PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A historic sailing vessel on which a passenger was fatally injured by a broken mast was involved in three previous accidents in 2022 and 2019 when the schooner was under different ownership, according to Coast Guard records.
The Grace Bailey, built in 1882, was returning from a four-day excursion when its main mast splintered and tumbled onto the deck, killing a doctor and injuring three other passengers Monday outside Rockland Harbor.
The most serious previous incident happened on July 8, 2022, when the Grace Bailey’s skipper apparently misjudged distance while maneuvering and struck another schooner anchored in Rockland Harbor, with the Grace Bailey’s front boom hitting the American Eagle. American Eagle’s mainsail suffered a large gash, and Grace Bailey’s boom crashed into the water, according to a Coast Guard report.
The Grace Bailey also ran aground in 2022 and in 2019. Both times, there were no injuries and only minor damage, according to Coast Guard reports. The schooner floated free at high tide in both instances.
The vessel was under new ownership this season, according to a spokesperson. It underwent an annual inspection on May 31 and was in compliance with all regulatory requirements, the Coast Guard said.
The mast failure in routine sailing conditions suggests the mast must’ve been weakened, probably by water intrusion and rot, said Jim Sharp, a former schooner owner who runs the Sail, Power and Steam Museum in Rockland.
The Bailey Grace was carrying 33 passengers and crew when the mast snapped Monday morning. “It’s unbelievable that this could happen this way. It takes me aback,” Sharp said Wednesday.
Nicole Jacques, spokesperson for the Grace Bailey’s owners, said it’s “conjecture” to offer theories about why the mast failed. The cause will be determined by the Coast Guard, she said.
It’s unclear when the mast was last inspected. Those inspections are less frequent than annual inspections and require the mast to be removed from the vessel and inspected on land, Sharp said.