We all have similar stories. There was a thread a while back titled "Things I learned the hardway", we have all been there.
As I read your blog, I try to imagine what its like to be in a narrow channel filled with barge traffic.
My experinces our usually the exact opposite. I'm generally sailing in open water, usually at night, with a lot of commercial/large (800ft.) vessels, and we are always crossing their shipping lanes.
We learned that 1 mile is the limit as to how close we will get to them. At night its not worth it.
Like you said, its all a learning curve. Many many many years later, if your like me, you'll still be learning.