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Old 05-26-2011
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Question about VHF channels

While out sailing the Patapsco on a beautiful Wednesday evening yesterday, I was returning to White Rocks and keeping an eye on the inbound freighter traffic when I heard one of them give five blasts on her horn. There were a lot of racers over her way, so I thought she was chastising them, but then I noticed a larger freighter coming out of the river, so maybe she was talking to her.

The other freighter never replied with a horn, so I figured they were talking on the VHF, and I wished I could have listened in on their conversation. So my question is this: is there a standard "hailing frequency" for commercial marine traffic besides channel 16? If I wanted to listen in to inter ship chatter, what would the best channel be?
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Old 05-26-2011
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In the USA you have Bridge to Bridge Channel 13 for vessel traffic. plus you may have to guard ch 16 for distress & calling. One reason the VHF radios have Freq. scanning capability. But it pays to have two radios with each on separate channels.
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Old 05-26-2011
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On the Mississippi river where I am (New Orleans-Baton Rouge) it's 67.

On most of the Intracoastal Waterway in the Gulf, 13.

otherwise, contact on 16 then switch to another channel.

Or ask (briefly) on 16 what the local bridge-to-bridge channel is.
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Old 05-26-2011
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5 blasts

The 5 blast signal is the boat telling one or more other boats that they are in danger of getting run over by the larger boat that is limited in her ability to maneuver. She was most assuredly aiming it at the smaller boats who were racing since we racers always believe we can stay out of the way.
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Old 05-26-2011
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You can also try the local Vessel Traffic Service channel if 13, 16, etc. are not successful.
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Old 05-26-2011
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And the manual that came with your radio has a detailed list of all of the channels and what they mean. Could probably Google it too.
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Old 05-26-2011
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On the Chesapeake, commercial vessels use Channel 13 for bridge-to-bridge communications. If you want to hail a commercial vessel, or even many larger pleasure boats, use Channel 13. I always monitor both 13 and 16.

Most VHF radios have a "dual-watch" function, meaning that you can listen to any channel you select -- like Channel 13 -- but if anyone transmits on Channel 16 the radio will automatically switch to Channel 16.

Bill
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Old 05-26-2011
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I'm always amazed at the number of sailboats that figure they have the right-of-way over everything that has an engine. This has been an ongoing problem in the Patapsco River for many, many years. In this particular situation, those large, commercial vessels ALWAYS have the right-of-way. Baltimore's Inner Harbor commercial traffic is horrendous, even on weekends, so when that vessel hit the horn with five blasts he was telling those sailors you're gonna' get crushed. Additionally, he was probably telling the other commercial vessel that he was on a possible collision course. Here's a list of horn signals that you should memorize:

One short blast – I am turning starboard side and will leave you to port side.
Two short blasts – I am turning port side and will leave you to starboard side.
Three short blasts – I am reversing my engines.
One long blast – I am now getting underway.
One long blast followed by one short blast – open the drawbridge please.
Five short blasts – danger, please move out of the way. Or, don’t do what your signal indicates you are about to do.

Good Luck,

Gary
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Old 05-26-2011
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The best part of the entire incident was the way the freighter sounded her horn. It was very elegant and drawn out, as befits a lady of the sea.

No "honk honk honk honk honk" for her -- it was "honnnnnnnnnnnnnnk [beat] honnnnnnnnnnnnnnnk [beat]" etc. Nice touch.
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Old 05-26-2011
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Jaschrumpf,

I was coming accross the Key bridge last night and heard the frieghter give the 5 blasts, the second freighter was quite a distance away. The blasts were meant for the sailboats doing the Wednesday evening race as they were criss crossing the commercial shipping channel.

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This has been an ongoing problem in the Patapsco River for many, many years. In this particular situation, those large, commercial vessels ALWAYS have the right-of-way. Baltimore's Inner Harbor commercial traffic is horrendous, even on weekends
- This is quite a bold and untrue statement you have painted with a broad brush and would leave you beleive that the Baltimore Inner Harbor and the Patapsco are one in the same and that its is a roiling wake filled mess.

The only place you find a lot of traffic is on the North Fork of the Inner Harbor past Fort McHenry as you travel up to the Inner harbor which is about a 2 mile stretch. It is not unlike any other confined stretch of water such as the Severen South or Susquhanna Rivers , The freighters do not usually head up there. The area that the incident dschrunmp was talking about occured east of the Key bridge which is very wide open and the Patapsco is very wide at this point ( 1-2 miles at least) with only a very small area designated as the main shipping channel.

Most of us who sail in this area rarely have trouble with other boats,a nd certainly not the ships as we do not stray or dilly dally in the channel. It is a great place to sail as often there is wind there when there is none further up the Patapsco or out on the Bay, because of the geographical configuration there.

Also many times it is more pleasurable to sail the wide Patapsco River thasn get the crap kicked out of you when it is screaming 35 knots on the open waters of the bay with 6 foot chop and seas


dschrump...I must have seen you out there last night. Trty and make it over to the sailnet Rondevous on June 11 after 6 if you can. We are just across the creek with it at the Maryland Yacht Club. Lots of good/ nice Sailnetters coming.

Dave
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