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post #61 of 66 Old 05-21-2008
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Not to beat an almost-dead (or maybe even long dead and buried) horse, but I don't think that on a small vessel with no operational need for a second crew, the sole operator can't serve as lookout. I know the court cases for larger vessels say "lookout with no other duties", but these same cases also recognize that on a one-man craft, the operator may serve as lookout. Otherwise, a Laser, or an 8-foot rowing pram, would need two crew so one may serve as a "dedicated" lookout.

The question is where you draw the line. There's no clear defining line. But the only cases that rate an opinion from a judge (who you hope is wise, and correct, that's the system anyway) are those in which there was a real collision, which then raises the question of whether a one-person operator and lookout was sufficient (and the answer in those cases which make it to court is typically "no", since there was a collision, unless it was solely the other vessel's fault).

Each case gets judged on its own merits, and on its own facts.

But we're (meaning me) probably getting down to minutiae here. It's been interesting, credit to Boasun who kicked it off, and to all who have contributed.
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post #62 of 66 Old 05-23-2008
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I'd just interject amongst the many fine posts here that the average merchant ship will acquire a decent sized sailboat on radar at about six to seven miles on radar, in decent sea conditions, unless the boat has some type of radar transponder. Even so equipped, you don't pick up smaller craft and some ships at twenty miles.

In the past it was quite common to come across sailboats offshore with no running lights or the lights so dim as to make them ineffectual. Hopefully advances in battery technology and charging options is lessening those occurences. But I never really expected to see lights on a sailboat and, given the size radar return they present, was never certain if I was looking for a sailboat or a submarine periscope from the information on my radar.

I'll confess to having woken up a few offshore sailors who obviously were not keeping watch either visually or on the VHF. I'd pass under their stern a couple of miles off and give them a blast on the whistle. If they don't see a ship in broad daylight, a ship in liner service (which means it's on a regular run usually shared by many other companies, shipping lanes), then there's a good chance they'll not see the ship fifteen miles astern of me overtaking me rapidly either. And, of course, there's no assurance that ship is as alert as I was. The other motivation was that, when seeing a sailing vessel well offshore apparently watchless, one cannot help but wonder if all is in order on board. One would hate to think that one steamed right on by a boat unable to keep watch due to something of an urgent nature. The blast on the whistle wasn't malicious in intent; just an, "I'm out here". If they needed help it would be more than welcome and, if they were sleeping, it might cause them to question the advisability of doing so when I was able to get so close unbeknownst to them.

Frankly, no matter how beautiful the boat, I hated seeing them. Too often a sailboat would fail to show up on radar, either due to weather conditions or no radar reflector, and would just appear somewhere off the bow in two or three mile visibility. Nothing will jolt you quite like your lookout saying, "Hey mate, look at that sailboat" with a tone of wonderment in his voice. Most able-bodied seamen don't even consider the fact that another vessel might not be keeping a lookout, a luxury the mate on watch does not have. I've caused more than one spilled coffee or soup on board by putting her over on her beam ends to get some distance off a sailboat appearing close aboard. You feel really angry when you have to take drastic action like that and it then becomes apparent that no watch is being kept on board the sailboat. Of course you're angry because you just had that cold, clammy fear run through you that you might have come very close to killing someone had things been different.

Nolatom is entirely correct in that it is the lack of collisions between sailboats and ships that make for so few court cases where this otherwise might be a more widely discussed issue. I ascribe that to two things; good watchkeeping and the fact that the shipping lanes are generally very different from the sailing lanes.

“Scientists are people who build the Brooklyn Bridge and then buy it.”
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post #63 of 66 Old 05-24-2008 Thread Starter
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Was taking a OSV (180' supply vessel) toward the panama canal and there between Cuba and Yucatan we passed a sail boat of about 40 or so feet in length. Never did see him on radar. I spoke to him on the VHF and found that he had one of those metal radar reflectors flying from his mast. He was upset that I couldn't see him on radar. After all that what the radar reflectors were sold for and assured that you would be seen.
I suspect that the sea conditions had part of it. White caps on seas of about 8~10 feet and he appeared to have a reef or two in his mains'l. But even with raising the gain and reducing the sea clutter I still couldn't find him on my radar. He was a tad upset that he wasn't showing at all on the radar and I really don't blame him.
Moral of this truth: You can not depend on the other guy's radar picking you up at all when the seas are running a little bit. And if that watch officer is getting a cup of coffee or plotting his position, he may not see you at all.

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post #64 of 66 Old 05-25-2008
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Good reasons for carbon fiber cruising sail. Guaranteed they will see you then
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post #65 of 66 Old 05-25-2008
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Originally Posted by sailboy21 View Post
Good reasons for carbon fiber cruising sail. Guaranteed they will see you then
Does a carbon fiber headsail actually show up on radar??

A radar reflector is about 100th the size, is about 100th the cost and definitely does, so that'd the safest bet.

A bad day on a boat beats a good day in the office
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post #66 of 66 Old 05-25-2008
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Originally Posted by chucklesR View Post
I wonder what would happen if you were sleeping while flying a 'not under command' shape and someone boarded you to salvage/offer assistance? I bet the courts would love that one. Obviously if you are aboard and the vessel is not under command you have abdicated as skipper.
The "Not under Command" term has nothing to do with Command and skippers:

The term "vessel not under command" means a vessel which through some exceptional circumstance is unable to manoeuvre as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar IV, iii, 217
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