Sailboats collide off East Chop  

Photo by Nathalie Woodruff

Two sailboats headed in opposite directions collided around 2:30 pm on Monday, about a half mile off East Chop. Although the smaller boat’s mast broke and it had to be towed, no one on either boat was injured, according to U.S. Coast Guard personnel and Tisbury assistant harbormaster James Pepper, who responded to a radio call for help.

“Apparently both boats were on a tack that their sails covered their view of the oncoming boat in the other direction,” Mr. Pepper said in a phone call with The Times Tuesday morning. “Neither looked under the sail in time to see the other boat, which happens sometimes.”

Mr. Pepper said Nancy Woitkowski of Falmouth was sailing alone in Cetus, her 32-foot sailboat, when the collision with Surf Bird, a 40-foot sailboat owned and operated by Richard Hall, occurred.

Mr. Hall, a resident of Oak Bluffs and Washington, D.C., had two passengers aboard. “We were sailing towards West Chop from East Chop, and I did not see any other boat,” Mr. Hall told The Times in a phone call Tuesday. “Everyone on our boat was okay. I talked to the other boat owner this morning, and apparently she is okay, too.”

Asked for more details about how the accident happened, Mr. Hall declined to discuss it further.

Mr. Pepper said the Tisbury Harbormaster’s office responded to the accident and assisted a tow boat from TowBoatUS, which had also notified the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

“We dispatched a Coast Guard small boat from Woods Hole to arrive on the scene, to make sure no assistance was needed by either vessel, and none was,” Chief Michael Caianiello of the USCG Woods Hole Command Center told The Times in a phone call Monday.

The Massachusetts Environmental Police and Sea Tow also responded, as did Diane Hartmann of West Tisbury, who was sailing in the vicinity of the accident. Nathalie Woodruff of Oak Bluffs and her brother, Ken Judson, who divides his time between Mexico and Southeast Asia, were out for an afternoon sail with Ms. Hartmann when the collision occurred.

“We got a call on Diane’s ship radio that there was a distress call from a person on one of those boats, that they’d just had a collision with another boat,” Ms. Woodruff told The Times. “They called ‘May Day, May Day,’ so Diane took down the sails and we motored over there. Apparently nobody was hurt, which was fortunate.”

Mr. Pepper said that Ms. Woitkoski, a nurse, had some cuts and scrapes, but had tended to them herself before anybody arrived. “She said she was fine, and stayed with her boat; she didn’t want to get off and go anywhere,” he said.

The sailboat was towed to Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, where its rig and sail were removed. Ms. Woitkoski took a ferry back to Woods Hole, Mr. Pepper said. Cetus is now moored in Vineyard Haven harbor.