisfied me that the change of course on the part of the Hartt observed by them was not caused by a porting of the Hartt's wheel, but, so far as the Hartt was concerned, was involuntary.The fact testified to by Mr. Adams, Mr. Choate, and also by many other witnesses, that after the first lurch the Hartt straightened up, is conclusive to show that the Hartt was under a starboard instead of under aport hehn; And it' is impossible to believe that the pilot of the Hartt, when' his vessel had been suddenly carried, no matter by what force, off her course, and within 50 or 100 feet of a steamer like the Brockton, then passing at high speed on his starboard hand, and when he had straightened her up, would then put his wheel hard a-port. Such action at that time on the part of the pilot would mean swift destruction for his boat. No saneman would have ported hiswheelunq'erthose circumstances. !twas something other than a port helm that! caused the Hartt to go off' her course in the manner described. Nor is there direct evidence of a porting from those on the Brockton. Witnesses on the Brockton have inferred from the movements of the Hartt while the Brockton was passing that the wheel 'of the Hartt had been ported, but the improbability of streh action on the part of the pilot under such circumstances is too great to permit such an inference, if the movements of the Hartt can be reasonably attributed to any other causes. Moreqver, the language used to describe themo\'ement of the Hartt does not indicate that the Hartt was acting under ill port helm. Mr. Adams and Mr. Choate
describe it hy the word "lurch." Says Mr. Adams: "She .seemed to lurch right over towards us; it wasn't a case of gradual converging." Another witness speaks of it as "a grand swoop right around." Another says: "She made a dive for us." Again, Mr. Adams says: "She seemed to get wild in her steering. She rolled, as it were, first towards us, then a little off, then a roll towards us. She seemed to give a wild lurch. They were lurches rather than sheers." Such language does not describe a change of course effected by the rudder, but points strongly to the presence of some other force outside of the Hartt, to which her change of course should be attributed. And such a force was present, namely, the force of currents created in the water by the powerful action of the Brockton's wheels driving so large a vessel through the water at high speed. Currents of water more or less strong are neccreated by a vessel like the Brockton moving at high speed. They will differ according to the locality, and are largely affected, no doubt, by the depth of water. There is evidence that their power is increased when two vessels of about the same speed are passing each other. What the depth of water or the configuration of the bottom was at the place where the Brockton's wheels approached the bow of the Hartt is not proved. But the extent and power of the current actually created by the Brockton seems to me to be shown by what the Hartt did as the is also proved by direct wheels Of the Brockton neared her bow. evidence. Ludlam, a man of experience as a master of steam-ships, who saw the collision, and'who was called as a witness on behalf of the Brockton, testifies that the Hartt's wheel was starboarded, but her stern was set off the Brockton by a current made by the Brockton's wheel, there setting away from the Brockton, while her bow was being pulled towards the Brockton by the draught of the Brockton's wheel. He says: "The suction and the power of the Brockton's wheel in motion is tremendous. There is not a centrifugal pump in the world that would compare with the water from that bucket, which has a throwing force of tremendous area." Against this there is nothing but testimony to the effect that the Brockton has frequently passed vessels without affecting them by her suction. As it seems to me, therefore, the testimony given by the witnesses called in behalf of the Brockton warrants the conclusion that the change of course on the part of the Hartt, testified to by Mr. Adams and Mr. Choate, and to which they attribute the collision, was not caused by the fault of the Hartt in porting her helm, as charged in the Brockton's pleadings. but was caused by the fault of the Brockton, charged in the Hartt's pleadings, namely, either by her sheering across the Hartt's bows, or "that she did not come up to the starboard side of the Hartt at a sufficient distance from the Hartt to pass in safety." Several general consilierations tending to support this conclusion, and suggested by the testimony, may be mentioned. In the first place, the testimony of those in the pilot-house of the Hartt makes it plain that the Hartt's bells were rung, and her helm starboarded simultaneously, that both occurred immediately upon the sudden change of relation in the courses of the two vessels, and the collision was then inevitable. If a fault of the Hartt
THE CITY· OF BROOETON.
