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UNITED STATES v. THE YACONA

May 28, 1953

UNITED STATES
v.
THE YACONA et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GANEY

The suit here involved was brought by the United States for damages caused to a dolphin when it was struck by the motor vessel Yacona. The latter has impleaded The Pennsylvania Railroad Company as the owner and operator of a drawbridge spanning the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The amount of damages is admitted to be $ 4,565. The issues posed are: were both or just one of the respondents responsible, or was the damage unavoidable. From the evidence presented to it, the court makes the following Findings of Facts:

1. The United States is the owner of the stationary navigation structure, known as a 37-pile dolphin, located in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

 2. The motor vessel Yacona is a single screw tank vessel 214 feet in length, 37 feet in beam with a draft when fully loaded of 14 feet, 3 inches. Her gross tonnage is 1,083 tons, her net being 612 tons.

 3. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the impleaded respondent, is the owner and operator of the railroad drawbridge crossing the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal at a point approximately nine miles from Reedy Point, the eastern terminus of the Canal.

 4. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is a body of water 12 miles long connecting the Delaware River with the Chesapeake Bay. It is a government owned sea level canal with a channel 27 feet deep and 250 feet wide at its narrowest portion. At Lorewood Grove, a point approximately 8 miles west of Reedy Point, the canal bends in a northwesterly direction at about an angle of forty-five degrees.

 5. At several points along the banks of the canal there are traffic lights which are normally showing green but which can be changed to amber or red. A green light indicates that the canal is open to navigation and that the vessel may proceed. One such traffic light is located on the north bank of the canal at Lorewood Grove about 5,800 feet east of The Pennsylvania Railroad drawbridge and 150 feet east of the bend.

 6. This light can be changed by the drawbridge tender. Before he may do so, however, he must get authority or instructions from the dispatcher's office.

 7. On the north side of the channel beginning 360 feet from the drawbridge are seven 37-pile clusters, known as emergency dolphins, stationed at intervals of 100 feet in a line just above and almost parallel to the north side of the channel.

 8. Beyond the bend of the canal about 800 feet west of the Lorewood Grove traffic light and at 5,000 feet east of the drawbridge, a sign is erected on the bank informing vessels and crafts who wish to pass under the drawbridge to sound three whistle blasts. *fn1"

 9. Several lights operated by the bridge tender are located on each side of the drawspan of the bridge, which is of the vertical lift type, to direct traffic approaching from either direction of the canal. These lights, which supplement the whistle blast signals, light up and indicate as follows:

 (a) Fixed green: bridge open to navigation and vessel may proceed;

 (b) Fixed red: bridge closed to navigation in that direction; vessel unable to pass under drawspan must be kept under control so it can be stopped if necessary;

 (c) Flashing amber: delay approach until vessel coming from opposite ...


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