On Getting Run Over By A Container Ship

Clark March 14th, 2007

If you have arrived at this website, it is either because you are one of my friends and family who have been following my trip around the world, or because you have recently read about me in a magazine and know me as that guy who got run over by a container ship.

Yes, it is true. A container ship did run over me and my little sailboat, but we both survived. Myself and my two crewmembers miraculously came out without a scratch. Condesa took about six months and $40,000 to be herself again.

I will spare the details, since they were printed in magazines and it is part of my job as a writer to sell magazines, but I can pick up where the magazine articles left off.

I bear no grudge against the ship. They just didn’t see us in the first place and didn’t stop because they didn’t know they’d hit us. It probably didn’t even make them spill their coffee, like running over an ant with your car. Since we all make mistakes, and it’s about how we deal with our mistakes that matters, I give the shipping company full points for dealing with me in a gentlemanly manner and paying for all the repairs.

This happy outcome can be attributed to several factors, which if not present would have made for a different result:

  1. None of us was killed or injured
  2. Condesa stayed afloat (see number 1)
  3. The ship was registered in a developed nation. Many ships are registered under flags of convenience, like Liberia or Panama, and their owners would have just laughed it off.
  4. I had some very good advice from friends and family about how to deal with the shipping company in a forthright and gentlemanly manner, which was reciprocated.

How this kind of thing can be avoided in the future is a big ball of wax.

I don’t believe we could have avoided being hit, unless we get into zigging when we should have zagged and other random odds ways of not being at that exact spot on earth at the wrong time. The crux of the issue, as far as Condesa is concerned, is the VHF radio. We should have been in contact early and making our presence known, but again, the hundreds of Brazilian fishermen who were making a mockery of international radio protocols and rendering the emergency channel useless with their mindless babbling, are to blame. It was the World Cup after all, and you know Brazilians and their soccer.

From the ship’s side, it is a discussion that could go on for days. These kinds of accidents happen frequently. There were two fishermen killed in the same kind of incident, by a ship coming from the same port, just three weeks before my accident. Something should be done!

These incidents and these shipping companies aren’t exactly in the public eye. They are the Masters of the Universe who move the world’s trade goods in a massive, endless march across the world’s oceans. Look around you. Chances are every manmade object you can lay your eyes on was transported in a container at some point, or at least on a ship. These companies have names you have never heard of, and many have been in business for hundreds of years. Their accidents don’t happen in a Southern California shopping mall, where lawyers are scrambling to take the case, those at fault want to hush it up, and those injured are sure to collect. They happen in the world’s oceans, often in international waters, and it is hard enough to even find out who owns these ships and the jurisdiction of the incident, not to mention the hundreds of thousands to be lost on legal fees, all for a case that may take years to be heard in maritime court.

There are no statistics, but I would guess that traditional fishermen around the world, often in unlit small craft, meet their ends frequently in this manner.

Technology can solve the problem, for those who can afford it. AIS (Automatic Identification System) should be affordable for small craft in the next few years. With this, you will show up with name and ID number on ship’s screens, just like airliners show up on an air traffic controller’s screen. But the oceans still belong to everyone, and just because you don’t have AIS, or a radio for that matter, doesn’t mean you deserve to get run down.

These ships move at over twenty knots and cut a wide swath. There are humans on watch, and they keep watch like I keep watch. That is to say, they look around every few moments, take a look at the radar, then go back to reading a book, filling out paperwork, or making a cup of coffee. Most of the time it’s just a whole lot of ocean out there. The difference is that I am moving at six knots in a craft that couldn’t kill anyone unless it was dropped on their head.

The moment before impact still give me night sweats.

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2006-12-15 13:48:25

I’m dying to know!! Give up the goods!

Comment by Terah Beek
2007-03-21 04:41:01

Dear Clark,

Happy to hear you are allright and have been dealing with it the way you have.

Just wanted to let you konow you’re still in our thoughts, hoping we’ll see one another again, but I think we will.

Love from your oversees relative, Terah

Comment by Bardene Allen
2007-03-21 08:28:55

Hi Clark,

Your mom sent us your new web address and of course we had to immediately check it out. Great fun reading your Container Story and we look forward to reading more in the new SAIL MAGAZINE. We have been following your adventures and get up dates from your mom often. Remember our meeting you in Sydney Harbor!! What a delightful day that was–oysters on the half shell and champagne ancored in front of the Opera House and Sydney Bridge!

We will be heading for Chile in 3 weeks. Fly into Santiago about April 12th. It would be great to see you there too. Where will your boat be by then? We will probably have to get together when you return to So.Cal again. In the mean time keep away from those nasty freighters and icebergs.


Bardene and Hal

Comment by Diego
2007-03-21 19:01:00


It’s always great to hear about your whereabouts! It was great to meet you in Buenos Aires last September, hope to meet you again soon somewhere.

Mumi sends hugs also.

Abrazos from Tokyo!

Comment by claudia
2007-03-22 09:57:53

Hey Clark, it’s fantastic, I love the website, it’s even elegant, and now you’re always visible that’s grate! I didn’t read it all yet… You konw we poor stressed citizens… always watching the watch… well I guess you forgot that. Envy stay away from me!
Thank you Matt Thoene
Always the power with you Clark
Ciao ciao

Comment by Diane & Hoyle
2007-03-26 16:38:36

Hi Clark–Loved the beautiful new website & the lovely shot of Condesa looking like new. We missed you in Fiji–had a great time. The kids & grandkids all surfed their brains out, caught what seemed like every fish in the sea, snorkeled, windsurfed (via hydrofoil), partied hard & generally had lots of fun. Namotu is a delightful gem.

We have a tip: We sailed from Manaus down the Amazon, through the straits, around the horn, and disembarked in Valparaiso October – December 2005. But here’s the catch–we sold our boat before leaving and took an elegant SilverSeas cruise–no worries about weather/navigation/container ships. Our biggest decisions were whether to indulge in champagne or red wine, lobster or caviar. Eat your heart out kiddo the next time you have to run those lines in to tie to trees in freezing weather. Been there/done that & it’s history (but admit we do miss living/traveling on Pailolo).

Aloha & safe passage,

Diane & Hoyle

Comment by kensimmons
2007-04-18 13:14:55

what happened to hillary & ian please

Comment by kensimmons
2007-04-18 13:16:37

what happened to hillary & ian please?

Comment by admin
2007-04-18 17:23:18

Hillary & Ian are ok. Full story coming soon.

Comment by barbara lyon
2007-04-24 17:19:17

Clark –how can I get a computer copy of your tanker episode. Hope all is well. I went to your web site and SAIL but Had no success.

Keep Living Life with Awe
Love Barbara

Comment by Clark
2007-04-28 09:48:36


This is world-class copyrighted material now…gotta buy a magazine :-) It’s on newstands now…

Love Clark

Comment by Chuck Vaden
2007-09-04 02:10:29

Clark, this is Chuck and I was just reading your story, I was trying to check up on you and found this story, write back when you get the chance. I can’t wait to catch up. Irvine/Newport must seem like a million miles away. Take Good Care

2008-05-14 09:25:53

[...] time as there wasn’t much wind. On a boat, someone always has to be on watch to avoid getting run over by a container ship. My nightly 2 to 5AM shifts passed surprisingly fast, gliding across the sea in my floating [...]

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