|FYI — September 2004|
|By Brad Dunn|
In June Stephen Ricci had to be rescued by the Coast Guard twice in 24 hours. The first time was his fault: He was found drunk and unconscious aboard his 27-footer while it was going in circles. The second time appeared to be cosmic retribution: His boat started to sink with no warning.
“Talk about bad luck,” says senior chief Clifford Hohl, the officer in charge of Coast Guard Station Bellingham. “But, you know, when it comes to boating, anything can happen.”
While cruising near Cypress Island on a Friday evening, local boater Tyler Merwin spotted a vessel going in tight circles. He alerted the Coast Guard, then came alongside the boat and saw her owner and only passenger, Ricci, passed out on the floor. Merwin managed to wake him up, and Ricci regained control of the boat.
Two Coast Guard cutters and a utility boat from Station Bellingham arrived within minutes, boarded Ricci’s boat, and found several empty bottles of alcohol. Ricci, who admitted he’d been drinking and failed several sobriety tests, was taken into custody and charged with boating while intoxicated and negligent operation of a vessel.
After booking him, the police released Ricci. The next morning the Coast Guard received a call about a boat taking on water in Skagit Bay near Strawberry Point. The same utility boat that rescued Ricci Friday night was sent out to rescue him Saturday morning. Was he intoxicated again? “No. Not at all,” Hohl says. “The second incident was purely mechanical problems. It could have happened to anyone.”
Ricci’s second run-in with the agency elicited no further charges against him. Hohl stressed that though the coincidence of two rescues in one day was notable, the real issue was Ricci’s prior offense.
“Unfortunately, we deal with drunk boaters often enough,” Hohl explains. “But because he was alone on his boat, and because he passed out, he posed a much greater safety threat.”
As an afterthought, Hohl adds, “Of course, the name of his boat couldn’t have been more ironic.”
It’s Last Call.
This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.