caused the collision, it must therefore have been before her bells were rung. But no fault previous to that time is charged in the pleadings, except the change when the yacht was passed, and that change, as has been pointed out, had no effect to cause the collision in question. In the next place,no sufficient reason for any porting on the part of the Hartt while the Brockton was passing has been suggested. An intention to cross the Brockton's bows cannot have existed, for the eviden(;e is that the Hartt had slowed her speed before the Brockton caught up to her, and at the time of the Hartt's rapid sheer the bow of the Brockton was ahead of the Hartt some 50 or 60 feet. One of the witnesses on the Brockton supposes that the Hartt ported "because she wanted to come and take a lookat us." The answer is that she was near enough to the Brockton for any such purpose without porting. Moreover, when by the first lurch the Hartt hnd been carried near the Brockton, and when she had straightened up again, no such reason, or any other that I can imagine, would justify a porting of the Hartt's helm. To the suggestion that the Hartt ported with a view of getting iuto the Brockton's wake, close under her stern,the answer is that the change made by the Hartt could not possibly carry her clear of the Brockton's stern. Collision was imminent before the second lurch came, and the lurch was so sharp that the master of the Brockton, who seems not to have seen the first lurch, but who, on seeing the second lurch, ran to the bells, some 40 feet distant, intending to stop the Brockton, failed to reach them before the collision took place. Indeed, the movements of the Hartt were so eccentric as to cause in the minds of several on the Brockton the beliefthat her tillerropes had parted. In the minds of these witnesses it was want of helm on the part of the Hartt, rather than the porting of her helm, that brought the vessels in collision. There was no parting of the Hartt's tiller· rope, but the belief in some accident shows the extraordinary character of the movements of the Hartt; which, it may be here remarked, occurred within the space of not to exceed 30 seconds. If notice should be taken of some testimony from the Brockton to the effect that the Hartt steered badly as the Brockton came up to her, one witness saying that she fell off 100 feet on every sea, it can be said that other witnesses by the Brockton testify to the contrary. Among these is Ludlam, who says that the Hartt steered particularly well as to steadiness in the sea; and, besides, if the Hartt was seeu to be steering so wildly, that was a reason for keeping further away from her than the Brockton did. Here, as weB as anywhere, may be noticed the testimony of some witn'esses from the Brockton, who seem to speak of a sheer of the Hartt after the yacht had passed, and before the rapid sheer seen by Mr. Adams and Mr. Choate. As to this testimony, it is sufficient to say that it is uncertain, is contradicted by other witnesses from the same side, and is without importance in view of the pleadings. The Brockton's pleadings complain oftwo movements of the Hartt, and only two,one when she passed the yacht; the other, the rapid sheer seen by Mr. Adams and Mr. Choate. No other change is alluded to in the pleadings. As bearing upon the probabilities of the case, it may he noticed that the
new boat, famous for speed. She had COme off the Fall River line to carry a party of guests to the yacht-race. In going down the bay she bad distanced.all vessels, and at the time of the collision she was passing the. Hartt in sight of the fleet. ,The circumstances were calculated to excite that well-known inclination to shave close, which is so fruitful of collisions. The supposition that. on tbis occasion the pilot in charge of the Brockton-who,by the way, was navigating her for the first time-yielded to the temptation above alluded to, would be in barJllony with a large portion of the testimony given in these cases. Adding these considerations to what appears to me to be.shown by. the Brockton's witnesses, a decision adverse to the Brockton upon the controlling quesHon Qfthecase, namely, whether the collision was caused by:aportingof the Hartt's helm while the Brocktun was endeavoring to pass her, must folw low. Such a decision is strongly supported by the testimony produced in behalf of the Hartt.. In this testimony there is much evidence, from disinterested as well as interested observers, in support of the assertion in the Hartt's pleadings that the Brockton made a sudden sheer across the Hartt's bows. Between .thia, testimony from the Hartt and the equally positive testimony to the contrary from the Brockton, I find it unnecessary to decide. It might, perhaps, be possible to reconcile the apparent contradiction by supposing that the sudden pulling of the Hartt's bows out of her course by the suction created just in advance of the Brockton's wheels led those on the Hartt to believe that they saw a sudden change in the Brocktoll.'s course. But into this inquiry I do not enter, for whether the collision was caused by a sudden sheer by the Brookton a moment before the collision, or by her taking and holding. a course which carried her so neaJ;, the Hartt as to overpower the Hartt by currents of water caused by her wheels, the responsibility of the Brockton is clear if there was no porting of the Hartt's helm after the Brockton began to pass. Setting aside, therefore, the testimony of tbe Hartt's witnesses going to prove a sudden sbeer by the Brockton, there remains in that testimony convincing evidence that the change of course on the pwrt of the Hartt, to which Mr. Adams and Mr. Choate testify as the cause of the collision, was not caused by a porting of. the helm of the Hartt, but was caused by the currents of the Brockton. Thus is confirmed the conclusion arrived at from a consideration of the Brockton's testimony, that tbe fault to which the collision is to be attributed was the fault of the Brockton in attempting to pass the Hartt as she did. The Brockton was the overtaking vessel; she had the Hartt in plain sight; no otber vessels were near to embarrass her. There was no reason why she should not have passed the Hartt at a safe distance, and yet sbe passed so near as to overpower the Hartt by the currents she created, and to force. the Hartt into collision. For these reasons my decision is that in the action brought by the Brockton the libel be dismissed, and in the action brought by the Hartt there be a decree in favor of the libelant., with an order of reference to ascertain the damages.
