Questions abound about Prowler vs. Attessa IV collision

One confirmed dead in open ocean crash; could something like this happen again?

SAN DIEGO — The weekend leading up to Halloween was met with a freaky collision off the San Diego coast, as a sportfisher and superyacht reportedly became entangled on Oct. 26. Several passengers had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and at least one person died, according to news reports and unnamed sources.

Several publications and online message boards have revealed the basic facts: Prowler, a 65-foot sportfisher, and Attessa IV, a 332-foot superyacht, were involved in an open ocean collision on the American side of the U.S.-Mexico maritime border, about 9 miles west of Imperial Beach. The area where both boats collided is relatively busy with boats, as many vessels navigate through this stretch of the Pacific Ocean en route to Mexico, several sources confirmed with The Log.

Attessa IV is a 332-foot yacht owned by businessman Dennis Washington. The superyacht has a swimming pool, helipad, Jacuzzi, cinema, beauty salon and 10 guest cabins.

Prowler’s starboard quarter was heavily damaged, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.


Collision Chatter: The Conditions

Bloody Decks, the popular fishing website, featured an extended conversation about the two-vessel collision on its online discussion forum. Some questioned whether radar or Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) could have prevented the collision.

“The whole right side of the Prowler got wiped out,” one person who was aboard Prowler wrote on the Bloody Decks forum thread. “I’m amazed that it is still floating. We are on board the Attessa IV now as guest. They are giving us a ride back to land.”

The Coast Guard confirmed it was at the scene on the evening of Oct. 26 and rescued 17 people. A Coast Guard press release stated the agency’s San Diego sector received word of the collision at 7:50 p.m., meaning the collision likely happened after sunset. Coast Guard officials stated the cause of the collision is still under investigation.

Many have been asking how such a collision could happen, in the first place, even factoring time of day (dusk to evening). “It’s been very, very foggy the past few days here,” one person on the Bloody Decks discussion board stated.

The combination of nighttime navigation, fog and boats regularly using the route to navigate from San Diego to Mexico means everyone should be on alert, no matter how close or far you are offshore.


Technology … and Being at the Helm

A post on the Bloody Decks discussion board about the Prowler vs. Attessa IV collision by Michael E. Bingham pondered whether the person at the helm of one of the boats wasn’t paying attention to what was in front (or around) them.

“It goes to show you no matter how good your radar and electronics are shit happens,” Bingham wrote. “It’s very easy to track a boats path with the cursor on the radars, I’ve done it on mine many times. Hate to say it but it takes two, boats do not appear at the last second, as any skipper knows track what’s around you to prevent this.

“It’ll be interesting to see who was on the helm of both boats,” Bingham continued.

Another discussion board poster tried to visually explain what happened, without pointing fingers at who would be at fault.

“Prowler was ‘struck’ on the Starboard side. No thrusters on the Prowler, it can only go forward or backwards, not sideways. Obviously returning to Seaforth to turnaround for the day and a half, their bow was pointed north, Steve K. wrote. “The yacht, headed out to sea, no doubt headed west or southwest. Just diagram that on paper or just in your head. Who ‘ran into’ who remains to be seen. We’ll see how the investigation turns out.”

Someone named Rick speculated both boats would likely be at fault; he added many lessons could be learned from the collision.

“Both boats are almost certainly at fault. But regardless of legal fault, everyone should be concerned about how to prevent collisions at sea, especially when the other boat isn’t following the rules. And an accident like this could be avoided through routine use of AIS and ARPA collision avoidance alarms,” Rick, who posted as MYNomad, stated. “No good reason not to have them set when offshore, but in congested areas, the alarm is constantly going off. That’s when good watches are especially important. The fact that Prowler got hit on its starboard side means it may well have been the give-way vessel.”


Waiting Game

A few people questioned whether Prowler had its AIS on, but one poster urged everyone to be patient until the Coast Guard report was released.

“Lost of suppositions going on here. Let’s wait for the full report. Lots of possible causes,” Steve Francis said on the Bloody Decks discussion board. “And you can’t rule out a possible mechanical/electronic system failure on either vessel.”

Yet another discussion board poster said many sportfishing vessels have AIS installed but turn them off in order to keep their locations secret.

“Most, if not all sportys turn their units off, gotta keep their locations secret. That shit needs to change,” Charlie Gordon wrote on Bloody Decks.

What role human error played in this incident probably won’t be known until investigation of this collision is completed.

