Judge orders boating class and $500 fine


A woman who jumped ship as an oil tanker bore down upon her sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay was fined $500 yesterday for blocking a shipping channel.

Kathleen M. Davis, who with her husband spent two predawn hours bobbing in the bay after the oil tanker glanced off their sailboat, was also sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation by District Judge Essom Ricks and was ordered to take a boating safety course from the state Department of Natural Resources.

DNR police had charged the 37-year-old Frederick County woman with impeding the passage of a vessel confined to a channel, said DNR spokeswoman Heather Lynch. Small boats are supposed to yield to large vessels that have less room to maneuver.

Davis pleaded guilty to the charge yesterday.

Early Aug. 17, Davis and her husband, Todd Davis, were sailing south near the Bay Bridge, en route from a marina in Middle River to Sandy Point State Park.

About 3 a.m. their sails went flat, their engine failed and their radio died. They noticed that the 734-foot oil tanker Saint Vassillios, carrying 10 million gallons of fuel, was about to smash into their 27-foot sailboat Many Blessings.

"You try to stay out of the way of big ships," Kathleen Davis told The Sun in August. "But we knew we couldn't avoid it when we saw it barreling down on us."

The couple jumped. They tied themselves together with a sailing line and were carrying life preservers and a whistle. After two hours in the warm bay, the couple was pulled out by search teams from the Coast Guard, Maryland State Police, DNR, the city of Annapolis, and Anne Arundel and Queen Anne's counties.

The oil tanker, heading from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the port of Baltimore, scraped against the sailboat and ran aground near the Sandy Point Light House. When the tide rose, the crew steered the tanker off the sand. It was not damaged and did not leak any fuel, officials said.

The Davises did not return a telephone call yesterday. Todd Davis was not charged because investigators determined that his wife was operating the boat before the collision, Lynch said.

Lynch said the episode should teach boaters the dangers of sailing by starlight and the necessity of learning the rules of the water.

"They should follow the boating safety laws and rules the state sets forth," Lynch said. She said DNR offers frequent boating safety courses throughout the state.

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