NEW YORK, L. E. & W. R. Co.
'11. THE EIDER.
(District Oourt, D. NeUJ Jersey. February 16, 1889.)
COLLISION-BETWEEN STEAM·SHIP AND FERRy-BoAT-SPEED AND COURSE all' S'l'EAM-SHIP.
An ocean steamer proceeded up the North river on an ebb-tide and in daylip;ht at a speed of at least 8 to 10 miles an hour, until not more than 300 feet from a ferry-boat, which was then () points off its starboard bow, and was beginning to cross its course at about the same speed. The ferry-boat suddenly checked its speed, and, there then being no time to change the steam-ship's helm, tl'ie:'vessels collided. Held, that the steam-ship, whose officers knew that the ferry-boat was abOllt to cross its .course, was in fault. for maintaining its course speed until it was unable to meet the emergency. The ferry-boat was struck abaft the wheel-honse, from the rearward. The upper part of the pilot-house was protected by sliding windows. having a solid door. on the. after-port side, and one of the wheelmen, who had an unobstrllctedview ahead and on each side; did not see what had struck the ferryboat'until the door wasopeued. Held. that the absence of a lookout "forward did not oOIjtribute to the collision, and. was not a fault. :rhe ferry-boat checked its speed because of a tug and tow, 500 or 600 feet ahead, passing between the ferry-boat and its slip. None of the officers of the ferry,boat saw the steam-ship before the collision. lield, that as the ferryboat mill:ht have maintained its speed and. course for 200 or 300 feet more with no risk, and by doing so would have cleared the steam-ship, it was ill fault in cb:eckingits speed inthe absence of an emergency without due consideration of the movements of a following vessel.
2. SAME-LoOKOUT ON FERRy-BoAT.
S.SAiliE-CHECKING SPEEP OF FERRY,BoA'r-OVERTAKING V:mSSEL.
In Admiralty . Libel for damages from a collision by the New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad Company against the steamship Eider, the North German Lloyd Steam-Ship Company, claimant. Wilcox, Adam9 & Macklin, for libelant. Shipman, Barlaw, Larocque & Choate, for claimant.
WALES; J. This suit has been brought to recover,damages caused by a collision between the libelant's ferry-boilt; Pavonia, and the claimant's steam-ship, Eider, which occurred inthe North river, on the 25th of Janu'iry, 1888. The Pavania had left her sli lJ at the foot of Chambers street, New York, at 15 minutes past 9 O'ClbCkA.M., for the Pavonia ferry. about one mile distant on the opposite shore, and bearing northwest. The Pavonia's course was straight out to the middle of and then up the river for soI1le distance, until she gradually sheered towards her slip on the opposite side. The weather was clear and cold, with a light wind from the north, and the tide running ebb. At this stage of the tide, she generally made the distance between the two ferries in 8 minutes; and on this occasion, and just before the collision, she was going at the rate of 8 or 10 miles an hour. She had reached a point within 700 to 1,000 feet of the New Jersey shore, and from 400 to 700 feet south of