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post #29 of Old 08-25-2013
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Re: Remote helm

Originally Posted by MedSailor View Post
Let me get this straight. He is maintaining course and speed, which, if I recall correctly from the rules, is within his rights to do, and you blow by him at full speed causing him to go aground?

Isn't he the stand-on vessel, and you, by virtue of passing him the give-way vessel? Aren't you responsible also for the consequences of your wake?

I know the guy wasn't exactly displaying the picture of seamanship, but by the photo you posted, it's not exactly extreme conditions either. Why not relax a little?

Frankly I'm surprised that you're willing to be so boastful of contributing to a fellow sailor going aground. It doesn't sound like he was being particularly reckless, or endangering anyone else to me. You could have passed him at 9.5knots (hull speed) and not have thrown up such a wake. You could have passed, waved back, and not ruined his day. Instead you swamp him (because you feel unsafe being next to him for a few extra seconds) and then brag about doing so.

This is not what I've come to expect from you Jon.

Running the ICW is largely about cooperation between the wide variety of vessels that use the route. Power and sail, recreational and commercial, marine traffic and bridgetenders, and so on... I've always said, snowbirds running the Ditch would have a far better understanding of this, if they had the opportunity to make the trip at least once on a slow trawler or sailboat, and once on a big sportfisherman or fast motoryacht, all of which have equal entitlement to use of the route...

Here's the way to be overtaken by a faster boat, if the quarters are close enough where a slow pass is reasonable to expect:


Over the years, animosity between sailors and powerboaters has increased, and as freeway drivers doing 50 in the passing lane heighten the road-rage quotient, cruising sailors must often share the blame for many of the tensions that ensue on the ICW. If you expect to be passed by a faster vessel in a courteous manner, you simply must throttle back to idle speed, thus permitting the overtaking vessel to do the same.

Though I'm a sailor on my own time, I mostly deliver sportfishing boats or fast motoryachts. My idea of a perfect pass is to first signal my intention to the slower vessel with a horn signal (one short blast if passing to starboard; two short blasts if to port). If the slower vessel accepts the faster boat's plan, then it sounds the same signal. I think that VHF communications are often unnecessary and, in most cases, overused, and a 20-plus-knot closing speed often precludes effective dialog.

I maintain my running speed until within a couple of boat lengths of the vessel being overtaken, then sharply throttle down to idle, which instantly flattens the wake. The slower boat, by then at idle, permits me to pass close aboard and maintains idle speed until my quarter wave has crossed his bow. Then we're both again off to the races. When executed properly, this entire maneuver can be done in 45 seconds, with no hard feelings from either party, and the overtaken boat has sacrificed but a few boat lengths of distance made good.

When a powerboat operator has neither the inclination toward courtesy nor the skill to demonstrate it, you can minimize the effect of a rogue wake by turning away from the wake and throwing a hip check with your own boat's quarter by beginning to cut sharply across the wake, then deliberately putting the boat broadside at just the right moment. In most boats of at least moderate displacement, this results in little more than the overtaken boat bobbing up and down, with a minimum degree of rolling.

Sailing the Intracoastal Waterway | Cruising World
Over 25 years ago, I learned a very valuable lesson from an incident that could have easily ended my budding career in the delivery trade. Namely, autopilots can wig out at any time, and appear to have a greater likelihood to do so in close proximity to other vessels, or large structures such as bridges...

I was running a Grand Banks 42 on auto, when I was being passed by a large motoryacht. Fortunately, we were not particularly close, but when he was just about abeam of me, my autopilot suddenly locked hard over (It was a primitive Unipas unit, perhaps it was somehow affected by the yacht's radar which was running at the time) I was right there to take control of the boat - no harm, no foul, but I was still shaking hours later, it was a very sobering experience... Needless to say, I'm taking my boat off AUTO and hand steering when overtaken closely to this day, and I expect boats I'm passing to do the same...

If you've never run through the Alligator-Pungo Canal, it's understandable you might not appreciate the monumental stupidity of what this guy was doing... Trust me, I made a serious effort to attempt to convey to this guy I wanted to talk to him, he steadfastly refused to vacate the foredeck... Each passing minute was only further confirmation this guy was a fool, one that looked like he needed to be passed as quickly as possible...

Attempting to pass him at 9.5 knots would have entailed far greater risk, FOR BOTH OF US, than would doing so @ 20+ knots...

Here's a pic of the Neptunus 56:

Here's the wake she throws @ 27 knots -

Not insignificant, of course, but considerably flatter than if that boat is running in the hole, in shallow water, at 9.5 knots... Equally important, the wake trails well astern...

Here's what would have happened if I'd tried to pass that guy at 9.5 knots... In the 8-10 feet of water nearer the side of the canal, my bow would have been pointed skyward, the boat would have been digging a huge hole in the water as the stern was sucked down towards the bottom... About $25K worth of 5 blade props would have been spinning perilously close to the bottom... My wake would have been gigantic, much sharper than pictured above... More importantly, my quarter wave would have moved WAY forward, the boat being passed would begin to be affected by it even as I was still alongside...

In a cut that narrow, with 2 50+ foot vessels running side by side at displacement speed, the significant amount of water being displaced will create a considerable "sucking away" of water from the canal's banks ahead, and serving to draw the 2 boats even closer together... Only a complete and utter fool would trust any autopilot to keep a boat as heavy and slow to respond precisely on track in such a situation, and for the length of time it would have taken me to get by, traveling only 2 knots faster...

Trust me, I am painfully aware that I am responsible for my own wake :-) Running a boat like that Neptunus inside all the way to Lauderdale will involve slowing down hundreds of times, the reason I always run outside as much as possible, of course... But, I'm sorry, I am NOT responsible for the boneheadedness of someone who steadfastly refuses to do their share in effecting a safe and courteous pass, or his inability to handle a wake that I can easily handle in my own little tub, by simply taking control of the helm :-)

In the end, the fact that the guy actually waved to me as I went by indicates that he was not surprised by the fact that I passed him on a plane... He waved me on, after all, in the fashion ICW sailors do when they don't feel the need for a slow pass. He simply underestimated the size of that Neptunus, and how poorly his own boat would handle its wake in a spot with so little margin for error, especially when being steered by a freakin' autopilot remote from a lawn chair on the foredeck :-)

Last edited by JonEisberg; 08-25-2013 at 10:49 PM.
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