Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study

Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study, Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study

When you saw the photo, you probably had an idea in your head of what happened to this boat. Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. Our preconceived notions can be confirmed, but incorrectly. Let’s look at a dismasted boat example.

Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study, Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study

Why Did That Boat Hit the Bridge

Until you speak to a primary source, you might not have all the information.

When these photos emerged on social media, some of the comments were possible explanations – stalled engine, broke free of mooring, dragged anchor, heart attack, mooring line severed.

Other guesses were odd; like the one that said you shouldn’t even have your mast up when you are going under a bridge didn’t make any sense.

Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study, Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study

Killer Current in St. Augustine, Florida

I spoke for about an hour with the captain of the vessel. He fouled his prop.

With a three-knot current, your vessel will travel 100 feet every 20 seconds. With a rip current moving at 3 knots, a boat will drift 303 feet in one minute. A 6-knot current will carry it 607 feet; that’s not much time to get an anchor deployed and set.

With inexperienced crew, anchoring was not his first choice. He said he had only about two and a half minutes to react, and after the first 30 seconds; most of his options were not longer viable.

Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study, Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study

What Really Happened

The captain said he was about 800 feet from the bridge after going through on the scheduled opening. He was ready to drop sails, had experienced some trouble with getting the main down quickly, and had some new crew on board.

He started the engine, began to drop sail, then attempted to engage the engine in reverse to hold the bow into the wind, and fouled the prop. He said he considered snagging the dock or a docked boat as he was carried past the municipal marina.

Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study, Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study

Further Details Because Inquiring Minds Always Want to Know

The captain is familiar with the area and the current, is very experienced and is a pilot.

Although his propeller was fouled, he still had electrical power and used it to swing the bow away from the dock in order to cause the mast to fall free of the cockpit and people on board.

He reported that another difficulty was communicating to his crew as bystanders were shouting directions to them, preventing them from hearing his commands and instructions.

What was your confirmation bias for this incident? Were you right or wrong? Leave your comments below!

Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study, Why Did the Sailboat Hit the Bridge // Confirmation Bias Study

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