Conception captain Jerry Boylan trial coverage


That has to get some kind of prize for most misleading title…

(The article not the thread I mean…)

It’s the typical click bait we’ve come to expect from mainstream media. Whether he’s found guilty or innocent, Boylan’s face tells the gut wrenching tale of a man who’s been living in a private hell.
AP has a more measured approach:

PS Sadly, the USA TODAY report is the style of coverage most people are likely to see on the news.

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WP does better - no paywall

Boylan’s federal public defender, Georgina Wakefield, blamed the boat’s owner, Glen Fritzler, who had designed the Conception and captained the vessel for more than four decades. Fritzler had trained Boylan himself when the latter joined as a deckhand in 1983.

Although Boylan’s defense lawyers have said that he acted as he has been taught by the boat’s owner, who didn’t have a night watch on any of the three dive boats his company operated, that excuse didn’t wash with Tortora.

“The company doesn’t take the ship to sea,” Tortora said. “The captain takes the ship to sea. The buck stops with the captain.”


USCG approved design
$5 smoke detector might have saved a few or all?


Apparently, the Captain has never worked anywhere else, and “it’s just the way business was done”.

I still have trouble wrapping my head around having 30+ passengers onboard sleeping, 5 or 6 crew (2 Deck Officers) sleeping, and no live watch while at anchor.


How do you wrap your head around the fact that the company was running all three boats the same way? That’d be a lot of captains over the years.

Normalized Negligence


I dont have anywhere near the experience you have. But I’ve worked on some poorly maintained crap with no direction or training from the owner(s). Even I knew that we needed to maintain a live watch if there were crew sleeping aboard (anchored with machinery running).

Boylan’s entire sphere of experience was with that company. In 30 years, he must have been through numerous CG inspections where he had to demonstrate knowledge and skills regarding FF, dewatering and MOB, etc. I’ve been through two with my current company. The inspectors will quiz Captain AND crew (non-credentialed deckhands required per COI) on procedure. We actually get underway for a MOB drill. FF stations are charged dockside and crew has to demonstrate proper use. Crew had to show they knew how to set the manifolds for dewatering, and where the emergency fuel shut off was and how it worked.

I have a hard time believing that over 30 years, Boylan never experienced that, or that the requirement for a live watch, printed on the COI displayed in the pilothouse, never came up during CG inspections. I suppose its possible, but unless T-boat inspections are handled differently in California, I doubt it. In any case, common sense should prevail. Anchored with 33 pax and 5 (or 6) crew sound asleep below deck, and a generator running, somebody needs to be awake. A green deckhand scrolling through Tinder on his phone or watching a movie on the main deck could have prevented this (or a $10 smoke detector as mentioned…that one’s on the CG)

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If the captains lie per the company culture during CG inspections, you can’t blame the CG and the CG can’t prevent them from cutting corners after they leave the dock.

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This incident has been discussed here before. Not much to be gained at this point.

It’s like discussing the Herald of Free Enterprise (which killed 193 passengers) and having it repeatedly explained why it’s important to close the bow door before departing, how the captain is responsible for the safety of the ship, how the mate is at fault and who needs to be punished etc.

Safety4Sea has a good post:


The other items missing from the Herald of Free Enterprise report are:

  1. The three masters had jointly requested through the senior master to fit indicator lights on the bridge to show status of the bow door.
  2. The request was made when the fourth mate who used to remain at the ramp area until everything was secured was disestablished and the duties given to the second bosun.
  3. It was raining at the time of loading and the incline of the ramp had to be reduced to stop vehicular traffic slipping on the wet steel so the vessel was down by the head.
    The incident lead to the establishment of the DPA. The establishment of whom has led to the feverish employment of corporate lawyers who have pretty well sidelined the intention of the court of enquiry.
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How can the captain lie about the existence of a smoke detector?

I think he was suggesting the captain could lie that they do keep a manned anchor watch when they don’t.

There’s two scenarios, the first; none of the captains at the company’s boats follow the rules and the company doesn’t check. The second; the company does follow the rules, they require documentation and audit the records but one captain fabricates the records.

Typically, in the second scenario a captain should face significantly increased legal risk.

Let’s not make this any more complicated than it is. Fire alarms had never been required. You can point fingers at the CG for that one but the CG is not on trial.
By all accounts it’s been established that the owner of the business trained the captains to ignore the part of the COI that required a night watch. A captain then had a choice of following company practice or following the COI requirements clearly posted in the wheelhouse. Evidently, Boylan chose the former. The lack of fire alarms makes that decision even more critical.
What would you have done?


What would you have done if you were the owner/manager of that company?

I would not establish a precedent of ignoring CG regs.There’s a reason the COI is required to be prominently displayed in the wheelhouse. It’s a master’s duty to familiarize himself with it. If I pointed to the location of the COI in the course of training a new hire and he responded with “What’s a COI?”, I would end the training with extreme prejudice.
Now, can you answer my question?

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It’s a tricky question. One thing is what any one of us would have done if given the position now; That’s a foregone conclusion and not really an interesting question. However, what if I had the totality of my maritime training on one of the company boats, starting as deck hand in my mid-teens and working my way up? I’d have no benefit of the experience that now informs me to follow the COI, and I’d be subject to pressure through organizational culture, which can be a hell of a thing.

It’s like asking: If you were brought up in Germany in the 30s, where would you have stood politically? I like to think I wouldn’t have been one of the brown shirts, but honestly it’s kinda hard to tell from here…


You make a valid point. I’m a little surprised that the owner/manager/trainer got away scot free. I’m not questioning the fact that it was extremely easy for a green master who “grew up” in that culture to go with the flow but it doesn’t absolve him of his responsibilities. I think one of the things that made it easy to fly under the radar is this:
Correct me if I’m wrong but since the Conception did not exceed 65’ in length, there was no requirement to keep detailed logs. Unless a CG inspector suspected that regs weren’t being followed, the subject probably never came up.
It comes down to a question of ethics, a concept that has all but disappeared.