An AIS Class A device is required for any self-propelled vessel, measuring 65 feet or longer, engaged in a commercial service. Prowler measured 65 feet in length and, with more than one dozen passengers aboard for sportfishing, was engaged in commercial activity.



Someone launched a GoFundMe page for Capt. Andrew Viola, in response to the collision; Prowler was helmed by Viola.

“Due to a recent accident at sea a dear friend lost his boat. Let’s show our love for a great man and family in these tough times,” the fundraiser’s creator said on the GoFundMe page.

The campaign, which had a goal of $50,000, raised $43,601 as of Nov. 8.


Looking Ahead

The Log will continue to report on the Prowler vs. Attessa IV collision as pertinent information becomes available – including the Coast Guard’s reported findings.

11 thoughts on “Questions abound about Prowler vs. Attessa IV collision

  • November 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    How could thid happen? Reserve Captain(s) at the helm(s) – careless seamanship. Even if Prowler at fault – the Billionaire owner’s insurance co will settle. Far deeper pockets than the Prowler. With a Death – HUGE potential liability. From one who used to [ractice Maritime Law – loooong ago.

  • November 15, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    From the GoFundMe page was this comment: “What about the man that died? You should give money to their family. My husband was on that boat and I heard of the negligence. No radar on. Captain getting soup while the 2 nd captain was laying down. The radar was off. A man died they saw him die . His brain was coming out of his head. His family deserves that money for their negligence. This is ridiculous.”

    Not exactly the official version but certainly sounds plausible.

  • November 15, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Basic rule for ships and boaters is having a lookout on duty at all times to watch for other vessels or obstructions. That doesn’t mean looking at a screen it means looking out on the water at all times for other vessels.

  • November 15, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    I must assume that the person on watch on both vessels are to blame. Being on watch is the most important thing one can do on a vessel as you are responsible for others lives. Falling asleep is NOT an option. Playing video games or texting is NOT an option. Stay alert, pay attention and check your radar for oncoming vessels. The obvious conclusion is that both persons on watch were sleeping. How does this happen otherwise?? Lessons such as what happened here are learned the hard way. There are no excuses. Don’t even bother making one up!

  • November 15, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Hugs and prayers for the man who died, and for all his family. Having been on fishing trips in different types of weather, I think the speed of each craft needs to be discovered. Visibility and time to maneuver could be important.

  • November 16, 2018 at 7:21 am

    ““It goes to show you no matter how good your radar and electronics are shit happens,” Bingham wrote.”

    You have got to be kidding me. Have some respect for the family. “S*$t Happens” is no excuse for a collision between two vessels and loss of life. This is the worst article I’ve ever read. There is absolutely no fact. Its based on a website forum and a bunch of arm chair sailors. As with any collision, both vessels will be found at fault to some extent. Rest assured the USCG/NTSB will do a through investigation and the truth will come out. In the mean time, quit making up or inferring what may or may not of happened.

    • July 25, 2019 at 9:22 pm

      Everybody is missing the point. The prowler was hit on the starboard side, it was the giveaway vessel everyone forgets that even in the fog and without radar fog signaling shall be used, lookouts shall be maintained and slow speed be used. No one on ether vessel is free of blame since both vessels were not following the rules , otherwise one of them would have had time to take evasive actions, or no one was qualified to be at the helm on ether vessel

  • December 5, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    I am a licensed captain and in school they teach that you must do everything possible to avoid collisions even if you are the stand on vessel or give way vessel. I wasn’t there so I don’t know the circumstances, however I have been on the Prowler. If the megayacht was approaching the prowler and had a watch on the bridge that could have changed course. As a Captain, changing course to avoid a situation is always necessary.
    Also speed has a factor. If any vessel was operating faster than conditions dictated in a fog situation. If it’s dense fog, maybe 5 knots should be top speed. The megayacht was in a hurry to get to Cabo for the Extreme Sailing races that were taking place in Cabo San Lucas because the Owner’s daughter of the yacht was a participant.
    The investigation is ongoing and we will hear the outcome

    • July 16, 2021 at 11:46 am

      The owner doesn’t have a daughter, not hard to find that out!!! Pays to know the facts and then you won’t feel like a dick

  • July 30, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    I love boats. My cousins is a master on his boat and I feel care free when I am on there. I would imagine the people on both boats involved felt the way I do. This is a grim reminder of never letting your guard down. I wish the best for all involved.



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